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The Prayer Seeker


He shook his head. “No, please, I wasn’t smiling at you or what you’ve shown me;
it’s more that I’ll be pleased to work here when I thought I wouldn’t be back in the
working world, at any level, for quite a while. I’d made a decision to concentrate on
something else entirely, you see, and I thought it had nothing to do with work. Now I
realise perhaps it does.”
“I see,” she replied. “And what was it you were intending to concentrate on to the
exclusion of all else?”
He looked her straight in the eyes.
“Prayer,” he said quietly. “That’s what I left work to discover, and it’s still very
much part of what I want, and how I want to do things. Even this job, if you like me. I
don’t mean prayer in a public way. I couldn’t be called an evangelical, not any more. I
mean in a private way.”
“Ah,” Anne-Marie said, “you’re the one who’s incredibly keen on praying. Derek
mentioned you, but I didn’t make the connection. It’s certainly not a hobby I’ve ever
thought of, but each to his own, I say.”
Something about the way she said it, and the sheer honesty of it, made Michael
laugh. “Yes, I’m the strange one, but I don’t bite, I work hard and I’m the least likely
person to be disruptive, so I don’t suppose I can be all bad, can I?”
She laughed in return, and Michael felt the atmosphere grow warmer between them.
“It must be difficult,” he said, “taking in volunteers and never knowing how they’ll
be.”
“It can be, that’s true,” she acknowledged. “But it’s also wonderful when things
work out, when our volunteers find they rather enjoy giving something back and when
we learn a different way of working from knowing them.”
Michael nodded. For the first time, it seemed to him that this might also be a way of
praying, if he could only grasp it.
“I hope I can be part of that then,” he said.
Still, he wanted to conserve within himself the space for prayer that he’d begun to
create, as he wanted to be able to dwell there even in the midst of whatever was
happening around him. It was becoming more and more important, perhaps even vital to
who he thought he was, and how he related to the world outside.
That first day, he worked until 12 o’clock before signing the sheet Anne-Marie had
given him and heading home. Before he left, she checked through what he’d done.
“That’s great, thanks, Michael. I’ve been worrying about those November invoices
for too long. It’s good to have them finally out of the way. How have you found it?”
Michael considered that for a moment.
“Different,” he said. “In a good way and refreshing too. When I left my previous job,
I had a very singular view of what I wanted to do, though the path towards it was unclear.
I assumed there was one particular way of developing my prayer life, and it involved
conversation with God and silence. Now I think there are other ways too. Perhaps I
should have learnt a lesson from the medieval monks and their beliefs that to work is to
pray. Laborare est orare, if I remember correctly, though Latin’s not my forte, I have to
admit. In any case, it’s something to ponder on.”
Anne-Marie smiled. “And the job itself?”
This time Michael laughed. “I’m sorry, I’ve been alone too long, obviously. I forget
there are other things apart from what’s going on in my own head. Yes, I’ve really
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