What Did MLK Pray at a Billy Graham Crusade?
One time Billy Graham invited MLK to pray at a rally. This is what he said.
In 1957, Billy Graham invited Martin Luther King Jr. to say a prayer at one of his rallies.
After a phone call between Graham and King, one of Graham’s associates sent King a message, and a few days later the young minister accepted the opportunity.
The theme of the crusade was “A Spiritual Revolution in the City,” and these are the words Martin Luther King Jr. prayed.
King began by thanking God for “the many blessings of life.” He next moved on to a moment of confession.
He asked for forgiveness on behalf of the people for “dwelling in the dungeons of hate” rather than following the example of the “Lord of Love.”
King, who had emerged on the national stage in 1955 as the spokesperson of the Montgomery Improvement Association during the Montgomery Bus Boycott to end racial segregation on the city’s buses, also petitioned God for justice.
He prayed for peace and the fortitude to work towards it. Then, many years before he would articulate his dream at the March on Washington in 1963, King expressed a vision for a future of racial equality.
“And O God, we ask Thee to help us to work with renewed vigor for a warless world and for a brotherhood that transcends race or color.”
From his start as a public activist, King emphasized the importance of interracial unity based on truth and righteousness. He was willing to work with white people in order to crack the edifice of Jim Crow segregation and inequality.
King would later face opposition from other Black people who emphasized the need for racial solidarity and saw the participation of white people as detrimental to Black autonomy.
The differences between King and Graham would also become much more prominent as the Civil Rights movement continued. Graham spoke of “law and order” as a solution to urban uprisings. He criticized King’s direct action nonviolent tactics and admonished him to work within the established legal and political systems.
But in 1957, in front of a crowd of 18,000 New Yorkers who had come to hear about Jesus from this famous evangelist, King espoused his hope for a racially unified tomorrow.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University recorded King’s prayer in its entirety…
Let us pray. 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.
We come recognizing our dependence on Thee. We also come, O God, with an awareness. The fact that we have not always given our lives to that which is high and noble. In the midst of all of the high and noble aspects of justice, we followed injustice. We stand amid the forces of truth and yet we deliberately lie. We stand amid the compelling urgency of the Lord of Love, as exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ, and yet we live our lives so often in the dungeons of hate.
For all of these sins, O God forgive.
And in these days of emotional tension, when the problems of the world are gigantic in extent and chaotic in detail, give us penetrating vision, broad understanding, power of endurance and abiding faith, and save us from the paralysis of crippling fear. And O God, we ask Thee to help us to work with renewed vigor for a warless world and for a brotherhood that transcends race or color.
We thank Thee this evening for the marvelous things which have been done in this city, and through the dynamic preachings of this great evangelist.
And we ask Thee, O God, to continue blessing him. Give him continued power and authority. And as we look into him tonight, grant that our hearts and spirit will be opened to the divine inflow. All of these things we ask, in the name of Him who taught us to pray.
Our Father…[audience joins in prayer]