I wanted more than anything in the world at that moment, to be close to God the way everyone around me was. Utterly suffocated by the noise surrounding me, I stood awkwardly. With eyes burning due to lack of sleep as I persisted with my prayers. “Lord I pray for your light and guidance to be upon me” I repeated over and over again. At that point, I wasn’t even thinking about it anymore. I was too distracted by everyone else’s prayers. Around me, people prayed. They spoke in tongues. They shouted. They wailed. I stared. “Lord I pray for your light and guidance to be upon me” I repeated mindlessly. The prayers lasted for hours and from time to time, I would get tired of standing and sit down. It was unfortunate because I didn’t want to come across as not serious or lost but that’s exactly what I was. Not serious enough and completely, completely lost. All I desired was to close my eyes and wave my hands in the air, fully focused and believing in my prayers with as much conviction as the people surrounding me but it seemed almost impossible. There were rare moments where I was fully focused and deep in my prayers but I slipped out of those moments quicker than I fell into them. However what remained constant was my burning desire to strengthen my spirituality and the overwhelming frustration that came with it.
At one point during the course of the night, a woman was called towards the alter. She was dark skinned and plump. A true ‘African mama’. The pastor proceeded to dip his fingers in the pale green plate of anointing oil and then press it against her forehead praying for her. “Anointing, anointing, receive it, receive it” were words I could hear him chanting repeatedly as he pushed her backwards until she fell, convulsing slightly. Everyone continued with their prayers, eyes closed almost as if they couldn’t see the drama occurring before us. Evidently, I was the only one watching the deliverance process and from that, I realised it was an experience that shouldn’t have been strange to me, nor negative in any way but I will admit that watching it filled me with more fear than any other emotion and it hurt me that I felt that way. I was at my first All Night service. A place to give thanks and ask for forgiveness. A place to feel good and be healed. But I felt frustrated, sad, anxious and most of all, guilty. I’m learning that spirituality isn’t just the switch of a plug or the blink of an eye. It’s a process. A slow and faith-testing process and I accept it.
4am and exhausted in Pastor’s car on the way back home with about three other church friends, we drove past a McDonalds. I could hear the glee in Pastor’s voice and in the responses from the other passengers in the car from such a fruitful All Night service. “Anyone fancy breakfast?” he asked. I sat in silence and sighed as I though to myself, “I fancy sleep.”