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The Prayer Seeker


In the church he’d attended in his twenties, Michael had known people who spoke in
tongues. It happened at church meetings, particularly the informal ones on a Sunday
evening. On the whole he’d enjoyed those services as they gave him food for his prayer
sessions with God during the week. He felt as if he were storing up nourishment that he
could enjoy in the working days ahead. A private pleasure, almost a secret one. His
prayers were secret, he supposed, as he shared the fact of them with nobody.
The only aspect of Sunday evening worship that made him pause were the times
when people spoke in tongues. It made him curious, it made him jealous and it made him
afraid. A couple of times, some of the church leaders had asked him about the Holy Spirit
and whether he wanted to speak in tongues. Michael didn’t know how to answer either of
these; the questions weren’t ones that coincided with his own experience of God and,
because of this, he began to wonder whether his particular Christianity might be lacking
in some way. So he didn’t answer the question when it was put to him. He simply
shrugged and smiled.
No, it was more than that. He felt as if the sudden unexpected focus of others on his
brand of faith was driving him away from something he barely grasped. He didn’t know
how he could be a Christian amongst other Christians and that was the truth.
The inability to speak in tongues and his confusion about the measure of God’s Spirit
that he might, or might not, have was nothing more than anot her rift in the making, along
with the other yet to come. And in the months to follow, at least in the eyes of the
evangelical church he belonged to, Michael felt that in many ways he became an outsider,
even a second-class Christian.
In an effort to get what he seemed to need in order to be a full part of what he
believed in, Michael began to pray for longer and with greater intent. Not in the moments
and hours of overwhelming quietness where he felt God as near to him as his own blood,
but separate from those occasions and in increasingly determined requests for this gift he
feared. With each demanding prayer, the sense of God seemed to drift away where he
could no longer even attempt to grasp it.
Twice he asked for prayer during one of the church’s informal healing services, but
did not say what it was about. Still, the leaders appeared to know, and Michael wondered
again if they saw his faith as inadequate and himself as somehow unacceptable.
In the end, it happened, and it didn’t, at the same time. He’d come home one dark
February evening from the service. There’d been two occasions where people had spoken
in tongues and one interpretation of it. He’d also heard whispered prayers in the seats
around him and had known them for what they were. His prayers however continued to
be in words he could understand and in silence. That night he hadn’t put himself forward
for prayer; he’d simply slipped out of the door as quietly as he could and headed home.
The house was empty as one of the lodgers was away with his family in Ireland, and
the other staying with friends in Norfolk. The bliss of being alone folded him in the
moment he stepped through the door. He didn’t turn on the light, he remembered that fact
clearly. He let familiarity and the feel of his fingertips against the wall guide him to the
bedroom. The bible lay open on the bed. He couldn’t remember which psalm he had been
reading but he couldn’t see it anyway in the darkness, so he drew his hand across the
page and closed the book.
Then he lay face down, breathing in the freshly- washed scent of the pillow. He
thought of nothing. After a while, Michael put his hands together and let his mind turn to
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