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The Prayer Seeker

It had been the final evening of the mission. Michael had already packed up his few
belongings, his mindset long since turned to home. He’d slipped into the worship
meeting, hoping nobody had noticed his lateness. One or two people had smiled, and he’d
nodded in response. They sang two or three more choruses, and then came a period of
open prayer, something he dreaded as, even then, prayer seemed too private a matter to
be shared. After fifteen minutes or so, he noticed that he was the only person remaining
who had said nothing aloud. He felt the tension in him build up, the calm night air a
contrast to the irregular pulse of his breathing. He had to say something, anything to
appease the expectations of those he prayed with.
He swallowed, found himself mumbling a pra yer, the words of which he could no
longer recall in his adult life. It was only short, a mere nothing, but after it several people
in the group whispered praise God or allelujah and somehow that humiliation was worse
than any of the rest of it. They had been waiting for him, praying for him to speak,
perhaps for the whole of this bleak fortnight and he had not realised it. He would
remember it however. Oh yes, he would remember both the way other people had
moulded him to their expectation of God, and most of all how he had given in to that
Michael was still trying to cope with the piercing sense of failure when he realised
the group leader had already moved on. The man was talking about finding a special
reassurance from God for them all, although Michael wasn’t sure how that would help, or
even if it was needed. If they required a special reassurance, he thought it would have
been better heard at the beginning of the mission, not now when it was all but over. But
he said nothing of this, and indeed how he would learn to swallow the words he wanted
to say all his life.
After a while, the leader began to give each person what he called a word from the
Lord. Michael listened to a variety of Bible verses, some on hope and others on joy or
faith. He didn’t know how appropriate they were, but understood he knew little about
these people’s lives and so was no doubt the last person to judge the worth of what the
leader said.
When it came to himself, Michael expected something about having courage or
being more dynamic in his religion. He had done little of import during the mission so
assumed he would be castigated, however subtly, for that. It was not the case. Kneeling in
front of him, the group leader merely smiled. Then he nodded as if someone had spoken
words that only he could hear and turned to a page in the Bible that Michael couldn’t see.
He’d read these words aloud:
In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.
Michael remembered thanking the man and smiling back, all the time conscious of a
sense of disappointment at the text. Quietness had always been his, but confidence, of
any sort, a distant dream, so he had not believed it was really meant for him.
Now, all these years on from that experience, he wondered if he’d been wrong in that
assumption. He wondered if in fact it might have been perfect. He turned to the text in
Isaiah, chapter thirty, verse fifteen: