In the backroom of Common Grounds, a coffee shop in Greensboro, a group of strangers met to journey together into the unknown.

Ok. So that’s perhaps a bit too dramatic. By journeying into the unknown, I mean we came together to explore our thoughts on mission and to live it out in the community by going out two by two and asking a simple question “Can we pray for you?”

Now the nice thing is that the way we laid out the question, we didn’t have to actually pray for folks we met right then and there because that could be awkward. We just had to take their prayers back with us to join to the “prayers of the people” in our respective churches. Yeah…even in matters of prayer, Episcopalians have a really low-pressure approach to evangelism. Because the truth is this is kinda scary stuff. And we took a decent amount of time to prepare for the idea that we might be asked to pray for people we encountered. Just in case.

We also prepared ourselves that the meeting time combined with the end of Daylight Saving Time, mean that we were approaching people two by two when it was really, really dark outside. And there was a possibility that this might cause some folks to be a little hesitant.

As we traversed the dark streets of Greensboro collecting prayers, one common prayer concern arose among the coffee shop goers, grocery shoppers, tavern dwellers, laundry mat goers, and dudes on smoke breaks: “Pray for our country.” Some expressed this in terms of peace and justice, others in terms of fear, and others with anger and deep concern over the dividedness of our nation.

Now I have to admit when we first decided on a date for this the fact that it was before the election came up. But it wasn’t until the day of that one bright person pointed out this might actually still be on folks’ minds. As an early voter, my perspective is “I did my part. What I can do is done. I have faith in the American people to get through whatever lies ahead together. And even if that fails, I know God will get us through. Now can we all rethink this whole Citizens United thing…”

As I heard the prayers of the people rising with despair and anger over the state of our nation, it occurred to me that this was actually on people’s minds still. And it was on their minds to the extent that they felt the situation was out of their control enough that the only thing left to do was trust it to God and a bunch of strangers.

Earlier in the evening, we read a scripture that talked about how all the nations were searching and groping for God who was very near to them all. And each of us were impressed by this thought of people groping, as if in the dark, to find something that they just had this sense was out there even though they weren’t sure of what it might be. And in the prayers that were raised this evening, I heard this groping after this ideal that we could somehow all live together in peace and harmony. But this hopeful ideal was so mixed with a deep sense of despair and uncertainty to whether or not this could every actually happen.

There is no doubt in my mind that that this is a dark era in our nation’s history. A darkness that is pronounced by how alienated and divided people feel from those who they’ve lived and loved for the past 18-80 years. And as Christians and citizens, many of us will take to the polls today to cast our ballot for the candidate of our choice—whichever candidate we believe will magically fix our problems. But as people who have faith in the one that died on the cross, we are also keenly aware that any problem that involves people will need more than politicians to solve it.

In the next few days or weeks or months, there may be quite a few times where we feel like we’re journeying into an unknown place as a nation and feebly grasping in the dark for whatever might be out there to keep us whole. And it might be scary. But the thing is…as Christians, we put our trust in the one who was born in darkness who was the light of the world. So in these dark times, as we clutch around anxiously hopeful, we have the opportunity to follow our God and offer the light of the gospel not through force and might, but by collecting the hopes and fears of the world to offer up to God in prayer as a sign of peace.

On this Election Day, may God fill our hearts with peace to love and serve ALL our neighbors. And may God use the darkness as a common ground for us to seek the light of the world together in prayer.