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The Prayer Seeker


past, his extended sessions of prayer had been prayed in the flesh just as much as in the
spirit, the longing a part of the whole of him. He could never understand the reasons for
separating the physical from the spiritual, or why they might be seen to be opposed as
when he prayed, he prayed with his body as well as his mind. The closer rea lisation of
God had relaxed him to the full, as if he was spending time with an old and familiar
friend. A demanding one too on occasion, more than one occasion.
Sitting here like this and thinking, it seemed to him that he felt more complete. A
little more in any case. It came to him also that he might have been travelling for years
through a dry and weary country, empty of water. The years towards the end of his
marriage and the long years at work stretched back and back like a relentless desert that
he could barely comprehend having passed over. At the time he hadn’t even been aware
of the things he missed now, hadn’t even thought to search for the water the psalmist
mentioned. Perhaps he hadn’t seen it as a search that could have any success. He had
walked through those years leaving neither any kind of footprint in the sand’s expanse
nor any sense of himself, as if it had been a different person entirely who had lived his
past. He did not know whether that sensation was a good or bad thing, whether being cut
off from his personal history showed a kind of lunacy or a kind of sanity. It could be
both.
His thoughts moved to the second verse of the psalm. O f course it was dangerous to
take what had been written many thousands of years ago and to slot it into life today. He
would be more than a fool to set any store by such simplistic analogies, but God was
always dangerous and sometimes, well sometimes words resonated. Because it had been
true once, hadn’t it? God and church had once satisfied him, had brought the kind of
depths into his existence that Michael had never imagined. At work, he’d counted the
minutes until he could be free again, free to pray. And he’d attended church twice on
Sundays, loving the time spent there, at least in the beginning, and had been a stalwart of
the weekly bible group. He couldn’t keep away, it had consumed him. But what had
consumed him? Was it a need to meet with God in some mysterious way that was always
impossible to explain, just as it was impossible to explain what being in love felt like to
someone who had not experienced it? Or was it a need in himself for something beyond
that it had seemed only God could fill? Perhaps both. Surely what had happened to him at
the end of what he liked to call his church years should have shown him that.
Nonetheless, it was true that back in those days, the church, and God, had satisfied him.
Enough indeed for his thoughts to turn instinctively to God if he woke in the night,
as the psalm’s third verse set out before him. This then had been his experience, as it had
been the experience of the man who had written this so very long ago. He sensed a
connection between the two of them that gave Michael here and now a frisson of hope.
God had dealt well, once, with the psalmist. It was to be hoped therefore that God would
deal well with him also.
It was only at the end of the psalm that Michael’s experiences drifted away from the
heart of what was being conveyed. He was not a violent man, and never had been so and,
although he lived in a violent society, revenge was not seen as a desirable aim, at least
not in public. He could only admire the psalmist’s honesty in that case. Because, if he
really thought about it, weren’t there one or two people at least in his own history whom
he would be glad to see an end of? In truth, he would be lying if he claimed there
weren’t. So what price his own assumed lack of violence after all? God was vast enough
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