The Prayer Seeker
When, finally, a man who must have been the leader, at least for that meeting, drew
it to an end with a few quiet words, Michael could happily have sat there, basking in the
newness and the peace of what he’d found for a long time, but the need to speak and to
return more fully to the familiar world overtook him.
What he could remember even now, as he sat opposite Derek, memories shifting
around him, was how the woman who’d initially welcomed him to the Quaker meeting
had apologised to him afterwards.
“We don’t usually meet in complete silence,” she’d said. “Somebody usually says
something, so I’m sorry it’s not been an ordinary occasion.”
What Michael had so much wanted to say to her but hadn’t known then how to
convey was how glorious his experience of it had been, and how words were the last
thing he’d wanted at all.
Now, as Derek waited for a response, Michael smiled.
“You’re very lucky,” he said. “Being a Quaker, I mean. At heart I’m an Anglican
and will always be so, I think, but I sometimes wonder how that might have been
Over the next few weeks, Michael thought a great deal about those words.
Everywhere he looked and everywhere he went, the concepts of quietness and confidence
reached into and over him. He felt as if he were being held for a time in a cocoon, and
being made ready for something else, but he didn’t know what. In truth, he wasn’t
entirely sure how to respond to it; he’d spent so much of his energy in planning and
training himself in prayer that simply stopping and enjoying the moment wasn’t easy. He
kept having to hold himself back from analysis and action, however small, and encourage
himself to accept and dwell on what was happening.
And always, in the corner of his mind, the thought remained that he was being
Chris smiled when he tried to explain this, somewhere at the tail end of the winter, as
the darkest of the dark days began to lose their chill grip. “Quakerism isn’t something
you’ve mentioned before. Do you think there’s a reason for that? After all, silence and
prayer is very much a part of their religious life.”
Michael considered this for a while before answering. “The pull was there, even
from the first time I attended a meeting. But I’d been steeped in the ways of the Church
of England, and had even made my commitment of faith at an Anglican service. Taking
my loyalties elsewhere, even when I’d turned my back on the church and on God, felt
like a betrayal I couldn’t stomach. Or perhaps I was simply afraid of the change, and the
need to start something from the beginning again, I’m not sure. It’s true to say that
change frightens me, which, I suppose makes what I’m doing now the ultimate in
bravado or foolishness.”
He laughed at that, but Chris did not join in.
“I think sometimes you might see black and white where there are actually only
shades of grey,” the spiritual director said instead. “There isn’t a rule where you must
either choose one way of life or another, at least not in terms of how you express your