In 1995 the Billy Graham Association held a Crusade in Arco Arena in Sacramento, California. During the week before the Crusade, hundreds of women and men came together to form a combined choir. Catholics sang with Baptists, Lutherans with Pentecostals and a few Presbyterians thrown in for good measure.
After one particular choir practice that went late into the night, a volunteer tenor hopped into his car to head home. He found himself caught up in the beauty of what the choir had been rehearsing. Driving through the eerie nighttime landscape of downtown Sacramento, he resolved again that he wanted to live as God’s person. Just then he looked up and saw a crumpled figure of a man hunched over on the steps of one of the municipal buildings. He wasn’t really in the habit of reaching out to homeless people, so he kept driving. Immediately his conscience seized him, “What does my spiritual commitment mean if I’m not willing to stop and see if somebody needs help?” He turned his car around. The man was still on the steps. He approached the man cautiously and put his hand on the man’s shoulder. “Sir, are you alright?” The man looked up. It was Billy Graham–praying, in the middle of the night, for the city of Sacramento.
It is tempting to think that what we are planning to do today won’t really make all that much difference. But there are great surprises ahead. One of the greatest surprises in the next world will be learning what our middle of the night prayers helped accomplish here and now.
As we officially enter into the holiday season, I know we will be making many plans and buying gifts with the intention of honoring people we love. But maybe the best gift we can provide for them is praying over the folks in our sphere of influence, asking for God’s grace and power and Spirit to move upon them.
Billy Graham took seriously the ministry he was bringing to Sacramento. Let’s take the Christmas we hope to bring to those in our lives seriously and bring Jesus to them…it starts on our knees.
-Rev Dr William Lewis