On this day (July 18) 50 years ago, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a public prayer at one of the Rev. Billy Graham’s evangelistic crusades.
Both men were already well-known at the time, but history has shown that they will continue to influence history long after their time on earth.
These two men walked very different paths in life. King was 5’7” and Graham was 6’2”. At the time of their meeting, King was 28 and Graham was 38. King was shot and killed in his fight for civil rights in 1963. Graham is still alive today and will celebrate his 100th birthday in November.
Both men made no secret of their Christian faith.
The Gospel Coalition tells the story of how King came to give the prayer at Graham’s crusade at Madison Square Garden.
Historian Grant Wacker said that Graham had made a point of not wanting to accept segregated audiences for his crusades. So, he contacted one of his African-American friends and fellow pastors to get advice:
“From the beginning at the Garden, Graham saw that his audiences were overwhelmingly white. A few days in, he contacted his black friend Howard Jones, the pastor of a large African-American Christian Missionary Alliance church in Cleveland, and asked what he should do about it. Jones advised, Do not wait for blacks to come to you. You need to go to them. The sub-text was clear: you and everything else about your crusade–associates, artists, music, choir, and congregation–present a virtually solid white front. If blacks are hesitant to come, what would you expect?” said Wacker.
Since King was the leader of the African-American civil rights movement, Graham invited him to speak at his crusade. King accepted.
“A great social revolution is going on in the United States today. Dr. King is one of its leaders, and we appreciate his taking time out of his busy schedule to come and share this service with us tonight,” Graham said, introducing the pastor and activist.
And then King began his prayer: “O God, our Heavenly Father–out of whose mind this great cosmic universe has been created, toward whom the weary and perplexed of all generations turn for consolation and direction–we come before Thy presence this evening thanking Thee for the many blessings of life.”
He then continued to pray for forgiveness for sin and asked for God to “give us penetrating vision, broad understanding, power of endurance, and abiding faith, and save us from the paralysis of crippling fear” in such a tumultuous time.
To read King’s entire prayer, click here.