The Prayer Seeker
with other people. Not Christians necessarily and perhaps for you it’s better if they’re not
Christians. Voluntary work is one idea. Even a part-time job, though I know you left your
full-time career behind to pursue prayer. So, voluntary work perhaps? Think about it, in
any case, and see where your thoughts and prayers best lead you.”
It took Michael a few days to consider this new ingredient in his spiritual life. He
knew that the real world was always there, but before Chris had raised the subject, he had
not made the link with his prayer life. In fact he had been careful to keep the two areas
entirely separate. Perhaps then that was something that needed alteration, but he was
surprised at how deeply the thought of change disturbed him.
His ex-wife had accused him of becoming a hermit, and the thought in truth was not
unpleasant. His dealings with people had the effect of draining him of energy, whereas
when he was alone, or meditating in some fashion with God, he felt whole. Indeed over
the last few days, the words of the prophet Isaiah had been resonating in his head:
In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.
The words had been spoken to him almost as a gift in circumstances Michael had
found difficult. He’d been in his very late teens, at university, and on a young people’s
mission in France during the holidays. He couldn’t imagine being the type of person who
even dreamed of volunteering for such a venture now, but he’d been young and full of
evangelical enthusiasm. Or rather guilt: he’d thought it was his duty, his passport to
fitting in to the increasing uncomfortable religious environment he dwelt in.
So he’d spent two weeks over one summer trying to convert the bemused local
residents of a small town in the south of France. Looking back all those years, it made
him laugh at how different he’d been then. Most of the time, the group of about a dozen
young people had been involved in street theatre and evangelism, and he had memories
of putting a large number of religious tracts through letterboxes, whilst in the evenings
there’d been a great deal of singing and prayer. It had been like watching strangers he had
no hope of knowing and with whom he’d had nothing in common live out lives he both
envied and was terrified by. Michael had survived the fortnight by dint of smiling a great
deal and saying little, and by counting the days until it was time to return home.
The aspects he remembered most clearly were these: the warm dark nights that
pressed against his skin; the vibrant, almost bell- like tenor voice of one of his
companions; the growing realisation that his passport to acceptance had not been granted.
He didn’t think he’d been responsible for anyone turning to God in any way, a fact for
which he was as an adult strangely grateful. Back then, he had no idea about prayer and
how the need for it infiltrated the blood, but if he’d been able to spend those two weeks in
silent contemplation he would have taken up the opportunity without a second thought.
At the same time, he had not been ready for any of it, either mission or silence. What
he could not tie together, and he had never been able to do so, was the possibility of any
kind of a link between those two states. Except that there had been something in that
quote from Isaiah which had at last spoken directly to him.