The Prayer Seeker
the final blessing. Those times were the best. It was a sad fact that the routine of offering
coffee destroyed for him any fragments of God’s presence that he might have been lucky
enough to snatch from the air while he slouched in his pew, trying to be quiet. Not that
there had been many of those fragments, not for a long while. Though now, as he thought
of it, he could remember a time, years ago, when God had seemed so near that Michael
could have reached out and touched him, at his side, just in front of him, or even within.
He could even remember a point in his life when God had seemed exciting, and he’d
wanted to hold the concept of Him close enough so that nothing should ever tear the two
of them apart. He’d thought once that his faith would last forever. He’d been wrong.
His reading of the bible had dwindled away since the early years too. He could recall
a time when he’d read it desperately, like a man seeking water, finding it too, letting it
sustain him. How had it all slipped from him so quickly? Now, he read the bible briefly, a
couple of minutes in the morning before he went to work. A section fro m the O ld
Testament and a section from the New. He grimaced at his own regimented approach, the
logic of which stemmed from being an accountant by trade, he supposed. The moment
the bible was closed, the details grew hazy and he could almost never recall a nything that
he’d read during the day. Sometimes he even thought the passages he read were dull,
meaningless. Where had the bible’s importance gone for him, and why did it no longer
relate, in any sense, to the God he’d thought he’d known? It was a mystery worthy of the
solving, but he was unsure whether he had the gifts to solve it. He was no detective, least
of all in spiritual matters.
Which was where his desire to learn to pray came in, or where he imagined it did.
During that month of working out his notice, prayer felt like something he was saving up
to start when the time was right. He couldn’t pray until he had the space to do so, both in
terms of his outer life and his inner one. He couldn’t begin to imagine what it might entail
until he had the opportunity to consider his past – really consider it – and relate it to his
present. He knew he would have to do both, and this thought both terrified him and
exhilarated him. It felt like planning for a big event – a wedding perhaps, or a significant
birthday – when someone else, someone he couldn’t see or even speak to, possessed the
answers to all the puzzles. So he had no real notion how he should prepare.
Michael’s last day at work was the calmest he’d ever known. It seemed to him to be
a bridge he was crossing from one life to the next. And as he stepped onto the bridge that
morning, the other end was shrouded in mist and darkness. He still wanted to go there
however, as something in the mist and darkness was calling to him and he had no choice
but to respond. But no, that wasn’t true. He’d always had a choice, he knew it. What
mattered now was that for the first time in years he wanted to respond to that choice from
the gut. He wanted to find his own kind of truth again.
So Michael said his goodbyes to the office, and accepted the farewells and good
wishes his colleagues offered him. He smiled to see the gift they’d bought for him – The
Oblate Life, edited by Gervase Holdaway. A hardbound book in blue with gold lettering,
which felt solid and reliable in his hand. This kind of regularised commitment to prayer
wasn’t a route he necessarily saw himself taking, but he was grateful for the thought. In
any case, it might be an interesting read. He accepted it with thanks that resonated in his