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The Prayer Seeker

to write down the name and address of every Anglican church in the town except the one
that his mother occasionally attended, the one where Tony ran his youth club. He found
he was sweating, so took off his thin jumper and wiped his face with it. He couldn’t seem
to breathe properly.
Finally, when the task was almost done, he swore softly and crumpled up the paper.
He was being stupid, because this kind of a life was not for him and he could never be the
person that sort of existence would demand. There was no point to any of it. Having
made that decision, he felt considerably calmer. So he threw the paper away, watched
television for a while, washed up his supper things and went to bed.
When he woke up, Sunday morning, the day outside was crisp and hot.
Congratulating himself on a crisis averted, Michael had a shower, got dressed and went in
search of breakfast. After about half an hour, he heard the sound of the Sunday papers
falling onto the mat, so collected them together, headed off to the dining room and began
to read.
He couldn’t settle to it. It was as if the chair behind him was layered with nails. He
shifted and fidgeted and then, when he’d all but had enough of it, he heard a voice. Not
out loud as he still had his senses about him, but in his head where it was somehow more
insistent. The voice said this: why don’t you go to church?
It wasn’t a voice he recognised. But the moment it spoke, the words phrased in a
question but delivered as a command, parts of his life seemed to slot into a place they
hadn’t been before. It suddenly appeared to be extraordinarily simple, and extraordinarily
terrifying, at the same time.
Michael couldn’t have stayed in his seat if a gun had been held to his head. He got to
his feet. He was shaking slightly but it didn’t matter. He didn’t think about the list of
churches he’d painstakingly written out the night before. They didn’t matter either.
Instead, he got into his mother’s car, drove to the church connected with his youth group,
though he couldn’t imagine why he’d not thought of this before, and walked inside. It
was 9.55am. The service started at 10am but he hadn’t even considered the time.
At the doorway, someone offered him a service sheet and he took it. He made no eye
contact with anyone, though he thought he might have glimpsed the youth leader, Tony,
in the background. The man might even have smiled at him, but he couldn’t be sure. He
found a suitable pew and sat down at the end.
The service taking place was a simple Parish Communion. Michael knew roughly
what he could expect from the odd time he’d attended. What was different was that he
had no real idea why he was here now, on his own, in this one. What was different was
the way he was shaking. And when the service commenced, what was utterly and
astonishingly different was the way that he could hear every word of it re-echoed in his
head in the voice that had spoken within him before, but in his own voice also. As if
someone else was saying the prayers and the promises, the statements encapsulated in the
Anglican communion service and he was repeating them back. Confirming them to
someone he couldn’t see, understanding their unbelievable sense for the first time, and
meaning them.
He’d never experienced anything like this before. His body stopped shaking but,
inside, that quiver remained. He didn’t understand what was happening to him, but he
had no desire to stop it. It was electrifying, a word he’d never associated with himself,
but which fitted now.