Screwtape is unhappy –
about prayer –
and about blame.
My dear Wormwood,
The amateurish suggestions in your last letter warn me that it is high time for me to write to you fully on the painful subject of prayer. … It also reveals an unpleasant desire to shift responsibility; you must learn to pay for your own blunders.
4.1) Notice how Screwtape says: It also reveals an unpleasant desire to shift responsibility; you must learn to pay for your own blunders. Contrast this with what Jesus says (and did) to (for) us.
The best thing, where it is possible, is to keep the patient from the serious intention of praying altogether. … That is exactly the sort of prayer we want; and since it bears a superficial resemblance to the prayer of silence … It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.
4.2) Screwtape encourages getting the patient to either react against childhood experiences or to assume a level of prayer far in advance of what he is really prepared for. These both make sense – they will make it harder for the patient to focus on God , instead focusing on the act of trying to pray. But then he says It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out. Why would keeping things out of our mind be their goal?
If this fails, you must fall back on a subtler misdirection of his intention. … and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment.
4.3) Screwtape says Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment. Looking at 1 Kings 18 and 19, consider how being emotionally drained and tired impacted Elijah.
But of course the Enemy will not meantime be idle. Whenever there is prayer, there is danger of His own immediate action. … you will be helped by the fact that the humans themselves do not desire it as much as they suppose. There’s such a thing as getting more than they bargained for.
4.4) What is the importance of his thought – But whatever the nature of the composite object, you must keep him praying to it—to the thing that he has made, not to the Person who has made him. You may even encourage him to attach great importance to the correction and improvement of his composite object, and to keeping it steadily before his imagination during the whole prayer. For if he ever comes to make the distinction, if ever he consciously directs his prayers ‘Not to what I think thou art but to what thou knowest thyself to be’, our situation is, for the moment, desperate.
Why would it be so important to keep the patient focused on some object representing God – whether real or imaginary – rather than to “the Person”?
If he ever actually prays to God – the Person – why is the situation so desperate for the devils?
discreditable & puerile — There will be images derived from pictures of the Enemy as He appeared during the discreditable episode known as the Incarnation: there will be vaguer—perhaps quite savage and puerile—images associated with the other two Persons.
discreditable — shameful
puerile — childishly foolish