Maybe I've fallen hook, line and sinker for some great hype. But maybe instead I just want to see more of a Western Christianity that is ordinary but costly, considered but active, prayer filled and with a burning desire to seek the face of God.
More of the kind of thing I heard about in Dublin this weekend at the 24-7 Prayer international gathering. If I gave you a list of names of the people who stood on the stage at some point over the weekend, you probably wouldn't have heard of most of them. The weekend was one big glut of stories. Wonderful, moving testimonies about the way God is working through prayer.
In Germany in an ugly part of town (in many senses) there's a prayer room making beauty (again, in every sense). In Switzerland, there's a drug house where they're seeing people set free (if my German is to be trusted). In west Belfast they're praying weekly against violence, and the beginnings of the first prayer room are under-way. In Egypt there have been 'days of rage' forecasted that didn't happen. In Tibet, there's a Buddhist monk who's been praying to Jesus in his temple for two years. This was all down to having been healed of shoulder pain by a 24-7 prayer. Not one of the Syrian refugees met in medical clinics in Lebanon has refused prayer.
Apart from the occasional awkward moment in a 24-7 prayer room, I went away this weekend knowing relatively little about the movement. Hearing all these stories, I think I realised why. It is essentially a grassroots movement. I'd heard Pete Greig speak, I'd heard about Red Moon Rising(the book that charts the story of 24-7 Prayer), but in Dublin I saw the embodiment of an organisation that is deeply relational. And despite the amazing things they're seeing happen – the numbers we may want to quote - they know that it's all down to Jesus. There's humility about it all - probably because these international gatherings come about once in a blue moon in comparison with the daily grind of sustaining rhythms of prayer, mission and justice, whether in Colchester or Durban.
ourteen years old this year, it's still a young organisation. There are hurdles to overcome: new teams to take over from the pioneers; working out how to sustain a somewhat-underground movement as it sprawls across the globe – and keeping it 'family' in the process. But I hope they'll work out how to keep the things that made it a truly moving weekend: the hunger for God, the stories, the 'everyman' approach.
As a rallying cry on the final morning, Pete Greig said: 'We cannot let them patronise prayer as some Early Grey exercise for people who talk to squirrels.' Cute it may have been, but it was fully meant. He wanted people to go away from this weekend not 'topped-up' but frustrated - believing that there's more to this Christian life than we so often settle for.
Thanks for the reminder.