Have any of you read The Screwtape Letters? If not, I encourage you to do so. Although it is a fictional satire of sorts, it is a marvelously excellent illustration of how a demon works in the believer’s life. You would be hard pressed to find biblical evidence refuting what C.S. Lewis describes in his book. Here is a quote (keep in mind that these “letters” are written from one demon to another, as they scheme against the Christian, so “Enemy” refers to God, as God is their ultimate Enemy):
“The Enemy [God] will be working from the center outwards, gradually bringing more and more of the patient’s [believer] conduct under the new standard, and may reach his behavior to the old lady [the believer’s mother] at any moment. You want to get in first. Keep in close touch with our colleague between you in that house a good settled habit of mutual annoyance; daily pinpricks. The following methods are useful.
Keep his mind on the inner life. He thinks his conversion is something inside him and his attention is therefore chiefly turned at present to the states of his own mind—or rather to that very expurgated version of them which is all you should allow him to see. Encourage this. Keep his mind off the most elementary duties by directing it to the most advanced and spiritual ones. Aggravate that most useful human characteristic, the horror and neglect of the obvious. You must bring him to a condition in which he can practice self-examination for an hour without discovering any of these facts about himself which are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with him or worked in the same office.
It is, no doubt, impossible to prevent his praying for his mother, but we have means of rendering the prayers innocuous. Make sure that they are always very ‘spiritual’, that he is always concerned with the state of her soul and never with her rheumatism. Two advantages will follow. In the first place, his attention will be kept on what he regards as her sins, by which, with a little guidance from you, he can be induced to mean any of her actions which are inconvenient or irritating to himself. Thus you can keep rubbing the wounds of the day a little sorer even while he is on his knees; the operation is not at all difficult and you will find it very entertaining. In the second place, since his ideas about her soul will be very crude and often erroneous, he will, in some degree, be praying for an imaginary person, and it will be your task to make that imaginary person daily less and less like the real mother—the sharp-tongued old lady at the breakfast table. In time, you may get the cleavage so wide that no thought or feeling from his prayers for the imagined mother will ever flow over into his treatment of the real one. I have had patients of my own so well in hand that they could be turned at a moment’s notice from impassioned prayer for a wife’s or son’s ‘soul’ to beating or insulting the real wife or son without a qualm.”
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (pp. 11-13)
How about you? Have you seen a reflection similar to this in your own life? I know I have. Being in an unequally yoked marriage, I have found it quite tempting to pray for my spouse’s habits that most irritate me. I have even left my time of prayer only to find myself minutes later in the midst of an argument over some trivial matter like what to eat for dinner. Remember “noema” (schemes)? It’s very real! What schemes have you succumbed to? How are you fighting it? Remember, our best weapon is the Word of God–Truth!
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