John Robb - "International Prayer Council"
7:02AM Jul 9, 2020
Jonathan J. Armstrong
Today we are extremely honored to be speaking with John Robb. John Robb is the chairman of the International prayer Council. He led the prayer ministries of World Vision for many years. John, Robert, extremely grateful to be speaking with you today.
Oh, it's great to be with you, Jonathan.
JOHN, as we begin, us serve as the chairman for the International prayer Council, which we understand is an alliance of some 5000 prayer networks and organizations. And we understand that the international prayer council or IPC was birthed out of the International prayer assembly for world evangelization in 1984. Would you be willing to share with us your vision for prayer as it was birthed out of this world assembly?
Actually, just correct that a bit? I would say that was a factor in earthing, the International prayer movement that IPA international press assembly in 1984. I was unfortunately not even able to be there. But it was at that event, which was held in Korea, there was a sense that this is really something that is on God's heart to bring his body together in prayer. And it was actually, years later the the actual Flashpoint for the creation of the IPC or international PR Council was 911 in September 11 2001, and that that horror that happened when these fanatical people crashed the planes into the world. towers there. And we met at Ground Zero international prayer leaders national prayer earlier so in the US and we said we need a break Global prayer network of networks. So we describe it that would pull together the body of Christ in prayer that different streams to flow. I like the image of the Amazon River. That was powerful, unstoppable river, because there's more than 1000 tributaries that just flow into it. And when you flow into it, you don't care really the names or the agendas or the any of that you were just a big river that will flow and have a huge impact. So that that's the idea behind the IPC. And we met a year later in South Africa, close to 300 prayer network leaders from all over the earth, every region of the world. We had a magnificent time. It was 24 seven prayer going. There was a sense of the anointing and presence of God and we just bonded with each other and we decided To go regional and form regional purse summit's. There's been a lot of networking in the spirit of john 17, where Jesus prayed that we might be one and see in the father one, so the world would know. So the Great Commission is part of it. The prayer flowing into mission has been the spirit of the IPC. So that's basically how it happened. And that's now what 18 years we have been moving in this direction, all over the world.
JOHN, your first two degrees from Yale University are in history and political science in East Asian Studies. Please tell us how it is that you came to be interested in prayer.
All right, quite a story. I showed up as a scared freshman on the Yale campus amidst all the Gothic buildings in 1966, all kinds of student unrest as you might recall, you and your viewers The sense of people searching for meaning. And I got there. As a new believer, I hardly knew anything, except that I was born again, I accepted Jesus as my Savior. And I fell in with a group of Christian students called the god squad. And they were labeled that way by the Yale Daily News, because they were in your face, Christians. I mean, they wanted to share the gospel. They were really on fire guys. And they were led by one of the scholars of the house, the 12, most brilliant students at Yale was a paleontologist, and a Bible believing man of God. Very, very sharp and he spoken would just bring conviction, a lot of audiences that we're trying to get away from God, through believing in evolution and all of that stuff. And so he got to me, and they discipled me, I began to pray every morning with them at 6am I before that I was I got this as all, you know, kind of this is more this is beyond the pale, maybe a bit fanatical. So we were praying at 6am every morning. And they said, Now, john, we need to study the Bible together. So that'll be 7pm every night. I thought, isn't that a bit much? I mean, we're in university, I've got to pass my exams. So I was trying to get away from them. But these guys got to me. And I said, and they said, Are you going to live for Jesus Christ or not?
And the logic was compelling. And I said, Well, okay.
And I was scared to share my faith. I really was I was very shy. So they set up an evangelism opportunity for me, telling me I was going to be the speaker that night. And I was, they called on me and I got up and I was petrified, got to the podium, and all the fear was gone. And it was just like rivers of living water and the power of God came upon me. And I couldn't believe it. I said, Lord, how did you do that? You know what a chicken is.
And out of that experience, the Lord called me into mission and evangelism. I became an evangelist at Gale, I shared the gospel in residential dormitories all over the place. And many who have done very significant things in our country, in government and in society. We're classmates or upperclassmen. So they heard the gospel, everybody on the campus, they got a chance to hear about Jesus Christ, that He is Lord, from this crazy group of God squatters. So that's my call to mission and an end to prayer. What an amazing story. And you lead the prayer ministries of World Vision for many years. In 2012. If I can read a brief paragraph from your Wikipedia page, sir. In 2012, in Jakarta, you helped to convene the world prayer assembly 9500 ministry leaders and intercessors from 86 Nations took part. During the World prayer assembly over 100,000 prayed together and Indonesia's National Stadium connected live to 378 other cities in the nation with an estimated 2 million participating the global day of prayer and God TV along with internet streaming connected 10s of millions more around the world in what has been called, quote, the largest prayer meeting in history unquote. You've led some very exciting initiatives concerning prayer. How is it that you see technology enabling increased activity and prayer networking today?
I think that technology has helped a lot in that you what you have your cell phone, you can you can pray with one or two or three others or you can have a larger group or you can have zoom as we're doing right now. For a prayer meeting. It's fantastic. You can pray internationally you can pray within your city it's it's been a it's a gift of God to unite the body of Christ. So we're trying to take full advantage of it. And social media, of course, has been very useful. And the internet. And so we see this as a marvelous way to connect the body. And that's the key thing because Jesus said in Matthew 1818 to 21 of my favorite passages on prayer, he talks about the need to come into agreement. And if we are in unity and agreement, whatever we ask for God is going to give it to us. And provided it's, you know, it's like, it's something good, but you know, and we're at that point, we're praying in sync with him. And so modern technology has helped the body of Christ in prayer, to pray on his wavelength to hear from him to connect with other brothers and sisters of many different cultures and nations and, and see breakthrough happen. I could go on, tell you all kinds of stories of major major breakthroughs by the Connecting of his body in this way.
Thank you very much for that reflection. JOHN, every medium has its strengths and weaknesses. What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of tele communicated forms of prayer.
The strengths are of course, the breadth of including so many of God's people as we did for the world prayer assembly. I was actually something like 3 million within Indonesia in those almost 400 Cities Live from the stadium where we had 120,000 brain together. And then these people participated in all these cities with satellite television. And then we had the we had that with the internet most of this I don't even know how to do it myself. I thank God for those who do. But we, so we connected broadly but still the I guess the weakness of it is that it's for a limited time. And nothing can beat twos and threes and small groups of brothers and sisters praying together on a regular basis in their own hometown, and their church in their office, just at lunch hour, you know, connecting two or three over lunch and just say let's just pray. Nothing can beat that. That's, that's the core, the core of it all.
Too many of us It seems that there's an increasing focus on prayer among our own churches, perhaps the churches we're familiar with in the United States and perhaps globally. What's your perspective? Is there an increased hunger in the world church for prayer?
Absolutely. I would say within the United States where both of us live, I have observed a an increased hunger for prayer and unity in the body of Christ, people being willing to basically Especially Christian leaders, increasingly realizing it's not about them, it's not about their organization or their denomination and to basically subsume that under the Lordship of a CEO, Jesus Christ, only him coming together, praying to see his transformation come socio politically, as well as the fulfillment of the Great Commission so that people get a chance to hear the gospel. I think there's an increasing desire for that kind of United prayer, yes, all over the world or I go, I'm here in Hong Kong with 10,000 Chinese, who have come together from all over the US, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, the Chinese diaspora throughout the nations, and the unity is so palpable in worship and in prayer. And so God is doing this massive, marvelous thing they had to fly in here. They haven't going out and saw in stream It the video. It's it's an awesome thing, combination of, of travel technology and communication technology that enables these things to happen.
JOHN, would you be willing to share with us what have been the theological influences on your own understanding of revival?
I studied the history of revival actually going back to my senior year at Yale, and I wrote a paper on the history of one of the major revivals at Yale, there were 35 major revivals among the students, or 200 years from 70 to one when the university was founded. up through the last was when Dwight L. Moody came and preached at Yale, and I think it was around 1900. And Yale had a sense of the presence of God through these revivals and the students, including my own grandfather, who was there at 19 15 he was class of 1950. They ended up many of them becoming missionaries. And because they were studying the Bible, and Kenneth Scott law read the great church historian whom I had the privilege of knowing when I was a student, he would come down and pray with us. He was in his 80s teaching church history. And he led 1000 men Bible studies, when my granddad was there at Yale. He was a tutor. And so the the the sense of, we've got to let let God be God in our lives, and my granddad ended up going out to China, teaching there in the medical college for a time he didn't become a missionary, but he was under that sense of calling. Do something with your noble with your life, do something for the Lord for humanity. Kevin Scott
letter at the great history historian of mission, especially in China, did he have something of an influence on your own interest in China? In your grandfather's interest in China,
I am not sure if there was a Yale China program. So I don't know. If my granddad actually news kind of Scott Lata ripped that well, but he certainly had an impact on us young students. He I think was 83. And we were all, you know, late teens, early 20s, and have this old guy come down and so that but it was more. Later on, as I sought the Lord. He began to bring my wife and me into contact with the overseas missionary fellowship, which was the China in the mission that Hudson Taylor founded. And these were praying, missionaries and I that that's where the prayer journey continued in Chicago, actually. I was at Trinity evangelical Divinity School, and we went down and we would pray in Chicago. With these dear old saints who had a heart for China, and I ultimately went out to Malaysia work with Chinese people, for the first years of my, my career, and we still we bonded with the Chinese, we just love them as a people and still are in touch with many of them that we pastored and taught years ago.
Now I know you know, Brian Mills Well, now we're you and Brian mills in contact when he was developing this idea of triplet prayer.
Actually, that happened when Brian worked with a Billy Graham organization in England before mission in England. And they were casting about for a way to mobilize prayer for Billy Graham's evangelistic work there. And Brian was actually taking a bath one night, maybe you've heard the story, but he was taking a bath after praying about this and suddenly the idea came to him. You know, when you're relaxed like that God can get to you sometimes. And he hit on the, again, the idea of Matthew 18, three, praying, each one choosing three people that were not saved did not know Christ. And so they were praying through each triplet, we're praying for nine people and the thing just spread all over England. And before Billy Graham ever came, thousands of thousands were coming to Christ through those triplets, because prayer is prayer is, is meant to happen before evangelism admission that's the book of Acts culture. You know, in Acts 114, they joined constantly together and for after Jesus said, stay in Jerusalem. You wanted them to get connected in prayer. And then there was this massive breakthrough that began to happen in the mission realm. So prayer always comes before evangelism and mission. That's, that's the cart behind the horse where it belongs.
JOHN, you've observed and help participate in many prayer movements. What is the secret to founding a sustained prayer movement?
there are a couple things. First of all, we need a good theology of prayer. We need too much of the church does not understand what I just said. That that mission all ministry begins with prayer. If we're not connected with God in prayer, forget it. Let's just forget it. Because we're dependent on him. We're, we're branches in the vine. We can't do anything without it. That's what Jesus said. So in prayer, where we're connecting with, with the, the CEO of his body, we're connecting with the head. And then we have his, his grace, his help to be effective in our mission, whatever it is, whatever our ministry is, so a good theology of prayer. Well, we, you know, there are many, many books on prayer. But you know, Andrew Murray, a great teacher on prayer. Henry now on coming out of the Catholic contemplative tradition that many evangelicals are reading. Those books are powerful and wonderful. I don't agree with everything in these books. But there are many that you can get that would help strengthen your theology and appreciation of prayer. Another is a core group in your church of brothers and sisters that will stand together because the evil one hates this. He I believe he's more threatened by prayer than anything else, because he knows that God will respond, his great enemy. And so when we pray, we got to be ready that there's going to be counter attack. He hates united prayer. So he'll try to sow division and you so therefore you have to stand together as a Committed core, whether it's in a church or in a city, where leaders say, I'm not going to criticize you behind your back, I commit myself to we're going to stand together no matter what the devil tries to do to disrupt it. So those are two things I would say. And that begins to free God's hand to do things that he could only do through a united committed body of believers.
Thank you so much for that response. If I may ask a question that we've been asking all of the interviewees on this program, and that is this. What would it mean for the church to be united today? How would we recognize this unity and what is it that we can do to pursue the Unity for which Jesus prayed in john 17?
Well, humility is essential to unity. And the Lord always starts with that if you look at Second Chronicles 714, which is the great revival breakthrough verse that we often use if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves. That's where it all starts. You got to humble yourself. And by nature, we human beings are given the pride and self centeredness. We have to humble ourselves before God and one another. And then he says, seek my face. He's he says, A pray, seek my face. turn from your wicked ways, because we all have that. Then I'll hear from heaven. I'll forgive your sin. I will heal your land. So sociopolitical transformation, spiritual revival, all of that is connected.
We're extremely grateful today to be speaking with john Rob, founder of the International prayer Council. JOHN, thank you so much for your time this morning.
Great to be with