President Barack Obama made a pilgrimage to pray with Billy Graham, the American preacher who harnessed the media and made Christian evangelism a global phenomenon, recently.
Evangelist Billy Graham in 1966. Graham has met with every U.S. president since Harry Truman.
Obama rode in his motorcade to Graham’s mountainside log cabin in Montreat, which is near Asheville, N.C., upon the conclusion of his North Carolina vacation with his wife, Michele, and friends.
It was Obama’s first meeting with the ailing evangelist who has counseled commanders in chief since Dwight Eisenhower.
This makes Obama, 48, the 12th president of the United States to meet with the 91-year-old Graham.
He is also the first head of state to call on the famed evangelist, who is ailing, at the latter’s mountaintop home.
The visit lasted about 30 minutes and included aides and advisers to both men. Obama had a private prayer and conversation with Billy Graham.
Graham gave Obama two Bibles, one for him and one for the first lady, according to the Associated Press.
The AP report said the older Graham and Obama did most of the talking. They reminisced about their roots in Chicago, where Graham attended college and began some of his ministry in the region.
Obama moved to Chicago after college and began his political career there. They also talked about golf.
When the president got ready to leave, the two ended in prayer, according to the AP. The elder Graham prayed for the nation and asked God to give Obama wisdom in his decisions.
The president prayerfully thanked God for Billy Graham’s life, Franklin Graham told the AP.
Obama confided, like other presidents before him, how lonely, demanding and humbling the presidency can be, according to Larry Ross, presidential spokesman.
“That is a discussion that Mr. Graham has had with previous presidents who realize not only the demands but the loneliness of the job. And they’re humbled by that,” Ross said.
“The only way one can do [the job] properly is to draw on spiritual resources,” the AP reported.
The president also spoke to Graham’s son Franklin, also an evangelist. The Army cancelled an appearance of the younger Graham to pray at the Pentagon for National Prayer Day a few days before.
Billy Graham has met with every president since Harry Truman. Eisenhower once mused about recruiting Graham as a speechwriter, and the two often read the Bible together. John F. Kennedy played golf with Graham in Palm Beach.
Graham ministered many times to Lyndon Johnson. With Nixon, Graham conducted regular worship in the White House.
Gerald Ford played golf with him, Graham visited the Carters in the White House, and with Reagan they had a relationship that spanned 50 years.
George H. Bush vacationed with Graham half a dozen times, and Graham counseled Bill and Hillary in the White House. George W. Bush credits Graham for his spiritual rebirth.