On Making Altars, Prayer and C.S. Lewis

I grew up in a church that gave altar calls every service.

The pastor called it an “old-fashioned altar,” and I practically ran to it three times a week. My tears soaked the burnt orange upholstery, and boy did I cry. I wept like only a teenage girl can.

That plush bench held all my melancholy, angst and shame. That altar gave birth to so much striving and sin-consciousness, and my thoughts about God were based in fear, not rooted in love. Still, the time I spent on my knees at the front of that church sings in my memories.

That time at the altar forged intimacy in a way only full submission does.

I came to the altar empty and left complete, knelt depraved only to stand in righteousness. When hungry, there Jesus fed me food that brings soul-deep satisfaction I can only find at His feet.

More than a decade has flashed by since I huddled over that prayer bench, but I realize how I miss that prayer time, how I need it more than ever.

Neck-deep in mom hood, I can’t even pee by myself, let alone crawl onto the floor to pray without a little boy hopping on my back wanting a ride.

How you pray or the posture you take matters little, but kneeling or lying prone seems to nudge my heart toward full surrender.

Today, praying comes in quick spurts while washing dishes. I seize another few minutes while folding laundry. But sadly, I have fewer and fewer of these altar moments my life so desperately needs.

Recently we watched Prince Caspian, and one scene speaks to me about prayer. When Susan asks Lucy why she didn’t see Aslan as Lucy had, Lucy responds with the frankness and simplicity of a child.

“Maybe you don’t want to see him,” she says.

Isn’t this true of prayer? If I wanted to see Jesus—to talk to Him and commune with Him—I would pray more. Lucy was telling Susan she saw Aslan because she was looking for him.

She spent time watching and waiting and not half-heartedly the way we often do.

My heart longs to adore Christ the way Lucy loves Aslan. Where is the passion and the ardor that once sent me running to the altar? My heart more closely resembles Susan’s as she sheds her child-like faith in Aslan. It seems clear her year apart from Narnia has wrought doubt.

Earlier in the movie Susan confesses that she was just getting used to London. She seems disappointed they hadn’t returned sooner or on her own terms.

How often are we too caught up in our lives to hear Jesus calling us? How often do our daily pursuits and pleasures blind us from seeing Christ the way he wants us to see Him, in full adoration with the brazen faith of a child?

In another scene from the movie, it takes Lucy only one glimpse of Aslan in a dream to begin a wild chase after him through the forest.

I can’t help draw the parallel further. Is Jesus beckoning us on those nights we can’t sleep to follow Him and chase Him the way Lucy chased Aslan? But instead of trodding over branches and jumping over bushes, could this chase involve our Bible, wide open hearts and our full attention?

The church I attend now doesn’t have an altar. Instead, we’re encouraged to pray often—to make little altars in our hearts.

Repentance seems to get harder the older I become. It seems a little more humiliating to keep looking up and asking for help. But I’m learning humility doesn’t have to be humiliating.

Consider what would happen if we all made little altars—times of focused prayer and adoration—multiple times a day? What if we stopped multitasking our prayer lives? What if we turned our sofas into altars?

The following verse speaks to me about my prayer procrastination.

“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he may be found.” (Isaiah 55:6 NIV)

What if we chose to stop procrastinating prayer?





5 thoughts on “On Making Altars, Prayer and C.S. Lewis

  1. “Consider what would happen if we all made little altars—times of focused prayer and adoration—multiple times a day?” Even once a day to spend focused time with Him will enhance our relationship. It’s interesting how we’ll make time in our schedules for other people, for manicures or hair appointments, for trips to the grocery store – but neglect to schedule time for the One who creates our day.
    Wonderful reminder, Trisha.

  2. It is very good for us to work diligently on being humble before God – on retaining the reality of the One who is greater than us, whose grace and favor we can not merit of our own power – without the help of God’s favor/grace. In the Catholic Church, there is the “Christian Prayer,” aka, “Liturgy of the Hours,” aka, “Divine Office” which all religious people and, optionally, the lay faithful may pray daily. It is a 4-week cycle of prayer which also includes special daily prayers during the liturgical seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Ordinary Time. If you are a baptized Christian (whether Catholic or not), you can also use it to help you pray consistently and daily. The primary element of the Liturgy of the Hours are the Psalms. It is very good to pray (and especially to sing/chant) the Psalms. There are Morning, Daily, and Night prayers. You can find a local Catholic priest or nun to show you how they do it (have them walk you through it – don’t be shy to ask :-) ).

    Here is a good one to ponder for beginners: http://www.amazon.com/Shorter-Christian-Prayer-Four-Week-Containing/dp/0899424082/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1413038696&sr=1-1&keywords=shorter+christian+prayer

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