Prayer Targets: Graham's New Birth; Paying Respects; Growing the Legacy; For Your Prayer List
February 28, 2018
Dear Praying Friends,
With an Oxford degree and a PhD in history from the University of Washington, David Aikman (full bio) worked for Time Magazine for 23 years, serving as bureau chief in Eastern Europe, Beijing, and Jerusalem. A dedicated Christian, he later served as professor of history at Patrick Henry College (2005-2015). He is the author of several books, including Jesus in Beijing and Great Souls: Six Who Changed the Century. This excerpt is from the latter, edited for space:
"I Guess They Are Just Some Fanatics" -- Charlotte had the reputation of being one of the most heavily church attended cities in the United States. The visit of evangelist Billy Sunday there in 1924 had shaken up its spiritual complacency and was remembered by many. But the Wall Street crash of 1929 and the following Great Depression had hit the city's economy hard. Businesses and banks were collapsing... unemployment was soaring, and church attendance hadn't done much to raise the city's spirits.
One of the consequences of Billy Sunday's visit was the emergence of a group of mostly businessmen, who decided to come together regularly to pray for Charlotte. Discouraged by what was happening in their community and the gloomy attitude to life that came in its wake, they set aside a day for prayer and fasting in the spring of 1934. They met in a pasture owned by farmer Frank Graham [father of Billy Graham], and it was there they drove their cars one morning in May 1934.
Inside the Graham home, to support what the men were doing, Morrow [Graham's mother] organized her own group of female Bible students and prayer as well. As the sense of fervor rose among the men outside, one man's prayer seemed to soar out from among that of the others. It was the leader of the group, Vernon Patterson, and he was pleading with God in a loud voice that out of Charlotte the Lord would "raise up someone to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth."
The story may have since been embellished... but that something of this sort did indeed happen has not been disputed. Whether one believes in prayer or not, the "coincidence" of that gathering, its location, and what was to happen in the life of Franklin Graham's son is certainly, well, unusual.
As for Billy Graham himself, when he came home from school, the large group of cars and the men standing or kneeling in their shirts struck him as eccentric. A school friend asked what the group was about. Billy replied, "Oh, I guess they are just some fanatics who talked Dad into letting them use the place..." In late summer, the same businessmen sponsored the construction of a pine-and-steel-framed tent in Charlotte. With it went an invitation to a fiery, itinerant preacher named Mordecai Ham...
A Fundamentalist, he was intolerant of shades of opinion less theologically conservative than his own. [Nightly] for eleven weeks, he preached his sermons on the need for repentance and conversion...
After an initial reluctance, Billy's parents had begun attending nightly, urging their children to come, but not forcing Billy to do so. The young man was openly skeptical of what was going on in the Ham "tabernacle." He had no interest in attending, but Ham had become controversial by alleging "moral depravity" among students at Charlotte's Central High School. Billy was intrigued by this...
Ham's sermons had a way of quickening the conscience of all who listened attentively, and it was not long before Graham was affected by it. His words "had an almost embarrassing way of describing your sins and shortcomings and demanded, on pain of divine judgment, that you mend your ways."
To avoid the chance that Ham's eyes might fix on him at some particularly painful moment of moral revelation, Graham joined the choir, which sat behind the preacher. With him were two brothers who were to become intimate friends -- Grady Wilson and T. W. Wilson. Their father had been part of the earnest prayer meeting on Frank Graham's farm earlier in the year.
As October and November passed, something clearly was changing within Billy's own heart. No longer skeptical or mocking, Billy was wrestling, aware of the implications for his life (how radical a change would take place in his life if he "went forward," when the preacher made his altar call).
On November 6, 1934, the day before Billy's sixteenth birthday. As the choir sang, "Almost persuaded... Almost -- but lost!" Graham got up from his seat near the front of the tent and moved forward to where others professing their conversion were standing. Grady Wilson went forward too. "I didn't have any tears, I didn't have any emotion... I didn't hear any thunder, there was no lightning. I saw a lady standing next to me and she had tears in her eyes and I thought there was something wrong with me because I didn't feel worked up. But right there, I made my decision for Christ. It was as simple as that, and as conclusive." (David Aikman, Great Souls: Six Who Changed the Century, p. 11-13)
Things looked bad in 1934, but a handful of businessmen gathered for prayer in a pasture. They followed up their prayers with faith-filled action. Christ is still "in the midst" of small groups of Spirit-motivated men and women across America. There may never be another Billy Graham, but we would besmirch his memory were we not to believe God's work will carry on. Jesus said himself, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (Jn 14:12-13)!
Paying Respects to Billy Graham at the U.S. Capitol -- While Billy Graham is being honored and remembered throughout the world for his faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ and his calling to preach the gospel, everyday Americans are paying their last respects to this great man today, as his body "lies in honor" in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (see details HERE). President Trump and Vice President Pence will attend the private funeral at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte on Friday. Other former presidents payed their last respects to Graham as his body lay in repose in the Graham Family Homeplace at the Billy Graham Library complex in Charlotte (see details HERE). FRC President Tony Perkins suggests that "Billy Graham was faithful to the end" and is still "leading us behind him." New York City pastor and author, Joseph Materra, gives seven reasons why Graham's influence is greater now, than ever: "1) Leaders are often more honored after they pass away. 2) The gospel he preached is being highlighted everywhere through secular media. 3) He is being introduced to a younger generation. 4) His example of integrity is impacting church leadership. 5) He is being honored by Congress and every living president. 6) His organizations helped train generations of evangelists. 7) He is a model of reconciliation." (See Tony's op-ed: Leading Us Behind Him; 7 Reasons; see Tony on C-SPAN talking about Billy Graham and his legacy, evangelicalism, and the future)
- Thank You, Lord, for Billy Graham, his long ministry, and his life. We pray that You will continue to use him through his books, films, recorded messages, news interviews, radio and TV programs and appearances, and his many articles in Decision Magazine for the benefit of generations of young people yet unborn. Thank you for the honor that so many are giving to Graham in his death. The glory belongs to You who worked in and through this faithful man to reach the world! Lord, bring all of us, including the naysayers, resistance pundits, and our sorely divided nation to the foot of the Cross. Use Graham's gracious legacy to bring us together. May all Christians be stirred to carry the gospel with the same energy Graham carried it to America and the nations. May each of us do our part, through the proclamation of the gospel, to make America "One Nation Under God" again. Without You, Lord, we cannot survive. With You, and Your blessing, we will survive, and bless the nations. Hear our cry, O God! In Jesus' Name, Amen! (Ps 33:12; 39:5; 90:12; Pr 13:22; Is 40:8-11; 55:11; Jer 6:16a; Mk 3:25; Rom 12:5; 1 Cor 1:21-31; 12:12-20; 13:1-8; Eph 1:15-23; 1 Tim 1:15-17; Rev 4:10-11)
Finally, please add these matters to your prayer list: 1) FRC will conduct a Watchmen Pastors Summit in Pittsburgh tomorrow. 2) The Department of Health and Human Services, a bane to religious liberty and the pro-life movement during the Obama administration, has established a division in the Office for Civil Rights to handle conscience and religious liberty complaints. In less than two months, complaint numbers are fast approaching the total for all of last year. 3) An Ohio Judge's removal of guardianship from parents who refuse to give their minor daughter permission to take male hormones, has stirred community reaction. 4) The Daily Caller is reporting that Google has been secretly using the radical Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to "flag" content for exclusion. 5) The House passed a strong anti-sex trafficking bill, and a similar measure is expected to pass the Senate -- a significant defeat for the sex industry. 6) God is the only real remedy to school shootings and other increasing community violence. 7) The Georgia legislature is attempting to pass a bill to provide conscience protection to people of faith and conscience, but Hollywood celebrities, producers, and others are promising to boycott Georgia should it pass. 8) Delta Airlines backed LGBT activists in its successful opposition to a Georgia RFRA. Now Delta is expanding its political activities, but conservatives are taking a stand. 9) A new California bill proposes tough new punishments for counselors who offer sexual orientation therapy services. 10) DOD Secretary Mattis has delivered his recommendations regarding retenti on and recruitment of transgender troops; we await the president's decision. 11) Beginning in May, the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem will become the U.S. Embassy; the transition will occur in phases.
As always, thank you for praying!