(CCSLQ-4) I Pray Because

UPDATED (6/20/18) – The Misquotable C.S. Lewis is my book that examines 75 quotations attributed to Lewis that I caution you not to share. Some are falsely attributed to him, others are paraphrases of his words, and a few have context issues. Don’t share a quote attributed to Lewis unless you can confirm he wrote it and the meaning is clear without the context!

The following was the fourth quote I examined that led me to writing The Misquotable C.S. Lewis. I started calling quotes like this as “questionable” because I wanted people to question whether or not Lewis wrote it. This led me to coming up with three main categories, or types of misquotes. You can learn about that in the INTRODUCTION to this series. There is also an “at a glance” page to see what quotations I’ve covered in the online series. Please note that the book has revised entries and provide more details about the expressions examined. 


I pray

“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me.”

There are a lot of reasons to pray. Sadly, most only pray to ask God for material things. The above quote clearly doesn’t carry that perspective. It’s a great quote that even states something that too many people miss. At the end it speaks about prayer changing a person, not God. This even reminds me of the overlooked similar notion that prayer doesn’t change things, but people, and people change things.

However, even with all the nice things that this quotes reminds me, it doesn’t take away from the fact that Lewis never said it. The fictional C.S. Lewis in the movie Shadowlands (played by Anthony Hopkins) DID say it, but that STILL doesn’t mean the real Lewis said it. Would it be something he agreed with? It seems reasonable to suggest he would. However, it is NOT reasonable to say that he made the statement when it is clear that it’s a line from a movie.


“We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.”
from Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, chapter 4


“It’s so much easier to pray for a bore than to go and see him.”
from Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, chapter 12


“It is quite useless knocking at the door of heaven for earthly comfort; it’s not the sort of comfort they supply there.”
from The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 3 (to Sir Henry Willink on 12/3/1959)

The next quote examined is:

“Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Related Articles:

Surprised By Misquotes (2018 Taylor Talk)

Exploring C.S. Lewis Misquotes and Misconceptions (2017 6-part podcast series)

What Lewis NEVER Wrote  (Podcast)

Not Quite Lewis – Podcast Version

Not Quite Lewis – Questionable Lewisian Quotations (Conf. Paper)

Updated 6/20/2018
Originally posted 9/19/2015


  1. Larry Gilman /

    Heck, not only is it not from Lewis, I don’t think it’s a great quote at all. It strikes me as tiptoe-dramatic, unfocused-grandiose . . . religion as a Hollywood screenplay would like it to be. Which is exactly what it is. Lewis might have been more likely, I think, to remark that except in emergencies we generally _don’t_ pray because we “can’t help it”, but because we persist, drag ourselves to it, establish a regular pattern and stick whether bouyed up by surging feelings of devotion or not. It is all too easy, isn’t it, to “help” praying — or doing any other part of what God wants us to do?

  2. Steven Hecht /

    Thank you, these are intriguing. There was some excellent writing for that movie!

  3. Dianne Mosley /

    Thanks, again, William, for all your good work in separating the chaff from the wheat of Lewis’s words.
    Note to Steven:The writing in Shadowlands may have been excellent, but the truth was hard to find. I adore Anthony Hopkins, But his portrayal of Lewis was a travesty. Lewis was a man’s man, not a wimp. The ending, for anyone not familiar with the truth, Ileft one with the feeling that he had lost his faith. Have you seen the British version of shadow lands? It is much better than the American.


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