“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” —2 Chronicles 7:14, ESV
Earlier this month marked the National Prayer Breakfast, a tradition carried on by every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1953, Billy Graham was in attendance at the very first Presidential Prayer Breakfast, as it was known then. For many years following, the evangelist would attend and participate in these gatherings.
Billy Graham considered talking to God a privilege, and often explained its simplicity and value.
“Prayer is for every moment of our lives, not just for times of suffering or joy,” he said. “Prayer is really a place, a place where you meet God in genuine conversation.”
Will Graham, Billy Graham’s grandson, holds these truths close to his heart. An evangelist, the younger Graham takes the Gospel message around the world as his grandfather did. During his Celebration events, Will Graham speaks of talking to God—and hearing from Him through His Word and the Holy Spirit.
In his first book Redeemed: Devotions for the Longing Soul, Will Graham devotes a chapter to this called “The Power of Prayer.” In an excerpt from Redeemed, he talks about his grandfather’s ministry and how he beseeched God before sharing the Gospel.
Over the years many sought to learn the secret to my grandfather’s ministry.
After all, though he was a very gifted speaker and a magnetic personality, there was very little in his upbringing to suggest that he would become well-known outside of what was then the small town of Charlotte, North Carolina.
How did this man, who milked cows by hand before heading off to school, end up being used by God to reach millions of people around the world for the kingdom of heaven?
The answer is remarkably simple.
While my grandfather was still with us, if you were to sit down, look him in the eye, and ask him the three most critical components of planning a Billy Graham crusade, he would answer, “Prayer. Prayer. And prayer.”
In saying this, he would not have been joking. It wouldn’t have been an attempt at being clever. It was an honest truth that is just as key to us at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association today as it was in my grandfather’s time.
In fact, when I receive an invitation to speak in a city, the very first thing I ask about is the climate of prayer. Does the community have a remnant of believers who have been faithfully praying over the course of several years? If the answer is yes, it likely means that the area is spiritually ready for an evangelistic outreach.
Prayer is eternally important, on a group (corporate) level, but also for your individual walk with God. One of the great passages of the Bible that exemplifies this is James 5.
First, prayer restores us (vv. 13–15). It brings comfort, joy, and strength. If we are broken or weak, it revitalizes our spirit. When we’re downtrodden from losing battles, it lifts us up. And when we’re cheerful and filled with joy, we’re instructed to sing psalms and praises. All of these things restore us and fill our hearts with the hope of the Lord.
Second, prayer brings communion and forgiveness (vv. 15–16). We’re directed to confess our trespasses to others and pray for each other. An example of this would be an accountability partner who walks alongside you through your victories and struggles. In doing so, we build up our brothers and sisters in Christ and seek forgiveness from the Father.
Finally, prayer brings power (vv. 16–18). James says in verse 16, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” We have power when we call on the name of Jesus! You’ve likely seen examples of this as the “prayer warriors” in your life have been there in your hour of need. If not, look no further than verses 17–18, where James describes Elijah, “a man with a nature like ours,” whose earnest prayer held back—and then brought forth—the rain.
I cannot overstate the importance of prayer to you, both in a group setting (an accountability partner, in your church, and in your community) and in your personal relationship with God. Whatever you’re going through, take a lesson from my grandfather’s ministry and make your first three steps prayer, prayer, and prayer.
In addition to his evangelistic outreaches, Will Graham also serves as vice president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and as executive director of the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina.