I never knew his name. In fact, I knew absolutely nothing whatsoever about him. Our lives crossed only momentarily and then went their divergent ways. But in that moment, I knew. I knew without a shadow of doubt. I knew, because it radiated from him as powerfully as the beam of a lighthouse in the darkness of the night out at sea.
He was sitting quietly in one of the college Chapels while I was visiting the city and it was clear that he was intimately familiar with the place. He belonged there. He fit in perfectly. I turned a corner and there he was in front of me, sitting in the stall. He was so caught up in what he was doing that he had no awareness of my presence – and after all, why would he? – not even when I stood four feet away and made the image you see above.
But what was it that he was doing? What so captivated him, that it then captivated me? What was radiating from him?
He was praying.
This was not the ordinary quiet mumbling of vocal prayers. No. This was something altogether different, greater, more transcendent.
His prayer, it seemed to me, had the quality of fireflies hovering above the field in the hour of dusk. Even as everything around it dims and darkens, that little point of light glows ever brighter, and it is as unmistakable as it is unforgettable once seen.
Sitting there, his Bible resting ever so gently in his hand, his body may have been in one place – but his spirit, his heart, his mind were in quite another place, lifted there by the gentle intensity of his prayer – or, perhaps more accurately, by his openness to that prayer which was at work in him.
This was not show. It was not for the viewing public. This was authentic. It was the real thing. This was a man of prayer doing that which he is called to do, and which he has undoubtedly done for a very long time, such that the rhythm of his prayer has become the very rhyme of his life and of each day as it passes.
I have come across a few such souls – but not many. Their interior luminosity is always the same, as is the power with which they quietly caress everything around them, and the lingering sense which they leave like a pulsating beat in the heart of the one who sees them and perceives them for what they are.
Prayer – deep, genuine and authentic prayer – is intensely powerful, for it carries with it the very power of the Almighty, from Whom it comes and to Whom it is directed back.
Never underestimate that power.