[The Screwtape Letters written by C. S. Lewis present the tale of a demon-tutor (named Screwtape) who serves Satan. Screwtape’s task is to instruct his student Wormwood in the ways of evil. My previous post provides background material explaining the letter reproduced below. This is the final entry of seven posts in this series.]
I know you must think I’m moving quickly into demon senility. First, I instruct you that your patient should keep that Left Behind book at arm’s length. Now, when that woman has brought another bestseller — and another religious volume, albeit it a small one — into the house, I see no objection in your patient reading it. You have much to learn yet, Nephew. There is no hard and fast rule about reading materials. Furthermore, there are times when a specific book (religious or not) might be a useful tool, while at other times, it impedes your progress with the humans. The previously discussed work of fiction is not useful, and indeed, could even be problematic. Your patient’s appetites are simply too unpredictable to gauge.
But this book, the Prayer of Jabez, that the woman presented to your patient for a Father’s Day gift might offer an opportunity you had not expected. I’ll explain. We have talked about prayer before. It is the means by which the Enemy keeps his followers tuned in, so to speak. If you cannot keep your patient “from the serious intention of praying altogether,” you must convince him that prayer is ineffective and unnecessary. Remind your patient that he prayed for thus and such, but the opposite occurred. Remind him of something he desired yet didn’t pray about, and yet it came to pass. He must come to accept that prayer changes nothing.
Then, you counterpunch with the Prayer of Jabez. It’s the modern-day equivalent of a mantra. He needs to memorize it, practice daily repetition. “Bless me, enlarge my border, be with me, keep me from harm.” It’s a wonderfully sanctimonious prayer, focused on “me, me, me.” What better way to feed the narcissism in your patient’s culture than with this self-absorbed gem? Our task would be much harder if the Enemy’s followers weren’t so naïve, don’t you know.
Now I must inquire about a few things. Is Grendvald oppressing the woman as furiously as he claims? She’s attended several meetings with the minister’s wife, and I have a sneaking suspicion they’re preparing to invite your patient to attend a church service. If ever there was a time for him to take up Sunday golf, this might be that opportune moment. Your man needs to assert his independence now, or when that miniature vermin arrives, his days of freedom will be over. When the man becomes fully domesticated, you’ll have a tough time resurrecting his natural tom-cat tendencies. Don’t let this one get away from you, Nephew. We’ll talk again soon.
 The Screwtape Letters, p. 15
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