The Prayer Seeker
Michael shook his head. “Not very much, I must admit. I have a vague understanding
only. You’ll have to explain.”
For a few minutes, John expanded on the concept. Michael heard that spiritual
direction was a deep listening for God. It wasn’t counselling, but was carried out
accompanied by a spiritual director or friend. It would give him the opportunity to
consider his deepest values and how to walk the path he’d set out for himself, to look at
blockages that might hinder him and to discover what God’s desires might be. John told
him that part of this would entail discussing his prayer life and his outer life, if he could
call it that, with whomsoever he would choose to accompany him. It might also help him
to ground his hopes and to explore how prayer might become a practical part of his days.
As Michael listened, it seemed to him as if he were drinking in these words, and this
knowledge, as a man who has been thirsty for too long without even knowing it drinks in
water. A memory came to him of a time when he’d been married. The early years, he
thought. It had been summer, achingly hot. A weekend. He’d been in the garden, mowing
the lawn. Such a simple act but odd how it suddenly meant so much. His wife had walked
out onto the patio. She placed a tray onto the table and he could see two tall glasses on it,
the liquid in them sparkling and clear. He thought she smiled, perhaps gestured for him to
take a break, but he couldn’t remember that clearly. What he could remember was how
good the lemonade had tasted in his mouth, the sheer clarity of it in his throat. How it had
both cooled him and refreshed him, and how he had never tasted anything so sweet.
The sensation today was something similar.
He realised that John had been silent, perhaps for longer than he’d thought, and he’d
been for a while lost in his own meditation of the past and how it related to the present.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I was thinking about what you said. It resonates somehow.”
John nodded as if he’d been expecting Michael to say something along those lines.
“That sounds good.”
Michael stretched, feeling his muscles relax. Another small step then, to somewhere.
Another thought occurred.
“This spiritual director …” he had to smile. The phrase sounded so official, a part of
his life he assumed he’d left behind. “Could it be you?”
“I’m afraid not,” John replied. “That’s not to say I’m not grateful for the suggestion,
but I’m not trained in such matters, although I’m always happy to provide a listening ear
whenever you need it. That goes without saying. But a spiritual director is a different
kind of an animal and I do have someone in mind you might like to try.”
After giving him the details he needed, John ended their conversation with a short
prayer. This wasn’t an act Michael was used to, nor one he felt comfortable with, but he
was happy to accept the need in the other man. It was a requirement of John’s role also,
of course. But, for Michael, prayer, as he remembered it, had never been something to be
laid open to the judgement of others.
Still, as he left the vicarage, with the details of a possible contact in his wallet, the air
soothed his face and his step felt lighter. He was on the road at last.