Franklin Graham's Sermon President George W. Bush Inaugural Prayer Service
Following is the sermon presented by Franklin Graham at the Washington National Cathedral, January 21, 2001, in Washington, D.C.
Mr. President, First Lady Laura Bush, Vice President Cheney, Mrs. Cheney, President Bush, Mrs. Barbara Bush, family, members of government, fellow clergy, ladies and gentlemen. On this National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving, I'm both honored and humbled to be invited by President and Mrs. Bush to participate in this prayer service this morning.
I bring greetings from my mother and father. They send their love; they asked me to convey to you that they're praying. In their hearts they wish they could be here today.
As a minister of the Gospel, I have been involved in international relief work for 25 years, serving in dozens of countries where people's lives have been ripped apart by war, famine, flood and disease. When Jesus was on earth, He set the example as he traveled down the road of life. He never turned anyone away that came to Him with a need. He responded with compassion and used His power as the Son of the living God to bring healing to their bodies. He gave them hope, and we should follow in his steps.
Christ, whom the Bible speaks as the source of all wisdom, said, "What shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what should a man give in exchange for his soul?" I believe this verse applies not only to individuals but to nations as well. For a nation that loses its moral compass and its spiritual courage will grow old before its time. Even if we gain all of the material and social and political objectives and yet lose our souls, Jesus said, "What profit would it be?" To God, one soul is worth more than the whole world.
As I travel, I find a common thread and that is there is a sense of hopelessness, even in our country, in spite of the tremendous economic successes, there is a restlessness within the soul of America. Regardless of our technological and scientific achievements, we still face great social, political and spiritual problems. As this new administration works together to lead this nation and our world to new heights of social justice, peace and economic prosperity, you will also have the opportunity to once again ignite the soul of America by seeking the God of our fathers and the God of history.
In the Old Testament, God worked in a mighty way through the life of King David, the greatest king of Israel most likely all of human history. God said that David was a man after His own heart. Throughout David's life, from the time he was a small boy tending his father's flocks, he inquired of the Lord what he should do, regardless of whether the decision was great or small. David did not test the political winds of the day to see which direction he should go. David's only concern was to find the will of God for his life and then to do it. God blessed him and God blessed the nation of Israel because of David. Today I believe that God will bless our President and Vice President and our nation if we will humble ourselves before the Almighty and seek His will and then to do it.
Yesterday we witnessed the entire nation coming together here in this great city to inaugurate our President and Vice President. When David was anointed king, all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron; he came to the throne after a great struggle and great controversy. The king united the country of Israel by inquiring of the Lord. God strengthened David and his army and led them to defeating the enemies of Israel. By doing so, King David secured peace and prosperity for the nation. He did not gain victory because of his might; it was because David sought the Lord and the Lord responded to David's plea for help, direction and guidance, and David obeyed.
Prayer should be a daily habit for everyone, whether elected officials or a private citizen, whether before or after a difficult experience, whether in victory or in defeat. In an increasingly complex and dangerous world, we need to drop to our knees and acknowledge our dependence on God and ask Him to reveal His will just as King David did long ago.
When King David came to the end of his life, after a forty-year reign, he prayed one of the great prayers of the Bible, recorded in First Chronicles chapter 29, giving God all glory and all praise. "Blessed are you, Lord God of Israel, our Father forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty for all that is in heaven and in earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from you and you reign over all. In your hand is power and might. In your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. Now therefore our God we thank you and we praise your glorious name." David was a man of action. He was decisive, he was a builder and he built Israel into a super power of that day. But David never took credit himself. He was quick to give God all the glory and all the praise.
In this first decade of the new millennium, many of you here today will have to make decisions of state, perhaps greater than any of those made by your predecessors. May the life of King David, his prayers and praise to God be a source of inspiration to guide you. Jesus once said, "Unto whom much is given, of him shall much be required." Those who have the greatest power always need the greatest guidance. The scripture teaches that no man rules except by the will of God. There is a mandate higher than the ballot box and it comes from the Almighty. It is most often in religion that the world seeks its value systems and its moral guidance.
I have been many places in the past few years where the masses of people are looking for some kind of savior to rescue them from their political and moral messes in which they find themselves. Only a personal relationship with the living God can fill the moral vacuum that exists in the world today. It is God and God alone that can solve the crises in which we find ourselves, and he uses people to carry out his work.
Today we face new challenges that previous generations could have never dreamed of. Some are matchless opportunities, others however are unparalleled dangers and threats. The greatest threat however lies deep within our own hearts that are infected with greed, hate and lust.
We frequently hear stories of war, terrorism, crime and social injustice. We're asked, "Why?" These testify to the fact that something is wrong with the human heart. Countless religions have emerged all over the world because people are searching for answers to the void in their own lives and their need to atone for their own sins and failures. They are seeking something to give them hope. Christianity teaches this is why Jesus Christ came on that first Christmas night, to bring the hope that the world was searching for, the peace between God and man and among mankind. Unfortunately, because man rejected his offer of peace, the human race has suffered. This is the reason God teaches in the Holy Word that the human heart must be changed by being born into God's family. This is what Jesus told Nicodemus, one of the great Jewish political and religious leaders of his day. Nicodemus was a man of high morals, a man who believed in God. But you see it wasn't enough. It's not enough just to be moral; it's not enough just to believe in God. And the Bible says in John 3 that you must be born again. From the beginning we're born into the human family with a moral disease called sin. However, the good news is that we can be born into God's family. He will forgive our sin and we can have victory over sin forever. This is the hope that the Bible speaks of and God himself will change us if we're willing to allow him to do so. There is hope. We can live in peace with ourselves, with our families and with our neighbors. We can have peace that passes all understanding within our communities and in our world.
The Bible says in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but should have everlasting life." I believe that God is calling us as individuals and as a nation today to repentance and faith in him. To repent is to acknowledge our need of the Great Physician in our lives and to ask his forgiveness for our sins. To have faith is to accept his prescription for healing of our souls found in his Son, Jesus Christ, and by faith receiving him into our heart and trust Him as our Savior and follow Him as our Lord.
Jesus said in John 14:6, He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes unto the Father but by me."
On this solemn occasion, my prayer is that we will turn our hearts toward the living God as King David and our forefathers did long ago. We have gathered here today with renewed hope for America. This prayer service demonstrates our recognition and need for help from the Almighty. We affirm that we are indeed a free and independent people, but in a far more profound sense, we are people that are totally dependent upon Almighty God. I pray that God will place his great hand of protection on each and every one and especially upon you, Mr. President, and your family. May we as a nation again place our hope and trust in the Almighty God and his Son the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, our Redeemer and our Friend. May God bless you and may God bless America.
For more information, or to contact Samaritan's Purse, see their website at: www.samaritanspurse.org
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