68: Barack Obama

68: Barack Obama

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me

• 68 •

44th President of the United States

At a National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., Senator Mark Pryor read a letter written by Billy Graham:

I want to convey my personal greetings to each of you assembled this morning for the National Prayer Breakfast. I miss being with you all, having been a part of this annual event sponsored by the House and Senate prayer group since the very beginning, often as a speaker. Though age and health prevent me from being there in person, I am with you in spirit and you are in my heart. I want to say a special word of encouragement to the many friends meeting today from across the country and across the world, especially President Obama and his wife Michelle and Vice President Joseph Biden and his wife Jill for whom I pray every day as the Scriptures command us to do. The National Prayer Breakfast is one of the most amazing gatherings as people from most of the nations of the world, representing every race, color, creed, religion and political affiliation, or none, come together in the name of Jesus to focus on his teachings and follow his example of how to live and love each other. Throughout my ministry spanning more than 60 years, I have tried to lift up the name of Jesus to audiences and individuals in many of the countries you represent today against the backdrop of polarization in our nation this election year and the tensions across the globe due to war, disease, poverty and other problems. I pray that foundation of unity you embody around the person of Jesus may be an example to the world and a catalyst for peace, freedom and reconciliation as each of us discovers in our own hearts the love and forgiveness He offers to those who seek and turn to him in repentance and faith. May God richly bless your time of fellowship and inspiration this morning. And may the Lord give each of you a special sense of the Spirit as you pray together and pray in Jesus’ name.

President Barack Obama then delivered his own reflections on what was read to the group:

Mark read a letter from Billy Graham, and it took me back to one of the great honors of my life, which was visiting Reverend Graham at his mountaintop retreat in North Carolina, when I was on vacation with my family at a hotel not far away.

And I can still remember winding up the path up a mountain to his home. Ninety-one years old at the time, facing various health challenges, he welcomed me as he would welcome a family member or a close friend. This man who had prayed great prayers that inspired a nation, this man who seemed larger than life, greeted me and was as kind and as gentle as could be.

And we had a wonderful conversation. Before I left, Reverend Graham started praying for me, as he had prayed for so many presidents before me. And when he finished praying, I felt the urge to pray for him. I didn’t really know what to say. What do you pray for when it comes to the man who has prayed for so many? But like that verse in Romans, the Holy Spirit interceded when I didn’t know quite what to say.

And so I prayed — briefly, but I prayed from the heart. I don’t have the intellectual capacity or the lung capacity of some of my great preacher friends here that have prayed for a long time. But I prayed. And we ended with an embrace and a warm goodbye.

And I thought about that moment all the way down the mountain, and I’ve thought about it in the many days since. Because I thought about my own spiritual journey — growing up in a household that wasn’t particularly religious; going through my own period of doubt and confusion; finding Christ when I wasn’t even looking for him so many years ago; possessing so many shortcomings that have been overcome by the simple grace of God. And the fact that I would ever be on top of a mountain, saying a prayer for Billy Graham — a man whose faith had changed the world and that had sustained him through triumphs and tragedies, and movements and milestones — that simple fact humbled me to my core.

I have fallen on my knees with great regularity since that moment — asking God for guidance not just in my personal life and my Christian walk, but also in the life of this nation and in the values that hold us together and keep us strong. I know that He will guide us.

He always has, and He always will. And I pray his richest blessings on each of you in the days ahead.

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