The Prayer Seeker
walked into town. When he passed the sign saying Friends M eeting House, it had seemed
like the most natural act in the world to walk inside, smiling at the woman who greeted
him but who did not crowd him in any way, and sit down on the left, near the back. It had
felt very different from the first time he’d attended the Anglican church where he’d made
his own private commitment to God.
Not that the description of sitting at the back had been entirely accurate. The meeting
room wasn’t set out in rows, not wholly. Michael saw layers of benches arranged in a
square with a table in the middle, on which stood a vase of yellow and pink flowers, and
several books. He couldn’t tell what they were. Indeed he found he didn’t want to know
as right then words didn’t interest him; it was the spaces between them that he thirsted
for. He wasn’t the only person in the room. Several people were scattered around across
the four sides of the square and most of them were much older than he’d been, although
there was one plump brown-haired younger woman with a small child. The child was
colouring something in a picture book, frowning with the concentration needed. It made
Michael smile, even though he wasn’t greatly fond of children.
The sun glittered through the high- up windows, making the flowers dazzle, and
through the open door he could hear birdsong, but right there and then the most important
sensation was the slow settling of silence.
In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.
There they were: those words again. They floated through his head as he continued
to sit, bringing with them a feeling of peace, perhaps even completeness, though he
wasn’t entirely sure what that might feel like. The last few weeks had been too jagged for
anything like completeness to begin to grow. Now the peace flowed through his whole
body, and the weight of everything he seemed to have been carrying with him for too
many days lifted a little, as if someone else was holding it in place, where he could not.
He felt his muscles relax and his shoulders ease. The sunlight caught his eye and he
found himself smiling. When he looked up, the old man opposite him nodded before
closing his eyes. He looked like he was praying and Michael envied him.
More people were drifting in now, choosing their seats and sitting quietly, waiting.
Michael had no idea what would happen next, if indeed anything would. He found it
didn’t matter; he wasn’t in charge here, in any way, and he was glad of it.
He only knew something had begun by the quality of the silence. Afterwards he
could never describe the change except to say that it had deepened, and caught him. O ne
moment he was simply sitting and the next he was travelling somewhere within himself,
but he was not alone. No, there was someone else in the silence, so close he could almost
feel the shimmer of it on his skin. He’d never had that experience before as in the past
when he’d prayed, God had been facing him. Now He was beside Michael, journeying
somewhere Michael couldn’t see, but that didn’t matter as it was the shift in perspective
and the sudden and unexpected sense of purpose that meant everything. Words would
have shattered the strange reality of it, and Michael almost dreaded someone speaking,
but nobody did.
For a full hour, the silence flowed amongst and within the people at the meeting, and
he flowed with it.