He is the most recognized evangelical leader of the past century. He appeared on the list of the most admired Americans a record 55 years. He preached to 2.2 billion people, with 3.2 million registered decisions for Christ resulting from his crusades and evangelistic efforts. His name is William Franklin Graham, Jr. Nearing his 97th birthday, he has just released his final book, Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity, and Our Life Beyond.
It all began in 1949. The Los Angeles Crusade, scheduled for three weeks, started on September 25, and was extended for eight weeks, during which time Graham spoke to 350,000 people. An amazing 3,000 came to Christ, making this the most significant crusade since the days of Billy Sunday. Rev. Graham instantly became a household name across America.
One of the 3,000 converts was Stuart Hamblin, famed singer, song-writer, and actor. This caught the eye of William Randolph Hearst, who sent a telegram to all of his newspapers, bringing immediate national attention to Graham and his crusade. Soon, Billy Graham graced the cover of Time, and evangelicalism became a force in American culture.
Looking back, 66 years later, hundreds of books have been written about Billy Graham and his unprecedented ministry. Some credit his looks, southern charm, voice, or charisma. Some say it was the media that launched Graham into the national conscience. So what was it that ignited the miracle of Billy Graham in Los Angeles in 1949? The answer is found in the most important number – not the 350,000 who came or even the 3,000 who were converted – but 1,000. That is the number of prayer partners who quietly sought the face of God for months leading up to the crusade. For all these years, Billy Graham himself has maintained that it was the prayer of the saints that moved the hand of God.
It all began in 1949. The greatest evangelist the world would ever know preached the Los Angeles Crusade every night for an incredible eight weeks. 3.2 million converts later, the movement continues. And what happened in 1949 can happen today. God is not waiting for the next Billy Graham . . . he is waiting for his followers to become as serious about prayer as they were 66 years ago.