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The Prayer Seeker

yes, the night-times too, he couldn’t forget those. It had all been good, until near the end,
when something inside him had shifted its focus, and all that she’d offered had somehow
no longer been enough. He’d known it as clearly as if it had been written across the sky
in flame but could have done nothing to change it. She was right to have left him. But
even so, even so.
“Do You know,” he whispered suddenly and fiercely to no-one and to everyone,
clenching his fists in front of him, “do You know how the things You decide can burn
other people too? People who do not deserve the burning …”
He no longer knew if he was talking to himself or to God, nor even if it mattered.
The air around him shimmered with what could have been his anger, the slight breeze
through the open window, or something else again.
He thought of Ruth once more and his fists relaxed.
The words came to him when he needed them most: “May she be blessed, good
Lord, may she be blessed.”
Perhaps not the phrase he would have chosen, but it seemed to fit with her and also,
now, with him. He said it quietly for a while.
When he finished, he looked at the bedside clock. Fifteen minutes had passed since
he sat down on the bed. Remembering his former prayer life, the wild swoop and fall of
it, the time he had gladly given it, he couldn’t help but smile. Still, this was no
competition; it was a pathway. And, whatever had just taken place, it had been a prayer,
of sorts. It was a start then, a small one.
It came upon him without any warning. Michael woke gasping from sleep, his chest
heavy. He felt as if someone had called his name and he’d responded even from his
dreams, waking into the cold and silent room.
“Please,” he said, “please …”
But there was no reply, not that he had expected any. God was not to be found so
easily this second time. He wasn’t even sure if he wanted it that way. The searching was
part of the prayer and words were unnecessary.
What was the uppermost thought in his mind, a thought he could not gainsay, was
the memory of his first attempts at meditation, so many years back.
He’d been on his own, in his shared house in London. No other lodgers had been in
at the time. The house itself was a simple two-up two-down, with the living room used as
an extra bedroom, and the kitchen and bathroom were almost an afterthought. It was
situated at the edge of one of the poorer areas near the hospital, though he’d never had
any trouble living there.
It was autumn as Michael could remember the gold and green of the trees on his
short walk back from church that Sunday evening. He’d sat through the service, wanting
to join in more fully but feeling as distanced from the rigours of Anglican evening prayer
as he always did. Not that this churc h was particularly formal. No, the services were