Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wednesday Words - Footnote to All Prayers

In January through February 2012, I preached a series called All Kinds of Prayer. I learned a lot during that series and enjoyed preparing and presenting each sermon. I sure wish I had come across this poem by C. S. Lewis before or during that time. I most certainly would have worked it in somewhere. When we recognize how limited our understanding, how insufficient our notions of God, and how inadequate our words, we will find ourselves humble and thankful at the throne of Grace.

Footnote to All Prayers
by C. S. Lewis

He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow
When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou,
And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart
Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing Thou art.
Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme
Worshipping with frail images a folk-lore dream,
And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address
The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless
Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert
Our arrows, aimed unskillfully, beyond desert;
And all men are idolators, crying unheard
To a deaf idol, if Thou take them at their word.
Take not, O Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in thy great
Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.

NOTE: "Pheidian fantasies" is a reference to the 5th century B.C. Greek sculptor and artist, Pheidias, who was renowned for his statues of Zeus and Athena.

This poem appears in the collected POEMS by C. S. Lewis.

A collection of Lewis’s shorter poetry on a wide range of subjects-God and the pagan deities, unicorns and spaceships, nature, love, age, and reason: “Idea poems which reiterate themes known to have occupied Lewis’s ingenious and provocative mind” (Clyde S. Kilby, New York Times Book Review). Edited and with a Preface by Walter Hooper.

1 comment:

  1. Whoa! Now THAT is a prayer of humility! The entire poem is awesome...but the last line stands out for me. We are always trying to explain the use of metaphor in scripture. Here, Lewis prays, asking for the grace of God to translate our prayers, for they are more like metaphors themselves for what we really need to say to God. "Take not, O Lord, our literal sense." Lewis was a genius.