Learning to Pray: An Interview With Pete GreigPete Greig - 4 Oct 2011
Pete Greig is one of the founders of 24-7 Prayer and the author of the books Red Moon Rising and God on Mute he's also helps lead the Guildford Boiler Room Community in the UK. This interview with Pete by Martine van Blaaderen was originally published on the Dutch Alpha website and newspaper
How did you find out ‘prayer’ was actually… quite cool?
Desperation! I got so hungry for more of God, I wanted to learn to really hear his voice for myself.` I was tired of hearing everybody else’s stories of God’s power in other parts of the world or at other times in history – I was longing to see it now! I was busy planting churches and doing all sorts of cool things with young people but I began to realise that prayer is the key to everything else in the Christian life. If we want to see more power, if we want a deeper relationship with God, and certainly if we want to see our Alpha Courses become more fruitful – we need to learn how to pray.
How can we encourage teens and students who believe in God, but find it hard to persevere in prayer?
Fifty years ago the most boring thing you could do at church was worship! But then the charismatic movement brought a revolution and suddenly new songs were written, rock and roll bands were brought into the sanctuary, and cool young people wanted to spend their time praising Jesus. We need a similar revolution in the way we pray. The Bible talks about prayer more than it talks about singing, and so it is essential that we teach this new generation how to live life in conversation with the living God. If you think about it that is the most exciting thing you can possibly do. But a circle of plastic chairs in a cold church hall on a Thursday night is not going to get anybody excited. Nor is listening to people screaming in tongues. We need to tell stories of the miracles that happen when we pray – that get young people excited. And we need to be honest about the times when prayer doesn’t work – they can smell a fake at a hundred metres. And we need to be creative about the ways in which we facilitate and lead prayer. It’s interesting to me that the first person that the Bible describes as being filled with the Holy Spirit is not a prophet, not a priest and not a king. It was Bezalel and his job was to make the place of prayer (the tabernacle) a place in which it was easy to connect with God through the use of the arts.
But what if you don’t feel like praying…
Prayer is a discipline. It’s a bit like my relationship with my wife: when we first fell in love it was all just pure chemistry and all we ever wanted to do was spend time together. For a lot of people prayer starts out like that – it’s just adrenalin. The excitement of knowing that you are talking to the living God! But nowadays in my marriage I have to plan ‘date nights’ in my diary, and maybe we go out for a meal, light a candle, listen to some smoochy music. By disciplining myself to spend time like this with my wife, we keep the passion alive. It’s not a sign of an unhealthy relationship – it’s a sign of a deepening and a maturing relationship. It’s the same with prayer. By disciplining ourselves to spend time with God, we can move beyond the stages of infatuation, into a deeper, more mature relationship with him. Some people make time to pray at the gym. Others find it helpful to listen to loud music, or to be silent and still. Learn to pray the way God made you.
How can we stay in Gods presence, daily?
I love these stories of brother Lawrence who worked in the kitchen of a monastery and learned to ‘practise the presence of God’ all the time. If you spend ten minutes in prayer each day, that is just so that you can spend the other twenty-three hours and fifty minutes with a greater awareness of the presence of God. Prayer is the time that you re-align your thinking to the reality of God’s love. It is good and important to have daily disciplines of prayer, but it is also important not to beat yourself up if you sometimes don’t manage it. This is a thrilling invitation, not a heavy religious duty. Don’t get guilty – just get God!
How do you hear Gods voice? How do you know it’s God, not your own thinking?
I am terrible at discerning God’s voice but I am getting a little bit better and I try to learn all that I can from people who are brilliant at hearing his ‘still small voice’. Some people think that God communicates with us like land mail that comes through our door. He sends word occasionally, when we really need it but he’s silent the rest of the time. Other people think that God communicates more like a cell phone. He texts or calls several times a week but the rest of the time he’s busy doing other stuff. And then there are others who think that God broadcasts more like a radio station – he is continually ‘on air’ and we just have to learn to tune into what he is saying and listen.
I am trying to get a lot better at listening to God in the normal and ordinary things. The Bible is our guide to understanding God’s heart and purposes, but I try to listen to him when I’m watching TV, when I’m talking to my friends, when I’m out running in the countryside. Keeping a journal is one of the ways I find it helpful to capture and reflect on what God is saying to me. I sometimes think it’s like when you start a relationship with somebody. At first when they phone you they have to say what their name is but after a while you learn to recognise their voice and they can simply say ‘Hi it’s me’. As we go on in our relationship with God we get much better at recognising God’s voice.
Can you tell us a bit about new projects in 2012?
24-7 Prayer is developing a new range of devotionals to help people around the world grow in their relationship with God each day. We are going to use the new social platforms and we’re really excited about the possibilities of using these to help make disciples. Alpha and 24-7 are working together to mobilise an unprecedented Year of Prayer across the United Kingdom and Ireland called ‘Kingdom Come’. We are trying to get all 7000 Alpha churches in the UK and Ireland to do 24-7 prayer rooms, prayer meetings, prayer vigils and prayer events too. Tim Hughes and I will be leading a Kingdom Come London monthly event full of worship, intercession and prophetic words (hopefully!). As the Olympics come to the United Kingdom, we are really excited about mobilising the church to pray as never before. Who knows what will happen?
Finally what’s your dream for Holland and Europe?Holland has been right at the heart of so many movements of the Holy Spirit and I long to see the church rise up in power once again. Especially amongst young people. Europe is arguably the darkest mission field on earth right now. It’s certainly the only continent in which the church is in sharp decline. Even in the Muslim nations, the church is generally growing, but in Europe we are tired and cynical and supposedly ‘post Christian’. It’s time to turn the tide and I believe the Dutch church has a key part to play in God’s purposes for this incredible part of the world.