I have often reflected on this prayer since first hearing it prayed at 2:00am one Sunday morning by a Street Pastor in the middle of the town where I live. As part of some ethnographic research for my MA dissertation with CYM, I had been tagging along with teams of Street Pastors on Saturday nights and, in a moment of relative quiet, the team decided to pause and pray.
Of course, the idea of ‘dark places’ is a familiar metaphor for describing personal shadows such as grief, despair, pain and doubt within people’s lives and certainly many conversations with people on the streets eventually turned to these themes. However, this man was actually asking God to take us into physically dark places, the corners of town where dark things may happen and individuals might be found alone, confused or maybe drunk, hurt and in need of practical help.
These 7 short words, uttered by the Street Pastor, are packed with theological meaning and a deep assurance in the faithfulness of a God who will already be there when we arrive, whatever we might meet in the gloom. The contrast between light and darkness appears throughout scripture and the dualism is particularly striking within John’s writing where he asserts, “God is light and within him there is no darkness” (1 John 1:5). Jesus twice refers to himself as “the light of the world” (John 8:12), claiming that “whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but have the light of life” (John 9:5). However, beyond this familiar antithesis, as a representation of good versus evil, is Jesus’ assertion to his disciples that they, and by extension we, are now the carriers of this light (Matthew 5:14). This excellent group of people absolutely see themselves as going into the darkest places of our town to shine not just their very impressive Maglite torch but to take the light of Jesus and make Him known through their practical love to people so “they might praise your father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14). Or to put it another way:
“You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill” (The Message version).
Asking God to lead us into the dark places is a VERY big prayer and I thought carefully before eventually applying to join the team! It is a prayer that it may be unwise to utter lightly but what a prayer it is. I wonder if it is a prayer you have ever prayed and where it led you. Yet it is one we pray in confidence while looking forward to the day when:
“There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light” (Revelation 22:5).
Rob studied for his MA with CYM… Check out our Postgraduate courses: