This letter begins with a brief chastisement on Wormwood’s last letter, which was apparently very “amatuerish” on the subject of prayer. Screwtape was insulted by Wormwood’s last letter, which tried to place the blame for Wormwood’s mistakes on Screwtape. He thus launches into a long discussion of human prayer, how it happens, and who it is addressed to. Some highlights:
- It is best to keep the patient from serious prayer at all. By making the patient remember his “parrot-like” prayers from his youth, the patient may try something spontaneous and purely internal.
- Internalize the patient’s desires and supplications. Speaking of humans in general, Screwtape observes “When they meant to pray for courage, let them really be trying to feel brave. When they say they are praying for forgiveness, let them be trying to feel forgiven.”
- If all else fails, redirect the patients prayers from God to an object. Any object would do, be it a crucifix hung on the wall, the upper-left hand corner of the ceiling, anything at all. Thus the patient would not be praying to God, but to something material.
Screwtape closes the letter by telling Wormwood that his final advantage lies in the fact that the patient does not expect nearly what he can achieve through honest prayer.
Letter #3 | Letter #5