On Wednesday, a casket constructed of simple plywood, adorned with a single cross, containing the body of Rev. Billy Graham, was brought to the U.S. Capitol. Carried by representatives of the military, and followed by members of the Graham family, that simple coffin was placed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda for a memorial service.
The service was attended by Members of both political parties, in a bi-partisan acknowledgment of the significant impact Rev. Graham had on this country during his long and distinguished life. It was a gesture of gratitude previously extended to only three other civilians.
Reverend Billy Graham dedicated his life to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of his bold, steadfast testimony, entire generations – from Presidents and heads of state to the poorest among us – were introduced to the grace and salvation of Christ’s redeeming love. He lived his life with purpose and in anticipation of one day hearing, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.’ Today Reverend Graham stepped into eternity and is home with his Savior. We thank God for his legacy, and the ministry he has left behind, which continues to transform the world for the better.
Even in death, the testimony of Billy Graham’s life called the nation to repentance and revival. Generations of political leaders have given testimony this week to the transformational power of Christ in their lives that they came to know through the ministry of Billy Graham. The service and testimonies are a stark contrast to the political narrative that seems to be taking root as of late.
Over the last couple of weeks, a new catch phrase has emerged on the political left. Frequently, just before calling for restrictive gun control, some angrily assert they are “done with thoughts and prayers.”
Presumably, this pronouncement is intended to shift the debate. Projecting an overwhelming sense of arrogance, those who have adopted this drumbeat of “we are done with thoughts and prayers” seem unaware they are actually illustrating the need for more prayer in our country.
Compare the self-righteousness of the “done with thoughts and prayers” crowd to the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Franklin referred to “groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings?”
He went on to urge the assembled delegates to remember the power of prayer.
“In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection,” he said. “Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor.”
Franklin then offered an observation that holds true to this day when he said, “I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?”
Benjamin Franklin was no Billy Graham, in that he was not an evangelist. History suggests that he was among the least religious of the Founding Fathers. He was however, an honest observer of the divine hand of Providence that directed the founding of this great nation.
The lesson and legacy of both men challenge us to look to God in prayer. The warning would seem to be that if ever the United States is truly “done with thoughts and prayers,” the nation will run the risk of just being done.