The 24-7 Prayer movement

May 10, 2009

books / emerging church / ministry

Several years ago, a great friend of mine introduced me to 24-7 Prayer International when the organization was just a couple of years old. I’ve been fascinated by it ever since, and have followed the movement’s growth with some detail, especially as one of the organizations that has spoken into my life for years has become a Boiler Room. I think they are an incredibly important part of the broader emerging church, and have much to say to it.

Recently, I finally got around to reading Red Moon Rising, which is the story of the first few years of the movement.

The story is utterly fascinating, in the ways that such a movement has evolved with the broader emerging culture in such a holistic way, combining prayer, creativity, and mission in ways that have caused continuous prayer for nearly ten years. This prayer has been done through lectio divina, examen, art, design, pilgrimage, and any number of other things. It has led to the formation of new monastic communities that serve the poor and oppressed, combining passionate seeking of the heart of God with passionate love for those that he loves.

I’ve often thought that this movement could be something that I could be a part of, and think that even more after reading its story in more detail. But one of the fascinating things happened right after my post about not knowing where I’d like to be in five years.

Near the end of the book, the founder, Pete Grieg, is asked where he wants the movement to be in five years. What kind of goals he has, what kind of strategies for success, and so on. The kind of questions that are valid and useful, to an extent, but are difficult to answer for many of the things that God is doing in the world.

That’s got to be the ultimate achievement, right? Still friends? Still dreaming? I guess some of the stuff we dream up will work. Some won’t. But failure’s more useful to God than success anyway! Maybe in five years’ time we’ll be a bigger bunch of friends doing even more stuff. That would be nice. But along the way every person who joins the movement will also change the movement. They will bring their own dreams and skills to the mix, which would in time change our entire direction. So it’s hard to say what the future holds.

The thing is, if we were a business we could cook you up a five-year plan no trouble. Might even have a PowerPoint to show you. But 24-7’s an accident; it’s like an adventure into the unknown. Success might mean that we don’t even exist as a movement in five years’ time, and if 24-7 stops, we’ve all got other things to do with our lives…

Most organizations define themselves around a fixed goal; a set of pre-defined corporate ambitions. That goal can be turned into a five-year plan, broken down into monthly steps, and then you can celebrate once you’ve ticked all the boxes and hit your targets. Along the way, I guess you hire and fire, wheel and deal, to get to that all-important goal. But what happens if you’re not sure where you’re going, only who you’re going with and how? What happens if you’re in it for the ride rather than the results? What happens if friendship is more important than function?

I guess it’s impossible to say where we’ll be in five years’ time. 24-7 might not exist. But we do want to remain friends, still loving each other, loving God, and loving his ideas into being. That would be success.

Pete Greig, founder of 24-7 Prayer

As I read this, I became a little more encouraged that I can’t point a direction for the next five years. I have a feeling that this is a common thing in our circles, and I wanted to throw that out there in the hopes that it is helpful for you, as well.

May we go along for the ride, in our seeking of the heart of God in prayer, creativity, and mission, as that is something way bigger than we are. May we focus on being friends with God, and with those he loves.