The Prayer Seeker
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him
my Saviour and my God.
That autumnal night, Michael said those words to himself countless times as he lay
prostrate on his bedroom floor. He said them as the moon shone through his drawn
curtains, he said them as the earth moved in its diurnal spin between one day and the
next, he said them until they felt shaped entirely to his tongue, something for him and for
him alone, whether he understood them or not. That was irrelevant. The words did not
come from his mind but from his gut where it mattered. Where it would always matter.
Finally, the sensations flowing over his skin and through his blood began to grow
calmer, and his speaking less impassioned. He clung to the words though, eking them out
for all the goodness they possessed while they remained alive for him. They were gold
and the clearest water, sunset and peace. If it were possible, he would have lifted up the
pages they lay on to his lips and tasted them, but now a kind of shyness began to creep
over him and he found he did not have the wild uncaring courage needed to do that.
Then, after a while longer, he was silent and the encounter, if encounter it had been,
vanished away. He was on his own again, in his bedroom, lying on his back, his bible
clutched to his chest. He was smiling.
When he glanced at the clock and found it was almost midnight, two hours after he’d
come home, he was astonished. And the most refreshed he had ever been in his life.
This was the first of Michael’s meditation experiences and the one he treasured the
In the fluidity of the present, it took Michael a while to recover. The sudden fierce
memory of what his faith had once been seemed to fill his bedroom, leaving him no room
for his life as it was now. Perhaps no room for himself, he didn’t know. For some reason,
the lines of an old hymn they’d used to sing at school came to him: Gentle Jesus, meek
and mild, look upon this little child.
It made him smile, even in the midst of his exhaustion. God, in his experience was
neither meek nor mild. God was a raging storm and a vast unknowable sea. God was
tempest and wild song, Beethoven’s Fifth rather than the Moonlight Sonata, an all-
consuming fire. At least that was his experience of it. God was utterly demanding and
utterly overwhelming. He made everything different, not necessarily better – oh no, to
claim that would be a lie – but different. That was the truth.
A long time ago, Michael had used to enjoy that difference, revel in it even, as he
had that first time he’d meditated on God, in the privacy of his room. But somewhere