Prayer Is Where Life Begins and Ends
Pete Grieg on shaping culture through prayer
Tell us how you founded the 24-7 Prayer movement.
The 24-7 Prayer movement was a sort of glorious accident. I was bewildered when our first little prayer room – hidden away in a warehouse on the south coast of England – began to multiply around the world. Twenty years on, I am still regularly bewildered.
The movement is growing faster than ever, the amount of answered prayer is astonishing, churches are being revived, new ministries are being birthed, and we’ve reached more than half the world. It’s been a wild ride!
When did you discover the importance of prayer?
I never found prayer particularly easy. But then I hit a personal crisis. Outwardly everything was going well, but inwardly I desired a deeper encounter with the Lord.
St. Augustine said that sometimes, God rubs salt onto our lips to make us thirst for him.
At the time, our church was driven more by programs and personalities than God’s presence and power. We were getting lots of human applause but it was nothing like the book of Acts! My prayer life was pretty pathetic. I wasn’t good at hearing God’s voice and I outsourced my biggest prayer requests to godly old ladies.
“At the time, our church was driven more by programs and personalities than God’s presence and power.”
So we started that first prayer room with a desire for more of God’s presence and power. We weren’t trying to start a movement. We were finally realizing that prayer is where life begins and ends. We don’t just pray to get people saved, we get people saved so they can pray and talk with Jesus as their friend.
The Church is meant to be a House of Prayer for all nations. Take a look at Jesus’ prayer life — He was continually getting up early and staying up late just to spend time with His Heavenly Father.
Share with us something about prayer that will surprise people.
Prayer isn’t just about our relationship with God, it’s also about our relationships with one another. There’s a lovely verse in Malachi 3:16 which describes: “those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard.” Isn’t that interesting? Our conversations with friends can be heard and received by God as prayers.
How can people pray more powerfully?
One word – fasting. When the disciples couldn’t heal a boy with epilepsy, Jesus — who had launched His entire ministry with forty days of fasting — told them, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29)
I was speaking at a conference recently and discovered that one of the other speakers, a Nigerian pastor, had fasted from all food for 21 days in preparation for this event. I expressed surprise and he replied, “You don’t understand power. You think your message is where the power is, but you must be carrying your message within you, so that people can receive an impartation from your heart.” I asked him how I could carry my message more deeply and he laughed: “You must fast. There is no other way!”
You share a very personal story in “God on Mute.” Can you tell us a little more about it?
About a year into the 24-7 Prayer movement — just when we thought we’d discovered the key to global revival — my wife got sick. Our second son was just seven weeks old and she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I watched her slip into epileptic fits repeatedly. I prayed for them to stop, but nothing happened.
A few weeks earlier, I thought our prayers could save the world and now I didn’t even know if they could save my wife. Sammy survived but still suffers with a chronic and debilitating illness.
I still believe in miracles, and we continue to see many, but I believe that we must also be honest about ‘unmiracles’ — and the pain of life. I find that the Bible is way more honest about unanswered prayer than the Church. God isn’t insecure. We can wrestle and question in prayer.
“God isn’t insecure. We can wrestle and question in prayer”
In response to this story, the thing I hear most is, “Thank you for being honest. Thank you for being real.” We are all sick and tired of hype, of performance, of leaders pretending to have a perfect life. In prayer we have access to unlimited power, but we also encounter the Father’s heart.
What is the role of prayer in global missions?
Missions without prayer is merely the marketing of an empty religious product. In fact, the entire mission of the Church began in a prayer room. When 3,000 were baptized in one day, the apostles delegated all leadership responsibilities in order to prioritize prayer and the Word.
I wish more leaders would follow their example today. The history of missions really is the story of prayer movements.
Our great heroes in the 24-7 Prayer movement are the Moravians who prayed non-stop for 100 years, and thereby launched the greatest missions movement of the Reformation. Moravians who shot out from that prayer meeting in Herrnhut, Germany, were the very first people to take the Gospel to many nations.
To end, can you tell us what we should be careful not to do when it comes to prayer?
The best advice I ever got about prayer was this: “Keep it simple, keep it real and keep it up.”
We shouldn’t complicate prayer.
We should be radically honest with God (many Psalms aren’t happy, but lament) and we must not back down or give up.
Pete Greig is a pastor, best-selling author and the bewildered instigator of the 24-7 Prayer movement, which has reached more than half the nations on earth.
This article has been adapted from Champions Vol. III.