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Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  3,778 ratings  ·  356 reviews
"We want to know not how we should pray if we were perfect but how we should pray being as we now are."

What are we doing when we pray? What is at the heart of this most intimate conversation, the dialogue between a person and God? How does prayer—its form, its regularity, its content, its insistence—shape who we are and how we believe? In this collection of letters from C
Paperback, 124 pages
Published November 4th 2002 by Mariner Books (first published 1964)
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Douglas Wilson
Jan 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding. Read another time in July of 1999. Great. Listened to audio in 2016. Still great. Listened to it again in July of 2017. And again in December of 2017. Really rich.
Aug 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
This book is a collection of (fake) letters to a friend focusing on various aspects of and questions about prayer. Many of these are practical considerations, and I didn't feel like all were important or relevant to me, but I still found pieces of wisdom to keep from it, usually expressed in the most beautifully touching phrases, Lewis always transforming complex religious questions into the most simple and beautiful truths. He repeats many times that these are only his musings and should not be ...more
Sep 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
2020 Review--5 stars
This was a good book to read amidst COVID-19 social distancing. In my devotions this morning I was thinking about how long it has been since I stepped foot in a church. I suppose in the big picture of things two months isn't particularly long, but I miss it. I watch sermons online, and sometimes even tunelessly sing along with the worship songs, but I miss the spiritual community.
A book like this helps fill that ache.
In his Reflections on the Psalms, Lewis describes his wri
Mar 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: c-s-lewis
Spectacular and beautiful. CS Lewis' earlier books were very well written and (in my personal opinion) rather well argued. This is not an "argued" book, though; the subtitle "reflections" is a more apt description. That's not to say Lewis fails to present good arguments for his ideas, but the matter of the book is more of a 'search' than of a 'telling.' Especially towards the end, Lewis shows how much he has learned through his life on how to describe the beauty that we see beyond the physicalit ...more
Kells Next Read
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
"I am not saying to anyone in the world: 'Your explanation is wrong.' I am saying: ' Your explanation leaves the mystery for me still a mystery.'

C.S. Lewis witty and candid ability to convey his thoughts never ceases to amaze me. This short but powerful read was no different.
Cindy Rollins
This was a nice daily read. Maybe it was my own restless mood in the middle of the quarantine but I did not like this as much as other Lewis books, but it does bring me closer to my goal of reading all of his books.
Jan 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer has the distinction of being the final work that CS Lewis produced. The manuscript was completed in May of 1963, approximately six months before his death.

The book's structure takes the form of fictional letters written by Lewis to his friend “Malcolm” in which they discusses matters of deep importance to the Christian life. Mostly, these letters all discuss issues that have to do with prayer, and the other issues branch off of that. Worship, Heaven, and oth
May 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christian_life, lewis
Not Lewis at his best. The excuse could be made that, as a posthumous book, it may not have been quite ready for publication. The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature was also published after Lewis died, but (despite being non-fiction) is just short of amazing.

The format is much like The Screwtape Letters: one side of an exchange of letters, this one supposedly with C. S. Lewis with an old friend Malcolm. Most, but not all, time references seem to date it to th
Garrett Cash
This is a strange little volume. I was not aware that Malcolm is fictitious until I did some research after reading this, which throws a surreal light upon the work. Apparently Lewis was attempting to find an ideal way in which he could casually consider some topics (chiefly prayer) without the bother of having to make academically suitable arguments for his theories. I enjoyed the work, and found some of his ideas to be on the money, and some to be perplexingly under-thought (for instance, his ...more
Lewis's letters to a FICTIONAL friend are a delight to read. (I am amazed at how many reviewers think these are real letters written to a real person!) In these letters, Lewis addresses many different facets of prayer and our inhibitions when it comes to prayer. It is a very quotable book as well. I noticed quite a few recognizable quotes throughout.
Brian Eshleman
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Such a believable mix of the convivial and the profound that I was surprised to find out the dialogue of letters was fictional. Oh well. Very good anyway. Now I don't have to sigh with the realization that none of my conversational correspondence reaches those levels.

Francesca Forrest
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love how CS Lewis writes about faith; reading him is like listening to music, for me. I made a whole document of quotes I loved from this; here are just two:

We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito. And the incognito is not always hard to penetrate. The real labour is to remember, to attend. In fact to come awake. Still more, to remain awake.

Surely a man of genius composing a poem or symphony must be less unlike
I read up to page 26. Lewis’s last book is a fictional one-sided correspondence that debates the nature of prayer. I thought I might be able to interest myself in prayer as an academic matter, but it turns out that not believing in it means I don’t care enough.
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2019
Great. Some very helpful observations and notes on prayer.
Ryan Hawkins
Thoroughly enjoyable. In a similar “fictional” style to Screwtape Letters, Lewis in this book is pretending to write to his friend Malcolm on prayer. The book consists of 22 chapters (letters to Malcolm). As the title says well, the subject chiefly is prayer, but it is not limited to prayer. Lewis discusses other related (and sometimes not-so-related) subjects as well.

Because this book isn’t as well known as some of his others, I thought it would be a tad lower quality. But wow I was wrong. In f
Jun 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I have read and re-read this book, and I love something new in it each time.

A few marked lines, starting at the beginning, so weighted toward the literal beginning of the book:

Nothing makes an absent friend so present as a disagreement.

The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.

Any tendency to a passionate preference for one type of service must be regarded simply as temptation.

To forgive for the moment is not difficult. But to go on
B.J. Richardson
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is one half of a conversation. They are Lewis' half of a conversation carried out over time with a friend generally on the topic of prayer. I say generally because, as the letters meander through various specific aspects of prayer, things like free will, time, God's sovereignty, purgatory (which Lewis comes right out and says he believes in) and more are also addressed.

I found it humorous at one point how Lewis says he would never attempt to actually write a book on prayer and is grat
Cindy Tee
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thought provoking and humble ponderings on prayer.

Lewis esteems childlike authenticity towards the Father. A common theme throughout the book was to begin in prayer where we are rather than where we suppose we ought to be.

Heart checking and lead me to ask myself the following:

What are my intentions behind my desire for knowledge and understanding? Is it to work towards change and character refinement or merely to be more intelligent?

When I am denied what I have petitioned for, do I believe I've
Eileen Mulshine
May 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a remarkable book for me. Being the last book he wrote at the age of 64, his insights of life were helpful if not soul searching. This is an excellent review to check out. ...more
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Often, Lewis' dialogues serve as the armor by which the modern christian dons to ride into the great theological battles of our day

There is no telling how frequently the lines of Mere Christianity, Problem of Pain, Abolition of Man, etc are used to sway, convince and offer opinions. Surely, Lewis may shudder at the thought of his words used in this way.

Thankfully, this collection of letters is not and could never be used in that way. This is Lewis at his most candid. Wrapped within the word it
I love the way C. S. Lewis writes letters. That last word was unnecessary.
Dianne Oliver
May 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I might not always agree with CS, but I do find him thought provoking. I.e. his idea, towards the end, of purgatory, or a form thereof, to cleanse one prior to going to paradise. Good meat to chew on, and could be re-read on occasion.
Mar 03, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: c-s-lewis
I am very, very curious about this one. I have so many questions and confusions about prayer, with the result being that I don't feel very good at it and I hate volunteering/being volunteered to pray...

Not that I think Lewis will clear up all of my misconceptions with this book, but I'd really love to get some clarification here. What exactly is prayer? Why should we do it? If we're praying for God's will to happen, why in the world should we pray anyway? Can God's will be thwarted? When I ask f
Andrew Murch
Mar 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was Lewis's last published book, hitting the press the year after his death (1964). The title is apt, particularly the sub-title. The book is 'chiefly on prayer,' among other subjects. "Malcolm," is a literary device, a fictional friend with whom Lewis corresponds on theological and philosophical subjects. Lewis provides some fun tidbits in his exchanges with Malcolm, including other characters (like "Betty") who carry on the dialogue between letters. In all, it is a pleasant read that take ...more
Christopher Raffa
This is not your traditional C.S. Lewis book. It's not really theological in the sense of his other writings like Mere Christianity or the Four Loves. And so, it is simply a collection of letters which Lewis writes to his friend Malcolm. In this exchange of friendly letters, I often felt like a third wheel, trying to listen to that secret language that is only known by such an intimate relationship.

Moreover, some of his conclusions are troubling, especially in regards to Purgatory and prayers fo
Jul 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: c-s-lewis
To fully appreciate this, one has to recognize what Jack is trying to do; or not trying to do. He is not trying to tell you what is correct or proper, or even what you should believe. He is only explaining what he tends to think regarding certain doctrines or aspects of the faith. This is in no way written to flaunt his beliefs as superior to others or even to name them as most right. I actually found myself disagreeing with a multitude of his ideas, not in a "kill-the-heretic" kind of way, more ...more
Julie Davis
Apr 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this series about prayer, written as if to Malcolm who is a fellow Christian. Partway in, Malcolm's wife, Betty, begins passing along comments on their letters which also shapes the conversation. Lewis uses the epistolary format really effectively to have a casual conversation about prayer. I found it very effective, rather like listening to someone read a chain of emails (that's how casual it felt a lot of the time). And, of course, you get C. S. Lewis's thoughts on many aspect ...more
May 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The book is beautifully written. It is not a theological book, but rather a book of Lewis's personal reflections on faith, religious practices, and spirituality. However, in my opinion that makes the book more enlightening and enriching; to be able to understand and try to imagine or experience God from Lewis's own personal point of view. C.S. Lewis is quite an extraordinary man, and through this book he gave us the chance to go through his mind and share his spiritual experience, his thoughts a ...more
Michael Joosten
Apr 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is not a book to read for its literary value (though Lewis is always lucid and even in private, religious conversation with a friend, not entirely unable to entertain). I cannot fathom the a-religious person who would pick up this book--and even from the point of view of someone who IS religious, I can well imagine how it might not be to one's taste. In my own case, however, it is illuminative and like a draught of cold water on a sunny day.
Marc Hays
Aug 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Letters to Malcolm is my first encounter with Lewis' collected, personal correspondence. Part of the charm of Lewis' non-fiction writing is that both his genius and his friendliness are always present. In his academic essays his genius is in the center of the light, surrounded by his friendliness--he is a teacher who loves you. In these letters, Lewis' friendliness is at the center, surrounded by his genius--he is a lover who teaches you.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Clive Staples Lewis was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954. He was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge

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