on 6 August 2004
In this slim book, written shortly before his death, C. S. Lewis explores the subject of prayer. Lewis presents the material as a series of letters to an imaginary correspondent called "Malcolm". This device is effective in creating a sense of intimacy; one has the feeling that Lewis is being touchingly frank in his discussion of the difficulties and rewards of the Christian life in general, and prayer in particular. He has interesting and useful things to say about all aspects of prayer: the petitionary prayer, prayers of praise, corporate prayer, and whether it is right to pray for the dead. Lewis's theology has not changed significantly since his much earlier books Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, yet there is something mellower and less confrontational in this writing than in Lewis's more famous Christian books, and it is all the more moving and persuasive for it. The fact that this book was written so near to Lewis's premature death gives it an added poignancy. In conclusion, this is a first rate book which deserves to be more widely known.
on 2 July 1998
Letters to Malcolm was the last book that C.S. Lewis wrote, and consists of twenty two letters written to a fictitious character named Malcolm, mostly concerning Lewis's thoughts about prayer. This may be the most personal glimpse of Lewis's spiritual side, and many have enjoyed his relaxed, warm dialogue in these epistles. For those wishing to meditate on the various aspects of praying (content of prayer, petitionary prayers - does God grant requests?, prayer as worship, penitential prayer, the Lord's prayer, or prayer for the dead) this book will give plenty of food for thought. Personally, I like most of Lewis's other books better than this one, but if you are studying the subject of prayer, pondering worship in prayer, or musing about whether or not praying does any good, this book will be a good purchase for you.
on 3 January 2011
C S Lewis completed Letters to Malcolm about 6 months before he died. It consists of 22 letters from Lewis to an imaginary friend (Malcolm) mainly on the subject of prayer. I have read this book several times and will do so again, because it is vintage Lewis. He manages to combine abilities, which are not usually found together. So he is the out-and-out supernaturalist, the committed believer, with a baptised, almost mystical imagination but also with a mind as sharp as a razor. So, for example on Page 120 we read:
"you, in your last letter, seemed to hint that there too much of the supernatural in my position; especially in the sense that "the next world" loomed so large. But how can it loom less than large if is believed in at all?"
And as with his other works, Lewis manages to pack a lot of depth into a very small space (the paperback is less than 125 pages long). For example, Letter V discusses the Lord's Prayer in just 5 pages. Yet I find a richness of meaning in those few pages, which mean that I keep coming back to them.
All things considered, I agree with the reviewer in the Church Times in January 1964 who wrote:
"With the death of C S Lewis, a glory departed. But regret must then immediately give place to gratitude for so generous a legacy as this. Here is a book... as good as anything he ever wrote... It is splendid, glorious stuff, the product of a luminous and original mind, tough and honest... and yet endowed with an extraordinary sensitivity and tenderness for the fears and foibles of men."