The Prayer Seeker
He told Chris about the books he’d bought and how he’d begun to use them. How the
space for morning and evening prayer gave him a necessary structure, how it gave him
the opportunity for silence.
“The strange thing though is this,” he said when he’d come to the end of his
explanation. “Whatever has developed in these last few days isn’t anything I expected it
to be, as it’s not as I remember prayer being. When I was young, it was more intense,
overwhelming, if you like. I would pray for hours sometimes in both words and silence. I
couldn’t have stopped myself.”
“And now?” Chris prompted him when he let the pause lengthen. “What’s different
about the times you’ve prayed recently?”
“It’s God,” Michael said at once, even though he hadn’t known that would be his
answer. “God is different, or that’s how I perceive him. He feels more distant than He
did, but that’s understandable bearing in mind how I’ve drifted away over the last few
years. My times of prayer these days aren’t as intense and certainly not as long. I’ve been
reading the service through and thinking about it, then simply being quiet. Not even
thinking and perhaps not even praying, I’m not sure. I can describe the difference you ask
about like this: when I was young God overpowered me, as if I were living in the middle
of a powerful storm, at the quiet heart of it but aware of the sound and the drama. Now
the storm has blown itself out and I’m left in the silence as the rain dies away. What
comes next I don’t know. But this is what it is. I’m waiting and listening, that’s all.”
When Michael finished speaking, Chris didn’t respond immediately. Instead he sat
back, laced his fingers together and half smiled.
“There’s nothing wrong with waiting and listening,” he said.
“No, but …” Michael began to speak and then wasn’t sure exactly what it was he
wanted – needed – to say.
He hesitated, trying to find the words in the right order. Chris waited. There was a
lesson in that for him too, he supposed. “But I’m not sure I can trust God in the way I
once did as I don’t think I have that ability any more. I want to get closer to what I
understand prayer to be, yes, I can’t deny that urge. But my trust in God, my faith that in
the end all things shall be well, that’s vanished away. I’m afraid I don’t believe any more
that everything does come right.”
There. It was finally out, in the open, the curled worm of this small dark doubt that
he bore always within him. The fear that, no matter how much he offered to God, it
would be ultimately meaningless. It was the weight he carried with him from before,
when faith had been easier and still had not been enough.
The fact of it drove him into silence. Of course he’d known this truth all along, but
this was the first time he’d said it. Not just out loud, but even in the quiet of his own
mind. He’d veered away from such an admission before but somehow this unexpected
thinking place had given him the liberty to speak. He swallowed and found his fingers
were gripping the edge of his chair. Glancing at Chris, he saw the other man appeared
neither surprised nor concerned.
Michael gave a short laugh. “I don’t know what that makes me, saying that. I believe
in God but I don’t trust him. I don’t suppose that’s a particularly good position to be in, is
“Why do you say that?” Chris asked.