Faith & Prayer in the Oval Office: James Robison Speaks With Jack Graham
On Monday, President Donald Trump met with his Faith Advisory Council in the Oval Office. There, the council prayed for him. Among those on hand was Jack Graham, Pastor of Prestonwood Church in Plano, Tx. Stream publisher James Robison would have been there as well, but for recent eye surgery. On Thursday, Rev. Robison spoke with Dr. Graham to get the inside story of the historic prayer, the Council and the President’s embrace of those of faith.
Robison: Jack, last year you and I were invited to join President Trump’s Faith Advisory Council because we have genuine concern for the well being of our nation, for the future of freedom and the importance of faith and family. We knew that we would be misunderstood by some. Why were you willing to join that group?
Graham: We love America and we care about the future of our children and grandchildren. The issues at stake are so important for our families and our communities that is impossible to stay out of the fray. We knew it was going to be difficult and demanding for all of us, and yet I gladly offered my time and energies to help advance what we so deeply care about as Bible-believing, evangelical Christians — the sanctity of life, religious freedom, our families, marriage, the future of Israel and many other issues.
I’ve never said no to the call of God on my life and I believed this to be a call of God. I’m a pastor and I’ve never desired to be anything more than a pastor. But with that comes the responsibility of using my influence wisely. I’ve always leaned toward saying yes to opportunities to influence the community, to help our nation and I believe we’ve had that opportunity. I couldn’t say no. I gladly said yes.
Robison: I think we joined with all of those who love freedom, faith and family and who said political correctness is damaging and an out of control, overreaching government has to be limited. We stepped up to try to reverse the trend and began to spend time with a person we may not have necessarily chosen.
Seeing Prayers for the President Answered
Robison: This very diverse faith council agreed to work together in miraculous, supernatural unity for the common good of the people and freedom, and this President has been very open and responsive. Do you agree that’s what motivated the council members?
Graham: Yes, we as followers of Jesus have always believed that we are to be politically incorrect. “Political correctness” is the mantra of the media and the world at large and Christians are always against an anti-God or anti-biblical worldview. Jesus stood against the prevailing worldview in His day. So we have always been a voice speaking to the culture or the government leaders. And the great opportunity we have in America is the freedom to speak, and leaders like our President want to hear from us.
When we prayed for him in the Oval Office earlier this week, though he was under a great deal of pressure, he was buoyant and joyful.
For many of us the promise of the Supreme Court originalist, conservative justices that would be appointed, along with religious freedom and the sanctity of life got us on board. It is always the issues at stake that move me and move Christians, so we got on board based on principles. It’s never about personalities per se. It’s always about principles and we believed that this man desired the truth.
When you get to know someone, levels of trust build. Here we are seven months into his presidency and he’s done so many things that we prayed he would do and that we encouraged him to do. Justice Gorsuch and others like him will come in time as long as President Trump is in office.
I look at the list of things that have been accomplished — the Executive Order on religious freedom, the lower courts — we talk about the Supreme Court, but we care about our communities and the federal judges that are all across America. The President has put up a list of 23 vetted federal circuit judges and only three have been put through by the committee. That’s not acceptable. Both Republicans and Democrats have failed to get good judges confirmed. We want to use our influence to move the ball forward.
The Oval Office Prayer
Robison: You and I have been speaking truth to candidates and leaders for close to forty years. We have never seen anyone give so much time to faith leaders. In May we spent 3 – 4 hours with him and he took our group on a tour of the private areas of the White House and shared historic moments until late in the evening.
Graham: At the National Day of Prayer in the Rose Garden, our President led us to pray for America as many presidents have done before him. I am grateful this President has given us the opportunity to speak into his life. When we prayed for him in the Oval Office earlier this week, though he was under a great deal of pressure, he was buoyant and joyful. We stayed in there for a good while conversing and praying. It was a God moment and a powerful experience.
Robison: Comment on his spirit and attitude toward the concerns, convictions and the counsel that was shared. How did you read his response?
Graham: Very positive. He had just gotten out of a tough morning meeting when we were invited over to meet with him. I was expecting some tenseness in the room, but he welcomed us with open arms.
Vice President Pence was with us and he is a great man of prayer, a legitimate Bible-believing Christian. This President and his team have been nothing but responsive. I am very hopeful about the future of America right now because of this.
Robison: You were asked to pray for the President’s son-in-law and trusted adviser Jared Kushner. Do you want to share about that?
Graham: Jared came to our meeting to speak to us and we asked him all kinds of questions, especially plans regarding Israel and the American embassy. Christians are not just interested in a few issues. We are interested in the broader spectrum of America in the world and our relationship to the Middle East.
Being an orthodox Jew, Jared is full of the Old Testament. He speaks Hebrew, and he can even lead the teaching in the synagogue. He is very bright. We had a sweet time of prayer and he was moved and profusely thankful. I saw something in him that I told him after we prayed. I looked at him and said, “Jared, I see in you the spirit of Joseph in the Old Testament. It says that Joseph had an excellent spirit…” I believe he was thankful for that analysis. He’s got an excellent spirit about him like Joseph in the Old Testament. He said, “My son’s name is Joseph and my grandfather’s name was Joseph.”
And to give you the logistics of what happened, the Faith Council was meeting in the Executive Office Building. Jared was the one who went back after the prayer time and told the President and Vice President that we were there. They said, “Let’s get them in the Oval Office.” At that point the Vice President walked across the buildings, rather than send an aide, and he led us back to the Oval Office. He said, “The President would like to see you all. Would you like to come?” That’s how it happened, it was spontaneous.
The Hostile Reaction to the Presidential Prayer
Robison: Many of the comments about that meeting, and the animosity that we have witnessed, this anger that is being spewed out on social media, and comments to the news media — it’s like an all-out assault on “everything pertaining to life and godliness.” It’s an assault on everything essential to the foundation that made this nation great and gave us the freedom that’s been amazing to observe throughout history. It’s venomous; it’s like something spewed from a serpent’s mouth. Do you sense that?
Graham: It is spiritual warfare, and prayer is the battleground. When you pray as we are praying for our nation, our President and our leaders, it’s going to stir up the devil. The devil doesn’t care about many of the things we are doing or trying to do as churches, but he fears our prayers, courage and supernatural unity.
I believe when that photo of us praying for President Trump went viral, it just stirred the devil and his crowd up. Comments posted on my Twitter feed were vile. We had Satanists and witches and all the rest on there. It was the most vile, contentious language. I didn’t even know this kind of language was allowed on Twitter. It’s the most vile stuff I’ve ever seen in my life and I’ve seen a lot in my lifetime.
But to be mocked even by some in the churches, liberals in particular, and be threatened and ridiculed — we should expect all that because Satan is on the run when we pray.
Satan doesn’t want sanctity of life. He doesn’t want religious freedom and the power of the free pulpit in America. Satan wants to stop the advance of freedom and persecute people and kill, steal and destroy. It’s disheartening. I didn’t expect this much vileness, depravity and darkness.
The Bible says, “In the last days scoffers will come.” So the scoffers and mockers, let them say what they will. We need to be bold and courageous in the Lord and stand up and also get on our knees and pray for our country as faithful witnesses. Jesus said in Mark 8:38, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” We cannot be ashamed.
Sometimes people say, “You’re getting too political.” John the Baptist got his head cut off because he was willing to go into the very throes of politics and speak the word of God. Our intent is never to compromise our convictions, but to speak the truth in love, and we’re going to keep doing that.
Robison: Those who hear and heed the voice of the accuser and the father of lies have launched an all-out assault against “nature’s God and nature’s law.” They are either discarding it totally or totally changing the truth into a lie. We need to understand as believers that Paul the apostle said, “Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers in the realm of darkness and deception.” That’s where the real battle is.
Graham: The “swamp” is what we’re talking about. It’s not just a political swamp, it’s a spiritual swamp – spiritual wickedness in high places. The things that are going down right now to undermine our nation and the values we hold precious, the things going on underground in this unseen world are remarkably dangerous, but we shouldn’t be surprised.
The apostle Paul said, “In the last days, perilous times will come. Dangerous times will come.” The word that is used there really means “demonized” times will come. We are seeing an infestation of demonic activity and satanic activity. The only way to combat it is with the Word of God, the testimony of Jesus, and the power of believing prayer in Jesus’ name. Prayer should never be our last chance. It must always be our first choice.
A Baptist preacher named Vance Havner once said, “The tragedy in the day is the situation is desperate and we are not.” These are desperate days and we need to be desperate in our prayers, crying out for God’s hand to be upon us, His anointing, unction and power as we proclaim the Gospel, as we teach the word of God and as we use our influence like salt and light in our communities and in our nation, and throughout the world.
Social Media: The Good, the Bad and the Private Counsel
Robison: Amen to that! Social media has been used in some ways negatively, but the fact is it also gives every preacher and our President as well as other national leaders an opportunity to go directly to the American people. I am praying we will all learn to effectively use it. The Stream website was launched to share voices of sanity, wisdom and spiritual leadership with all who have ears to hear and the desire for true freedom. Ravi Zacharias said, “This is the new Roman Road,” and it really is.
Graham: Social media is such an opportunity for powerful influence and you are doing that and I commend that.
Just one more thing – sometimes those who oppose this President in particular (even some who are Christians) get on social media and demand, command and rebuke and shame us because we who are on the President’s faith leadership team are not publically rebuking him on social media. Can I just remind everyone — I am a pastor. I often have people coming in my office and sharing their story. I may correct them or challenge them or speak words of reproof, but I don’t go public with what I say as a pastor to people. I don’t get on social media and say what I said or didn’t say.
Regarding this President and anyone else we talk about, it’s our responsibility to rebuke or correct privately and then try to support publicly. You shouldn’t expect us to share on social media from the personal counsel and prayer that we offer people.
A President with Ears to Hear
Robison: You’ve seen him in settings where someone is sharing their concern. If what is shared is truth, wisdom and delivered with a spirit of love, do you find it amazing the way this President responds to people no matter who they are?
Graham: Beyond just personal skills, I am convinced he has a genuine spiritual interest and a desire to hear the viewpoint of others. In particular it’s apparent he wants to know what conservative, Bible-believing Christians think. It’s been very gratify and satisfying. And not only him, but the people he has put into place. Vice President Pence is a great Christian. Eight or nine of his Cabinet members, the people closest to him, are Christians and they are having Bible study and prayer together.
Robison: Every one of his associates that I’ve communicated with over the last year has said, “We really want to know what the faith community thinks. We want to hear their concerns first hand.” When those around you have that spirit, it means you’ve impacted them positively.
Let’s all continue to pray for President Trump, Vice President Pence, and all of our nation’s leaders.
Graham: I totally agree. And prayer moves God and us. There is no substitute for fervent prayer.