We’re delighted to have Pete Greig at Spring Harvest 2017 for both Minehead Two and Skegness. Pete is a best-selling author, pastor and instigator of the 24-7 Prayer movement which has reached more than half the nations on earth.
We’ve been lucky enough to get an extract from Pete’s new book, Dirty Glory, continuing the story of 24-7, the global prayer movement he founded.
I found myself travelling around England with Justin Welby in the week prior to his enthronement as 105th Archbishop of Canterbury. Wherever he stopped, crowds converged for a day of prayer at the local cathedral. And quite by chance, the final day of this tour was to be in Chichester, the picturesque Roman city where the 24-7 prayer movement had begun more than a decade earlier. It was to be a particularly poignant day.
The local police clearly hadn’t expected anything more than a few old ladies with interesting hats, but the crowds outside Chichester Cathedral that day were large enough to stop the traffic. We were surprised too. Kneeling on a cold stone floor in a Gothic barn beside a man in a long black dress is hardly a compelling prospect. And yet thousands of normal-looking people – only a few of them with interesting hats – had turned up, just as they had at previous locations, merely to pray.
Who could possibly have foreseen any of this ten years earlier when we had begun our quest just down the road, in a pop-up prayer space in a faceless warehouse on a dead-end street at the edge of town? Back then the cathedral authorities had viewed us suspiciously as the lunatic fringe: fire-breathing zealots, radicalised youngsters taking it all a bit too seriously. But a decade of non-stop prayer in more than half the nations on earth had carried us a mile and a half across town, from that first peripheral prayer room cocooned in clumsy graffiti, to this fan-vaulted temple, built a millennium ago, at the geographical and psychological centre of the city.
Attempting to walk through the crowd outside the cathedral, Justin Welby paused by a Costa Coffee delivery van. Its driver was sitting in his cabin, helplessly adrift in a sea of pilgrims. ‘Saving the Nation from Bad Coffee’ boasted the slogan immediately above the new archbishop’s head.
Wherever we stopped on our Prayer Tour, we began the day by sharing a hearty breakfast with the local bishop. Between mouthfuls of porridge, Justin Welby would make a powerful speech about his three great priorities. The primary objective, he would say, is a renewal of prayer and the religious life,andhe would then point out that there has never, to the best of his knowledge, been a revival in the church that did not begin with a renewal of prayer. His second priority, he would continue, is reconciliation, because relationships are broken at every level in society: within families, between nations and even in the church. We would all nod at this, of course – the bishop, the dean, the canons and me. And then the archbishop would progress to his third priority: evangelism, because the nation needs the good news of Jesus. ‘We’re not just the Rotary Club with a pointy roof,’ he would say, munching his toast and fixing a beady eye on the local hierarchy. ‘That’s why prayer must come first. Without prayer there will be no renewal of the church, and without a renewal of the church, there is very little hope for the world.’
It was quite a moment. For a decade members of the 24-7 movement had been scurrying around back-street clubs, independent coffee shops and university campuses, banging a drum for ‘prayer, mission and justice’. We aren’t used to palaces and pontiffs. Men in dresses tended, in our world, to be transvestite clubbers in Ibiza, not venerable clerics presiding over ancient ecclesiastical institutions. And yet here I was with the leader of the third largest denomination on earth as he declared prayer, mission and justice to be his top three aims. It was a head-mash. I nearly shouted ‘Amen, brother!’ and ‘Hallelujah!’ … but that’s not the sort of thing you do over breakfast in a bishop’s palace with a man who is about to be enthroned as the leader of 80 million people.