Book Review: 'Red Moon Rising'
I acquired this book over the summer after the incessant and gushing recommendations of a colleague at the bookshop. It’s possible that I picked it up simply to silence him as much as to enjoy the book for myself. Red Moon Rising charts the foundation and early years of the 24/7 prayer movement by Pete Greig and his associates, telling some of the stories of how God grew this organisation beyond all expectation. For those who may be unfamiliar with 24/7 prayer, the following description is taken from their website; ‘We started in 1999, when a simple, student-led prayer vigil suddenly went viral. Today, 24-7 Prayer is an international, interdenominational movement of prayer, mission and justice; a non-stop prayer meeting that has continued for every minute of this century so far, in over half the countries on Earth’. Given that the majority of the book is given over entirely to narrative, I initially had some reservations about how much I would get out of reading it. What I encountered however was a truly remarkable tale of God’s powerful movement among his people, enough to shake even the most sceptical of readers from their stupor.
Beginning in the late nineties, Greig describes how this journey began at Cape St Vincent, Portugal, with a vision for an army of young people from all nations, ready to serve the Lord. Loosely speaking the story is one of God’s fulfilment of this prophetic vision over the course of many years, but the constant thread that runs throughout is naturally, prayer. Greig writes with clear and admirable humility; where it would be all too easy to brand himself as the founder of a global prayer movement, he consistently goes to lengths to point instead to the work of the Holy Spirit and his own passenger status on God’s journey. Indeed, as he points out, this is not even the first 24/7 prayer movement we have seen. It was fascinating to learn of the Moravian church in Herrnhut, Germany, who in 1727 initiated a 100 year long prayer meeting(!) This book is filled to the brim with such remarkable stories, serving to truly remind one of the awesome power of prayer. Living our (relatively) comfortable lives I find it all too easy to take the impact of prayer for granted and even regard stories of answered prayer with some scepticism. The countless testimonies of God’s powerful response to prayers in Red Moon Rising cuts through any numbness towards prayer however, or reservations as to its usefulness. Another story in the book describes the impact of prayer rallies in Leipzig during the closing days of the Cold War. What was initially a prayer meeting of less than a dozen people grew into a prayer rally of eighty-thousand, later to 120,000 and on to 300,000, all praying for peace. Within weeks, the Berlin Wall came down.
Perhaps that is what’s most engaging about this book and what makes it so readable; that it isn’t about an organisation or a movement, but it is a story about people. The overall narrative is constantly being interrupted by seemingly random looks into the lives of others, from a bible-smuggler in eastern Europe to a female company exec in Germany. It is only as you progress that get the overall picture of how God is at work in the lives of so many people across such a vast area, but even more so that he is able to weave these stories together, bringing people from across the globe together into a common purpose, united in prayer. Similarly, space is frequently given over to personal testimonies from 24/7 prayer rooms, which make for often striking pictures of what the work of 24/7 looks like on the ground. Again, this isn’t a story about an organisation but about people and real human experience. For those who might be unfamiliar, 24/7 prayer functions around a network of ‘prayer rooms’, a series of individual venues where a church, community or other group will designate a space and commit to pray there non-stop (usually in shifts) for a set period of time. Seeing these prayer rooms multiply and spread across the world over the course of the book really gives one a sense of the momentum this movement has created, being almost viral in the way that these rooms have grown from as single location in Chichester to over 14,500 around the world to date.
In addition to simply telling you a story however, this book also seeks to educate its reader, giving occasional insight into techniques of prayer or prayer theology. While this is by no means a focused work on the theology of prayer, or how to pray, there is some practical guidance to be found within. I particularly found the ‘Six R’s’ framework of daily prayer that Greig describes to be rather accessible and helpful. This method begins with recalling and rejoicing over the events of that day, before moving onto reviewing and repenting of the wrong things which also will have occurred. Finally, one must consciously receive forgiveness before resolving to strive for better in future. This simple method is covered in only a few pages but even such a straightforward method can be quite striking. Alongside these kind of basic pointers, this 15th anniversary edition of Red Moon Rising also contains numerous resources such as small group study notes, a further reading section and additional detail on movements such as the Moravians for example. Overall then this book acts as a great source of inspiration to engage in expectant prayer, while also equipping the reader with the tools to change up their prayer life if they see fit.
What I can say after reading this book then is that my colleague's original recommendation was certainly well founded, and I can heartily add my own to his. If you enjoy reading stirring stories about people (let's be honest, who doesn't?), and moreover stories of God at work in people’s lives, then you cannot go far wrong with Red Moon Rising.
About the Author
Jon is a member of the City Students team and currently an intern on the Intentional Discipleship (ID) course at City. Originally from Sheffield, Jon studied Military History at the University of Kent in Canterbury for the past 4 years. Amongst other things, Jon loves Lord of the Rings and hates sharing his food at an Indian restaurant.