For many Christians, prayer is an obligation that has little bearing on everyday life. The story of the 24/7 prayer movement demonstrates in gripping detail how prayer is far more than an obligation and how God is far more interested in prayer than we are. Continuing to chronicle the life and extraordinary ministry of the 24/7 prayer movement for a readership anxiously awaiting this title, Pete Greig tells story after story of God’s faithful interaction with human prayer to change lives and cultures.
About the Author
Narrator and author Pete Greig pastors Emmaus Rd in Guildford, England, and champions the 24-7 Prayer movement around the world. He teaches at St Mellitus College in London and serves as a vice president of the NGO Tearfund. His best-selling books include Red Moon Rising and God on Mute.
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Go Where Your Best Prayers Take You
By Pete Greig, Ben Connolly
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2016 Pete Greig
All rights reserved.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory ... JOHN 1:14
God's story from beginning to end describes glory getting dirty and dirt getting blessed. The Creator made humanity out of the dust, and if on that day we left a little dirt behind in the creases of his hands, it was surely a sign of things to come.
When God made us again, he came first to a teenage girl, and then to unwashed shepherds and later to pagan astrologers. God spoke the gospel as a dirty word into a religious culture. "The Word," we are told by John at the start of his Gospel, became "flesh." The Latin used here is caro, from which we get "carnivore," "incarnation," "carnival," and even "carnal." God became a lump of meat, a street circus, a man like every man.
John is messing with our minds. He knew perfectly well that this opening salvo was a shocking, seemingly blasphemous way to start his Gospel. Like Malcolm McLaren, Alexander McQueen, or Quentin Tarantino, he is grabbing attention, insisting upon an audience, demanding a response. "In the beginning," he says, echoing the opening line of the Bible, lulling us all into a false sense of religious security.
At this point, I imagine John pausing mischievously, just long enough for every son of Abraham to fill in the blank incorrectly.
"In the beginning," he continues, "was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." It's the familiar creation narrative outrageously remixed, featuring a mysterious new aspect of the divinity named, like some kind of superhero in a Marvel comic, The Word.
And yet for John's Greek readers — the vast majority of Christians by the time the Gospel was written — the Word was not a new concept at all. For them this was the familiar Logos of domestic philosophy, that divine animating principle pervading the cosmos. The bewildering thing for their ears would have been John's emphatic conflation of this pagan Greek notion of divinity with the Creator God of Jewish monotheism: "The Word," he says unambiguously, "was God."
And so, in just these first thirty words of his Gospel, John has effectively both affirmed and alienated his entire audience, Greek and Jew alike. And then, like a prizefighter in the ring, while we are all still reeling from this first theological onslaught, John lands his body blow: "The Word," he says, "became flesh."
It's a breathtaking statement, equally appalling for the Jews, who had an elaborate set of 613 rules to help segregate holiness from worldliness, and for the Greeks, who despised the flesh with its malodorous suppurations and embarrassing, base instincts. "The Word became flesh." Imagine the intake of breath, the furrowed brows, the wives looking at their husbands silently asking, "Did he just say what I think he said?" and the husbands glancing towards their elders wondering, "Is this OK?" It's punk-rock theology. It's a screaming "hello."
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us and we have seen his glory." One scholar says that this is "possibly the greatest single verse in the New Testament and certainly the sentence for which John wrote his gospel." God's infinite glory has moved, as Eugene Peterson says, "into the neighbourhood" (John 1:14, msg). He has affirmed our humanity fully. He has identified with us completely, both in our joy and in our pain.
"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us," explains the apostle Paul. The Word didn't just pretend to become flesh. He wasn't fraternising with humanity from a morally superior plane. Jesus became sin for us, "so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is the staggering message of Christ's incarnation: God's glory became dirt so that we — the scum of the earth — might become the very glory of God.
This then is our creed. We believe in the blasphemous glory of Immanuel; "infinity dwindled to infancy," as the poet once said. We believe in omnipotence surrendering to incontinence, the name above every other name rumoured to be illegitimate. We believe that God's eternal Word once squealed like a baby and, when eventually he learned to speak, it was with a regional accent. The Creator of the cosmos made tables, and presumably he made them badly at first. The Holy One of Israel got dirt in the creases of his hands.
Here is our God — the Sovereign who "emptied himself out into the nature of a man," as one popular first-century hymn put it (see Philippians 2:7). The Omniscience who "learned obedience," as the book of Hebrews says (5:8). The King born in a barn. The Christ whose first official miracle took place at a party involving the conversion of more than a hundred gallons of water into really decent wine. Two thousand years on, and some religious people are still trying to turn it back again. And of course it was these same people who accused him at the time of partying too hard. Rumours followed him all the days of his life, and he did little enough to make them go away.
You probably remember the story about Jesus asking a Samaritan woman with a dubious reputation for a drink (as if he didn't know how that would look). And how he recruited zealots, harlots, fishermen, despised tax-collectors, and Sons of Thunder. And how he enjoyed a perfumed foot-rub at a respectable dinner party. One scholar says of the woman in this particular encounter, "Her actions would have been regarded (at least by men) as erotic. Letting her hair down in this setting would have been on a par with appearing topless in public. It is no wonder that Simon [the host] entertains serious reservations about Jesus' status as a holy man." Jesus made himself unclean again and again, touching the untouchables: lepers, menstruating women, and even corpses. He got down on his knees and washed between the toes of men who'd been walking dusty roads in sandals behind donkeys.
And while the dirt lingered in the creases of his hands, he accused those whose hands were clean of sin. Did you hear the one about the whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27)? Or about the dutiful son who despised the prodigal brother staggering home penniless and covered in pig (Luke 15:30)? Or the story about the dirty low-life tax-collector whose snivelling apologies were heard by God while the precise intercessions of a righteous Pharisee merely bounced off the ceiling (Luke 18:9-14)? The Word told dirty stories, and the stories told the Word.
Offended, they washed their hands of him — Pontius Pilate, the Chief Priest, even Simon Peter — and they hung him out to die: a cursed cadaver, a carpenter pinned to clumsy carpentry in the flies of that Middle Eastern sun. Eventually it was extinguished: the sun and the Son. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Glory gone the way of all flesh.
But the dirt could not contain him for long. Three days later the sun rose and the Son rose. And now that he could do anything, go anywhere, what would he do and where would he go? Out of the whole realm of creation, the entire populace of humanity, Jesus chose to appear first to a woman. A woman in a chauvinistic culture that refused to teach women the Torah and discounted their testimony in a court of law. Mary Magdalene was a colourful woman, a woman with a questionable reputation from whom seven demons had been cast. It was the biggest moment of her life. And yet at first, embarrassingly, she mistook the resurrected Jesus for an ordinary gardener, a man with the earth ingrained in the creases of his hands at the start of a working day. Yet he had chosen her quite deliberately, another Mary for another birth, another Eve in another garden, to be his first apostle. This, too, is offensive to some to this day.
Yes, we believe in the Word made flesh who dwelt among us as a kind of prayer and sends us out to speak the "Amen" in every dark corner of his creation. He handpicks dim-witted people like us: "the foolish things of the world to shame the wise" (1 Corinthians 1:27). Bewildered by grace we go wherever he sends us, eat whatever is put before us, kneel in the gutter, make the unlikeliest locations places of prayer. We participate fervidly in a morally ambiguous world, carrying the knowledge of his glory "in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us" (2 Corinthians 4:7).
And so, with angels, archangels, and that great company of gnarly old saints, we believe that someday soon this whole dirty world will finally be filled with the knowledge of God's glory. He will breathe once more into the dust of the earth. And on that day, every knee will bow. Every blaspheming tongue will cry, "Oh my God!" Every hand will be raised in surrender. And he will choose the ones with dirt in the creases of their hands, just as he always did. Flesh will become Word, and dwell with him in glory.
Although the word selah occurs seventy-four times in the Hebrew Bible, no one really knows exactly what it means. Featuring mostly in the Psalms, it may have been a note to the choirmaster marking a change of verse, rhythm, or melody. Selah probably meant "pause."
But there's more to it than that. Its Hebrew root seems to be the word calah, meaning "to hang" or "to weigh." Selah may also, therefore, have been a reminder to the worshippers to weigh the words they had just sung or heard.
At the end of every chapter of this book you will find an invitation to selah — to pause and to weigh the words you have just read. Not to rush ahead to the next chapter, but to stop and reflect. It's a reminder to be still, so that this book about prayer can become your own living conversation with God.
Excerpted from Dirty Glory by Pete Greig, Ben Connolly. Copyright © 2016 Pete Greig. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsForeword by Bear Grylls, xvii,
1. Punk Messiah, 1,
"My Fathers house ...",
2. The Time of Our Lives, 9,
3. Encounter Culture, 23,
4. The Presence Paradigm, 43,
PRAYER–GOD'S PRESENCE IN POWER,
"... will be called a house of prayer ...",
5. All Hell, 71,
6. Super Bowl, 93,
7. Blue Camp 20, 115,
MISSION–GOD'S PRESENCE IN THE CULTURE,
"... for all nations ...",
8. Strange Angels, 137,
9. Porky the Pirate, 155,
10. Word on the Street, 177,
JUSTICE–GOD'S PRESENCE IN THE POOR,
"... but you have made it a den of robbers",
11. Boy's Town, 205,
12. The Foundery, 231,
13. Dirty Dancing, 255,
JOY–GOD'S PRESENCE IN US,
"I will give you joy in my house of prayer",
14. Let Us Begin, 277,
Study Guide, 301,
Disclaimer about Miracles, 321,
A Note to My American Friends (with Glossary), 325,
Index of Bible References, 335,
About the Author, 337,