43: Will Graham

43: Will Graham

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me

• 43 •

Executive Director of the Billy Graham Training Center, grandson of Mr. Graham

In 2006, I left the pulpit of my church in North Carolina and accepted God’s calling on my life to be an evangelist. It was not something I set out to do. Nor was it ever a guarantee that I would follow in the footsteps of my father and grandfather, just because my name was William Franklin Graham. Simply put, the day came when I felt very strongly that God was leading me to work full-time with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

This was a daunting step, and not something I took lightly. I was comfortable where I was. I had a church that loved me, that supported me, that provided for me and my family financially. I was now leaving that sanctuary behind and — along with my wife and three children — stepping into a world of long hours, exhausting travel to the farthest corners of the earth, and higher visibility than I had ever sought.

Of course, when faced with this challenge, I turned first to my heavenly Father for guidance and then to my earthly grandfather for his advice. After all, Billy Graham had lived in the realm I was about to enter for more than six decades. He traveled longer and spoke with audiences far greater than I was likely to encounter in my ministry.

I knew he would have practical tips to help me in the pulpit. “Use hand gestures,” he might say. Or, “Preach from these passages of the Bible.” As I drove the long and winding road to his log home in the mountains — the one that he and my dear grandmother built from the ground up in the 1950s — I didn’t know what nuggets of wisdom he would offer, but I knew I would take them to heart and write every one down so I wouldn’t forget.

I met my grandfather in the living room where I had visited with him countless times. He was no longer the strapping firebrand of his youth, but a silver-haired veteran — a warrior who has seen the battles and survived the journey. His ears fail him and his eyes, though still piercing, are dimmed by macular degeneration. The man who once prowled the stage and was referred to as “God’s machine gun” now moves slowly and deliberately with the help of a walker.

On that day, we sat together by the fireplace and I sought the wisdom I made the trek to receive. But there would be no lengthy list of do’s and don’ts. I wouldn’t need my pen and paper to chronicle every bit of advice.

“Will,” he said softly. “Pray, pray, pray, and study, study, study. Looking back, I wish I had done so much more of both.” That’s it. From my earthly focus, I was expecting practical strategies to walk me from Point A to Point B to Point C as I began my evangelistic ministry. My grandfather, however, saw with greater vision the simple, yet profound, instruction to “Pray, pray, pray, and study, study, study.”

I must admit that I was taken aback by his guidance. After all, as long ago as I could remember, whenever I entered his house, my grandfather was a) praying, b) reading the Bible, or c) watching Larry King Live. (He was good friends with Mr. King, and loved to watch the program and learn about other people.)

How could my grandfather, who spent more time in prayer and study than anyone I had ever met, feel inadequate in those areas? His response: “I wish I knew the Bible as well as your grandmother does. She knows it better than anyone I have ever met,” he whispered quietly. “And we could have done so much more if we had taken fewer speaking engagements and spent more time on our knees in earnest prayer.”

Billy Graham, the man who spoke to nearly 215 million people in live audiences and watched as millions placed their faith in Jesus Christ, had come to realize that he could have done even more through prayer and spending time in God’s Word. He wanted to make sure that I understood this at the beginning of my ministry. It was far more important than any checklist of instructions he could provide.

I’m now several years into my ministry and have preached on six continents, sharing the same message that my grandfather carried those many years. Not a day has gone by when I haven’t heard those whispered words in my head and sought to follow his humble guidance.

Pray, pray, pray, and study, study, study.

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