The Prayer Seeker
died when Michael was thirteen, and his mother when he was thirty- four, and even
though she’d married again just before he went to university he wasn’t close to his
stepfather. They saw each other at Christmas and Easter, and that was all. Then
understanding came to him unexpectedly, as clearly as if a window had opened and a
fresh spring breeze was flowing over his skin. It felt new, untr ied but solid. He decided to
keep to the truth instead.
“I’m handing in my notice because I want to learn how to pray again,” he said.
He thought Douglas might laugh at this, perhaps say something witty, but to his
credit his boss did neither of those things. Instead he sat back in his chair and took a deep
breath, letting it go steadily and placing both hands on the desk.
“That’s quite serious,” he said at last. “Is it something you’ve been thinking about
for a long time?”
Michael didn’t know the answer to that. He supposed it must have been, and that was
the change he’d been searching for during the last few months. Why had he not
understood it before? O nly in the letting one thing go had there been space enough for
something more important to take its place. Underneath him were indeed the incarnadine
seas and he had no compass and no chart to guide him.
“I believe I might have been thinking about it,” he replied as Douglas was still
waiting patiently. “I just didn’t realise that until this moment. I only knew it was time to
“I hadn’t realised you were a churchgoer.”
“I’m not. Not seriously, not anymore, but I used to be, when I was young. I don’t
mean as a child. I was very irreligious as a child, but as a young man. My early twenties.
It meant a lot to me then and I think I want it back.”
Michael hadn’t allowed himself to recall that time in his life for nearly thirty years.
He didn’t know if this moment was the right time to think about it, though he knew he’d
have to ponder it later in private, both the good and the bad. Indeed now that he’d
expressed a desire to revisit his prayer life, those memories would have to be accessed
again. Of course he’d known all along it would one day come to this. Douglas’s question
brought him back to reality.
“Wouldn’t it be better if you thought about this decision for longer?” his boss asked
him. “You’re a good worker and we’d be sorry to lose you. You have a lot of experience
and you fit in with the team very well.”
Michael wasn’t sure if any of that was correct, but there was a tremor in Douglas’
voice that spoke of honesty. Perhaps he’d covered up his lack of connection in his role
well enough over the years? Strange how it all seemed to be falling softly away from him
“It’s not enough,” he replied. “I’m sorry but I need more.”
“What about learning to pray outside work? I’m sure that would be a possibility. Or
are you saying you want to be a monk or something like that?”
Douglas’ expression at his last question couldn’t help but make Michael smile. His
boss knew the main points of his relationship history: married for a while, divorced ten
years ago, no children, and then with a girlfriend or two, ending finally with Ruth. And
before and alongside that, there’d been one or two close men friends too, nothing more
than that. Michael had never thought deeply about his sexuality, which he imagined had