TO MARY VAN DEUSEN: On the difference between wordless prayer and the practice of the presence of God (the spirituality of the seventeenth century Carmelite, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection); on loving others too much; and on what time of day to pray.
25 November 1952
No, by wordless prayer I didn’t mean the practice of the Presence of God. I meant the same mental act as in verbal prayer only without the words. The Practice of the Presence is a much higher activity. I don’t think it matters much whether an absolutely uninterrupted recollection of God’s presence for a whole lifetime is possible or not. A much more frequent and prolonged recollection than we have yet reached certainly is possible. Isn’t that enough to work on? A child learning to walk doesn’t need to know whether it will ever be able to walk 40 miles in a day: the important thing is that it can walk to-morrow a little further and more steadily than it did to-day.
I don’t think we are likely to give too much love and care to those we love. We might put in active care in the form of assistance when it would be better for them to act on their own: i.e., we might be busybodies. Or we might have too much ‘care’ for them in the sense of anxiety. But we never love anyone too much: the trouble is always that we love God, or perhaps some other created being, too little.
As to the ‘state of the world’ if we have time to hope and fear about it, we certainly have time to pray. I agree it is very hard to keep one’s eyes on God amid all the daily claims and problems. I think it wise, if possible, to move one’s main prayers from the last-thing-at-night position to some earlier time: give them a better chance to infiltrate one’s other thoughts.
The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis. Copyright © 2008 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.