We catch up with Pete Greig, and makes some interesting discoveries about the man behind the 24-7 Prayer movement.
Two decades after pioneering the ground-breaking 24-7 Prayer movement, best-selling author, speaker and church planter Pete Greig is still bewildered by how God used him to instigate this ministry.
It was in the summer of 1999 while Pete and his wife Sammy had established a thriving church plant in Chichester that he knew something was still missing from his life.
He says, “Outwardly the church was growing, people were getting saved – we were very innovative. But inwardly I was dying. I was just so spiritually hungry; I was desperate to get to know God better. I felt that we were really weak and shallow on spirituality and prayer.
“Then I realised that prayer is the key to everything. So we started a prayer room, inspired by the 18th century Moravians who prayed non-stop for 100 years, converted John Wesley and changed the course of history. And we thought if they could do 100 years, we’ll try one month!
“We weren’t trying to start a movement; we were just a church that was bad at prayer trying to learn how to pray. Within three months it had gone viral.”
That one month has now become 20 years of non-stop 24-7 prayer reaching two thirds of the globe.
Pete remains overwhelmed by how all this happened, and how it then developed into a major outreach to the rave culture in Ibiza.
“I’m not into prayer… I’m just into Jesus, so I talk to him. And I suppose I’m not really into evangelism either. I hate evangelism but I’m into Jesus, so I talk about him to people. I almost don’t want to but sometimes I can’t help myself.
“As the 24-7 movement started to spread, we began to think that we need to get out of our prayer rooms and onto the streets; that’s how the early Church began. And I was reading a newspaper article one day about the extreme hedonism in Ibiza. The headline said in big bold letters ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’.
“A few weeks later out of the blue we were actually invited to a church in Ibiza. So, we went, and we saw signs and wonders which I describe in the book Red Moon Rising. It had such an impact that it attracted considerable interest from the mainstream media. It’s amazing isn’t it when you give yourself to prayer and God does the rest? God was doing things that we could never have engineered humanly in any way at all.”
Despite these remarkable breakthroughs Pete remembers one of the most challenging times he faced was dealing with countless unanswered prayers over his wife’s health.
“It was agony and actually my wife still has a chronic illness to this day 20 years on,” he says.
“After the first year of launching 24-7, our second son was just seven weeks old when Sammy was diagnosed with a brain tumour. I watched her slip into epileptic fits again and again. Every time I cried out to God to make them stop and it almost never worked.
“Suddenly I went from thinking that my prayers could save the world to questioning whether they could even save my wife. That was very good for us and for the 24-7 prayer movement. It helped us to be earthed in the reality of suffering. It also helped us to understand that prayer is about the groaning of creation that the sons and daughters of God would be revealed which we read about in Romans 8. Because we know that whilst creation is groaning heaven is groaning.
“The Holy Spirit is interceding for us in groans that words cannot express. We always think that to be filled with the Holy Spirit is ecstasy, and it can be. But it is also to be filled with agony because it is a groaning, interceding spirit.
“We try to be really honest about the many miracles that we have seen, which are featured in two of my books Red Moon Rising and then Dirty Glory, which are just full of absolutely mind-blowing miracle stories. But then in between those two books I wrote one called God on Mute which is about how we get our heads around the un-miracles… the things that God doesn’t do and the pain and questions that we all carry.”
So as a sought-after speaker, author and senior pastor of Emmaus Rd Church, Guildford, how does Pete balance all this with family life?
“It’s a great and important question,” he says. “The first thing is when Sammy got sick, I became the primary carer for our two sons. So, I literally was turning down invitations to go to speak at the biggest conferences in the world in order to stay home and change nappies.
“I sometimes said it’s the kindest hijacking of my life because I now have such a deep relationship not just with Sammy but with our sons because I guess it would have been easy to have got side-tracked into that weird world of standing on platforms and attending conferences and things, and thinking that it is in any way reality.
“I definitely work too hard at times. There are times when I’m full-on. But there are other times where I’m completely off. So, for example every year in August I do nothing, and I do not apologise for it. You know, I’m not on social media. I might lead one service and speak at one service in our home church.
“But I will do a major project around the house with my hands, and now our sons are grown up we do them together. We’ll build a patio; we’ll fix a wall. That’s good therapy for me because ministry is so much to do with concepts and words and things that are hard to measure. Then we’ll take a bit of holiday together and I’ll just have a couple of weeks going slow. You know it’s funny isn’t it? Jesus had 33 years to save the world and he spent 30 of it just fishing and doing carpentry. He clearly thought that was essential and valuable. And then even when he stepped into public ministry, he still had time for fishing and picnics and parties which means he’s officially less busy and more fun than almost every pastor you’ve ever met.”