“Only God Himself fully appreciates the influence of a Christian mother in the molding of character in her children.” - Dr. Billy Graham
Who was Billy Graham’s Mother
None of us will become great in a vacuum of influence. Each of us is the accumulated wisdom and the muscle memory of a lifetime of other people’s personalities and paradigms, mixed with our own genetic make-up and the divine interventions of God. So when we think of someone we greatly respect, it might behoove us to examine their early life experiences and the adults who fashioned them.
One such person, whom I have always admired, is the great departed evangelist Dr. Billy Graham. After many years of watching videos of him from the 60’s and 70’s and listening to his sermons, the Lord spoke a simple truth to my heart about Billy Graham. He said, “You know, you don’t have to be Billy Graham in order to save a million souls. You only need to raise one.” This was profound for me. I began to research the parents of Billy Graham, and I found two unassuming, hardworking, diligent, God-fearing people, who raised their children in the instruction and admonition of the Lord. A man and a woman who taught their children to love the Lord through obedience, to spend time in the Scripture daily, and to pray for each other regularly. In short, I found the bedrock of Billy Graham’s life.
According to his autobiography, “Just As I Am” (Harper Perennial, 1999), Dr. Graham’s mother Morrow taught him to pray, taught him to read Scripture and taught him the value of hard work. She established something he calls the “family altar” (p. 19 [Kindle]). This is not a physical altar of course. This is a consistent routine, a devoted time and space, when she would gather her children around herself and her husband for family prayer and Scripture reading. She positioned Billy and his sisters and brother in God’s presence, and helped each of them find their way into a personal relationship with God.
At 16 years old, Billy Graham became born again at a tent revival meeting that his parents had taken him to, and where they had experienced their own salvations. His parents had belonged to a mainstream denomination, but had never experienced repentance and salvation through the blood of Jesus, until they attended those evangelistic meetings. They positioned their children to experience the same rebirth, and the entire family came to saving knowledge during that time.
From a young age, God had built a bedrock of family wholeness for Dr. Graham to stand upon. It is estimated that Dr. Graham preached to more than 210 million people in person, and more than 2.2 billion people heard him preach the good news through television and radio. He ministered to 11 presidents and was even given the opportunity to preach the Gospel in China and North Korea. Before his death in 2018, Dr. Graham had preached in 185 countries, and more than 3.2 million people have given their hearts to Jesus through his personal ministry.
William and Morrow Graham have a portion in the inheritance of their son.
Dr. Graham testifies in his autobiography that no living person had an impact on his faith and life greater than his mother.
“Of all the people I have ever known, [my mother] had the greatest influence on me. I am sure one reason that the Lord has directed and safeguarded me, as well as Ruth and the children, through the years was the prayers of my mother and father” (p. 719 [Kindle]).
Do you believe that your choices today carry the kind of weight that Dr. Graham’s mother’s choices carried? I am sure that like us, Morrow had no idea of the long term effects her choices would have on the world. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. It is easy to look back at history and make judgment calls based on the fact that we know the end of the story. What if we understood the weight of our choices as parents now, and acted accordingly? What if we studied the lives of people like Morrow Graham and others, and learned from their powerful example?
We need to step up to the balcony and look at our lives through a prophetic lens. There is a sovereign and strategic plan that the Lord is orchestrating in the lives of His children, and we are part of it.
No one has more power than you to direct the future of your child. Each parent must believe that God has chosen them and anointed them specifically to raise the children in their home and to impact the lives around them. The children you have been given are no mere biological accident. There was no chance involved. God hand-picked you for them and them for you. Which means, He has especially equipped you to do the job in a way that others could not and should not. He has ordained you to parent them, in the same way that He has ordained pastors to shepherd and prophets to prophesy.
Do you believe this? Because the next generation of fathers and mothers are depending on you to believe you are called and anointed to shape them.
Who knows, there might be another Billy Graham sitting at your kitchen table tonight.
Graham, B. (1999). Just as I am: The autobiography of Billy Graham. HarperPerennial.