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The Prayer Seeker

prayer, his kind of prayer. His heart was beating fast and he began to whisper the name of
his God over and over again, concentrating only on the word itself.
At some point, but he couldn’t tell exactly when it was, the word God stuttered into
something else. A sound that was neither word nor groaning, but between both those
states. He tried it again and it came from his tongue a little more easily. With it flowed a
feeling of connection, of something inside himself being further loosened and allowed to
be. More time went by and other strange words followed. Not many but some. He kept on
repeating the sound of them, and then flowed back into his chanting of God’s name.
A while later he found silence again.
In the weeks that followed, Michael used the words he’d discovered again in his
prayer life. He didn’t know where they were leading him to, or what they might be
showing him about God, but he was able to answer the question about the Holy Spirit and
tongues with an affirmative when it came up again in church. Not that he ever
demonstrated the gift in public, but only in private. Still, after that, the leaders left him
When he walked away from it all and left that part of his faith behind, he never
spoke in any kind of tongues again. And he never knew if the whole brief experience had
been real or something untrue that he’d made himself speak to try to ease the pressure.
Here and now, in Chris’ living room, Michael spoke this truth again, “I didn’t know
if any of it was real. I didn’t know if I was fooling myself and God had in fact never
visited me in that way. Which would, I think, make me more of a second-class Christian
than the church leaders at the time had ever thought I was, unless that assumption about
their opinions was entirely of my own making. I really don’t know.”
Chris let the silence settle back after that statement. Then he smiled.
“I don’t speak in tongues myself,” he said. “I don’t believe God considers that an
important part of my psychological make-up, and I’m happy with that decision. Whether
or not the experience you’ve described was a gift or something you made yourself do
doesn’t matter, Michael. What matters is the understanding about yourself and about God
that you gained from it, and how that helps you now. Do you see?”
Michael thought about that.
“Yes, I do see,” he replied at last. “But I don’t know if I can understand it. The
trouble I have, in terms of God, is reconciling the bad things or the uncertain things that
happened in the past with what I’m trying to do today. Perhaps I’m putting so much of
my time into bringing back the good parts of my former faith that I forget that the
difficult issues also need attention. It’s not as easy as I’d hoped.”
“A relationship with God never is, at any level. It’s always far more demanding than
you anticipated and takes you in directions you’d never imagined. Especially when, like
you, you’re putting all your energy into reconstructing your prayer life, and have left
behind your working life to do this. However, I do have a suggestion, which I’d like you
to think about over the next days until we meet again.”
“Continue as you have been doing. But add something else to the mix. An activity
that takes you out of your head and puts you into another setting for a while, preferably