When Prayer is Controversial

By   •   May 17, 2010   •   Topics: , ,

Although its roots go back to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and Congress authorized an annual National Day of Prayer more than half a century ago, a federal judge took steps last month to have it declared unconstitutional.

At the same time, the news media gave extensive coverage to outspoken anti-religion activists who persuaded the military to cancel my personal participation in a Pentagon prayer event on grounds that it might offend Muslims.

Then an Islamic advocacy group in Washington tried to keep me from participating in a prayer event on Capitol Hill with members of the House of Representatives.

It is shocking to experience, in our own country, such open opposition to Christian prayer for the nation. Despite that, millions of people across America did pray on May 6. And on May 7, on May 8, and every day since.

The truth is, whether or not there is an official day of prayer, no judge and no critics will ever stop believers from praying.

In the Bible, God says, “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage” (Psalm 2:8, ESV). That is a clear call to prayer–evangelistic prayer. And it is a call to pray for more than just our own country.

God sent Jesus Christ “as a light for the nations” (Isaiah 49:6) and intends “that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” (Daniel 7:14). But God wants us to ask.

Imagine the great, eternal heritage of ordinary Christians who commit to intercede in prayer on behalf of a nation, asking God to bring its people to repentance and salvation through Jesus Christ.

Along with our nation, perhaps you would pray right now for the nation of Brazil, where I will be preaching the Gospel in just a few days. We’ve been invited to hold an evangelistic Crusade in Belo Horizonte, the country’s third largest city.

Christians across Brazil are praying, and you can join with them by asking God to bring many people in that nation who “walk in darkness” into “the light of life” (John 8:12).

The New Testament describes an exhilarating time for the early church in the book of Acts when “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47, NIV).

Think of people getting saved every single day! God has been doing something similarly wonderful at the Billy Graham Library–every day that the Library is open, people tell us that they have made life-changing decisions for Christ during their visit.

A few days ago a woman from California met up with others at the Charlotte airport for a trip to Israel. When their flight was delayed, she decided to visit the Billy Graham Library nearby. As she toured the historical displays and multimedia presentations, she heard a clear presentation of the Gospel and understood for the first time that “it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

She asked a volunteer working at the Library to pray with her and eagerly gave her life to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith. “Can you imagine what the trip to Israel will mean to her now!” the volunteer said afterward.

Stories like this can be told every day, sometimes dozens in a day.

The Library, which was closed for a number of weeks for upgrades, reopened last month after numerous exciting changes and improvements. One special addition is an original mural by Thomas Kinkade, a 32-foot painting of a dramatic, light-filled landscape centered on the empty cross. We’ve also put my father’s personal library on display, featuring thousands of books from his own lifetime collection.

My father is doing well and feeling stronger than in the recent past. He participated in the reopening events, calling the Library “a great soul-saving place.” He said he is praying that in the future “its outreach will be as tremendous as it is now” and described it as “a different type of Library that totally and completely honors the Lord Jesus Christ.”

On the day after the reopening, a visitor from New England left a handwritten note about her visit. “Beautiful, uplifting setting. Left refreshed! Wonderful way to show the power of God on Mr. Graham’s life without glorifying Billy Graham.”

The Library’s ministry is like an ongoing evangelistic Crusade, reaching people daily with the truth of the Gospel and encouraging believers in their commitment to Christ. That has been our singular goal, and the changes we have made have strengthened the proclamation of the Gospel.

If you will be anywhere near the Carolinas in the coming weeks or months, please come for a tour. Bring friends or family. You might want to plan your summer vacation trip to include a stop in Charlotte.

Visitors come from every state in the nation and from dozens of countries around the world, up to a thousand people on busy days and even more around Christmas. People come out of curiosity, for the history, or for a free, wholesome family outing. Guests tour exhibits, galleries, and high-tech theaters that re-create historic moments in Billy Graham’s life and ministry from the 1940s to the present.

The exhibits show how God prepared and used a humble man to take the message of His unchanging love to an ever-changing world. The same clear Gospel message that my father preached his entire life is woven into every part of the self-guided tour.

More than 365,000 people have visited since the Library first opened in 2007, and we thank God for drawing many to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. We believe God will continue to bless the Library’s ministry far into the future, using it to “tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done” (Psalm 78:4).

We have busy months of ministry ahead. After the Crusade in Brazil, I have a wonderful opportunity to preach the Gospel in Huai’an, China, the very city where my mother grew up as the daughter of an American missionary doctor. Later we will take the Rock the River Tour, with its focus on reaching youth, to cities in western Canada, then head to Crusades in Japan and Latvia.

I have found through the years that if we simply stay focused on proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, God will provide for His work to be done. He does this through men and women like you who share our burden and passion to win souls.

Will you prayerfully consider a financial gift right now to help us continue making the Gospel known “by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him” (Romans 16:26)?

We are very grateful for you, your friendship, and your support. Please pray for us.