Pete Greig, founder of 24/7 Prayer, talks about how the movement started, it's phenomenal growth and working with Jackie Pullinger
Pete Greig is a founding champion of 24-7 Prayer – an international movement of prayer, mission and justice. He leads a local church in Guildford and works as director of prayer for Alpha International. He is the author of Red Moon Rising, Punk Monk and God on Mute.
1. You are best known for stirring up prayer. Why is it so important?
Communication is the key to any relationship – especially a relationship with God. It is the essence of the Christian life. Before there was any sickness, sin and suffering in the world Adam and Eve walked and talked with God every day.
2. How did you become a Christian?
Both my parents loved God. Some of my earliest memories are of my father kneeling by his bedside each night, doubtless often praying for me because I was quite naughty. I remember praying a prayer of commitment to Jesus when I was 12 years old on the Isle of Wight. I lost my faith when I was 18 and re discovered it in Hong Kong, working with Jackie Pullinger.
3. What led to you working with Jackie Pullinger?
I’d decided I didn’t believe God existed, then at Christmas time I was flicking through some Christmas cards and there was one from Brother Andrew’s organisation and it had a line from Isaiah 58 on the back which said, ‘Your life will shine when you spend yourself on behalf of the poor’. I absolutely knew God was speaking to me.
Someone had said to me, 'why don’t you visit this woman in Sheffield who is a friend of Jackie Pullinger’s?' I dropped in and told her this and she got out Jackie Pullinger’s headed paper and there was all of Isaiah 58 written on the top. She told me I needed to get the next plane to Hong Kong, which I did.
While I was in Hong Kong, God did major heart surgery on me and I changed profoundly. I was consumed with the desire for God to change my heart.
4. How did 24-7 Prayer start?
It was in the summer of 1999 that I finally acknowledged I was bad at prayer and I desperately wanted to get to know God better, even though I was a pastor.
I was tired of outsourcing my prayer life to other people who were good at it. I became hungry and thirsty for a deeper relationship with God and so I just gathered my friends and persuaded them that we should really start praying.
We weren’t trying to start a movement, but God showed up, the thing went crazy and now we are in over 100 countries.
5. The growth has been phenomenal, has it surprised you?
It’s entirely viral in that 24-7 has never tried to persuade anyone to start a prayer room and yet they’ve sprung up everywhere from the US Naval Academy to German punk festivals to the slums of Delhi and the Houses of Parliament. It’s like God sneezed and this beautiful virus began to spread.
24-7 is growing faster now than it ever has done. Last Friday I sat in a coffee shop and received a tweet that told me 24-7 was having its first conference in Japan, an email from a guy who is planting a 24-7 missional community in the most impoverished area in Germany and also a text message from 24-7 in Ireland saying the team had just done 700 miles in 36 hours and stirred up prayer on eight university campuses. All that while I’m having my cappuccino!
6. What has been the reaction outside of the church?
One of the big surprises was when Rolling Stone Magazine got in touch and said they wanted to do a 4000 word feature about the 24-7 movement. We thought it was a joke. We’re a prayer movement we’re not rock n roll. We had a Channel 4 documentary made about our work in Ibiza. It's the sort of exposure the best PR agent in the world couldn’t get. We don’t even have a PR department, God has shown us favour.
7. God on Mute has been praised for its honesty. How did you feel when you were writing it?
God on Mute was a painful book to write but I didn’t feel I had any option but to be honest. The Bible is more honest than most churches about the struggles and disappointments of faith. If we’re going to talk about miracles and answers to prayer, we should also be honest about the struggles and the unanswered prayers.
I get emails and letters continually about God on Mute. It’s wonderful to see how he can take your suffering and use it to comfortand help others, but the thing people say is that it saved their faith, brought them back to faith, or helped them grow in faith. I’m thrilled about that. I don’t think God is insecure, I don’t think he needs to be apologised for or defended. He can handle brutal human honesty and can be glorified through the sunshine and the shadows.
8. Why are you pushing for more honesty in the church about these things?
If there’s one thing that destroys people’s faith it’s the hypocrisy and dishonesty that we’ve mislabeled as 'faith' in so many churches today.
One quite famous Christian leader heard I was writing the book and said ‘that’s a terrible idea’. After writing Red Moon Rising, which became a surprise big seller full of stories of miracles and exciting answers to prayer, especially in America they felt I should write another one of those.
They said that I’m meant to be the guy who gets everyone excited about prayer. They felt it was ministry suicide to follow it upwith a book about how prayer doesn’t always seem to work! But this isn’t about building a ministry, it’s about finding ourselves ashumans on this rock in space, trying to make sense of what it means to be alive and believe there is a loving being behind it all, inviting us into relationship.
9. What’s the best Christian book you’ve read?
The Christian book that had the biggest impact on me was Tony Campolo’s You Can Make a Difference because I read it as a teenager and caught a vision for Christianity as something life consuming and it began to awaken my senses to social justice. More recently, I just devour anything Eugene Peterson writes.
10. What has God been teaching you recently?
God has been speaking to me about hope. I spent most of the last year meditating on Romans 15:13 ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’
You say to me ‘how can we be hopeful when our pensions are in trouble, when there are a million 18 to 24 year-olds unemployed, when the Eurozone is on the verge of splitting up?’ and so on.
The answer is surely that we never put our hope in those things, we put our hope in Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday today and forever and is always true to his promises. If we focus on who Jesus is, we can overflow with joy and hope even when the world feels hopeless.
March 2nd, 2012 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes