C.S. Lewis on Crucified Prayer

A lot of times, in moments of the experience of anxiety, prayer feels as far […]

Ethan Richardson / 8.21.12

A lot of times, in moments of the experience of anxiety, prayer feels as far from us as the faith which feels so temporally impotent. Lewis deals with this in the context of Christ’s Gethsemane prayer, in his short piece on prayer, Letters to Malcolm.

Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. I don’t agree at all. They are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the Passion of Christ. For the beginning of the Passion–the first move, so to speak–is in Gethsemane. In Gethsemane a very strange and significant thing seems to have happened.

It is clear from many of His sayings that Our Lord had long foreseen His death. He knew what conduct such as His, in a world such as we have made of this, must inevitably lead to. But it is clear that this knowledge must somehow have been withdrawn from Him before He prayed in Gethsemane. He could not, with whatever reservation about the Father’s will, have prayed that the cup might pass and simultaneously know that it would not. That is both a logical and a psychological impossibility. You see what this involves? Lest any trial incident to humanity should be lacking, the torments of hope–of suspense, anxiety–were at the last moment loosed upon Him–the supposed possibility that, after all, He might, He just conceivably might, be spared the supreme horror. There was precedent. Isaac had been spared: he too at the last moment, he also against all apparent probability. It was not quite impossible… and doubtless He had seen other men crucified… a sight very unlike most of our religious picture and images.

But for this last (and erroneous) hope against hope, and the consequent tumult of the soul, the sweat of blood, perhaps He would not have been very Man. To live in a fully predictable world is not to be a man.

At the end, I know, we are told that an angel appeared “comforting” Him… “Strengthening” is more the word. May not the strengthening have consisted in the renewed certainty–cold comfort this–that the thing must be endured and therefore could be?