Billy Graham’s daughter talks about her new book and growing up as a famous preacher’s kid
By Warren Cole Smith
(WNS)–Anne Graham Lotz comes from one of the most famous families in the evangelical movement. She’s the daughter of Billy Graham, who once called her the best preacher in the family. She sits on the board of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, where her brother Franklin is president, but she also has a thriving ministry of her own. AnGel Ministries, based in Raleigh, N.C., is the ministry base from which she’s written more than 15 books and traveled the world. While her life has been full of successes, it’s also had its share of heartbreak, including the recent death of her husband, Danny Lotz, a dentist and active layman. Her latest book, The Daniel Prayer: Prayer That Moves Heaven and Changes Nations, was published this month to correspond with the National Day of Prayer, an effort she leads as the honorary chair.
Anne Graham Lotz with Father Billy Graham
To begin with, how is your father doing? He’s doing surprisingly well for 97. … I will tell you he’s not mobile at this point. He can’t get up on his own. He’s restricted to bed or a wheelchair. He would not be able to preach or even carry on a conversation for a long period of time. His mind is relatively clear. It takes him a while to process things. He’s very deaf, so we speak to him through a microphone, through headsets. His spirit is strong. He loves the Lord. He loves God’s people, loves the gospel. He’s not doing ministry at all right now except the way he ministers to his staff, and they just love him. His caregivers are fabulous. They not only take good care of him professionally, but personally.
You mom passed away eight years ago, and your husband passed away last year. In The Daniel Prayer, you say your husband moved into his Father’s house. Yeah, he moved. Yeah. Actually, the Bible teaches us that when we receive Christ by faith as our savior, He gives us eternal life. Eternal life is life that will never end. When we come to the cross, we establish a personal relationship with God that is not interrupted by death. At death, our relationship goes from being lived by faith to being lived by sight. I know when my husband closed his eyes to this life, he opened them to the face of Jesus. His relationship with God was not interrupted. He just moved. He moved from this earth to his heavenly home.
You must miss him. Yeah. Of course, you miss him every day. You go to bed every night missing him. … You know what the secret is? One, I found that my relationship with God wasn’t interrupted by his death, either. I know his wasn’t, but mine wasn’t either. The important thing is that a person establish a relationship with God that’s personal, that’s permanent, that they grow in that relationship before something like that happens. If you wait until a crisis comes, if you wait until life throws you a curve ball and then you try to establish a relationship with God or to develop a relationship, you’ll go under.
When I was a little girl, I asked Jesus to be my savior, to come into my heart, so I was born again as a young girl. I’ve grown in that relationship all my life, in particular all of my adult life. As I’ve studied the Scriptures, as I’ve taught the Scriptures, as I’ve immersed myself in the Scriptures, I’ve developed a strong, personal relationship with God through Jesus, so that carries me through Danny not being here. I buried him two days before our 49th wedding anniversary. I can tell you that I miss him, but it’s not grief that has no hope. I know that I’m going to see him again. I know God has left me here because I have a purpose. The secret to overcoming the pain that is so deep you can’t really even express it is to focus on the blessings God gives.
Your new book, The Daniel Prayer, talks of times you felt desperate and compelled to pray because prayer was the only option for you. Would you mind reading this excerpt about prayer?
“To be honest, every time I pray I’m not gripped by a kind of intensity and compulsion. Sometimes, however, there’s no other way I could pray, when I struggled with infertility, longed to get pregnant, but month after month did not; when I was confined in a small home with small children and yet deeply desired to serve the Lord in full-time ministry; when the door of service was opened and I found myself in the pulpit looking at 500 upturned, expectant faces waiting to hear what I was going to say.
“When I’ve stood on the platform in a soccer field in India, a race track in Australia, a prison auditorium in North Carolina, the General Assembly of the United Nations, a tent in Northern Ireland, the funeral service for my mother, and many, many other places where I felt way in over my head; when I sat in the hospital chapel with the family of my close friend who was being taken off life support after a sudden 24-hour virus; when I overheard my son and his first wife in a heated argument that signaled the beginning of the end of their marriage; when I returned home with my three children after having been gone for two hours and found the front door broken down and everything of value in the house taken by thieves; when I discovered my 78-year-old husband, to whom I’ve been married for 49 years, in our pool, unresponsive.
“On occasions like these and on many others, simple, memorized, now-I-lay-me-down-to-sleep types of prayer just won’t do. A prayer that’s mechanical or perfunctory doesn’t come close to communicating what’s in my heart, but the Daniel Prayer is not just venting to God or yelling at heaven. The Daniel Prayer is not just an outpouring of heartfelt emotion and passionate pleading. It’s an outpouring of heartfelt emotion and passionate pleading based on God’s Word as we hold Him to His promises.”
That introduces the idea of the Daniel Prayer. What is the Daniel Prayer? The Daniel Prayer is Daniel 9 in the Bible. Daniel was a young man who had been taken into captivity when the Babylonians conquered Judah, and they took him off 800 miles east. They stripped him of his masculinity, took away his name, immersed him in Babylonian culture, tried to force him to eat the king’s food, which had been sacrificed to idols. … He would study what they told him, but he was not going to eat the food, so he made a decision not to defile himself.
That was when he was a young man, maybe 15 years of age, and he lived out 67 years in captivity in Babylon with all the others who were taken from Judah at that time. When he had been there 67 years, he was in his mid-80s, he is reading the book of Jeremiah and he comes across a promise, when God said, “After 70 years, I’ll bring you back from captivity because I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you hope and a future if you will seek me with all of your heart.” …
He turned his face towards God and he prayed, and that’s the Daniel Prayer. It was an outpouring of his heart as he took God’s Word and he prayed it back to God. It’s what we call reverse thunder, when you’re holding God to His Word and you read that promise in Jeremiah, and now he’s praying God’s Word back to God and saying, “God, you …”
How do we pray the Daniel Prayer in the midst of a broken world? One, people say they have to be holy like Daniel. I don’t know that he was holy. He was desperate, and I think that’s what it takes. A Daniel Prayer is a desperate prayer, and I believe we’re coming to that point in America, to be honest. We’re looking at our nation melting down. We’re in a mess at every level, and it’s going to reach a point that finally, I pray, God’s people are going to say, “You know, nothing that’s being tried works, not technology, not politics, not the military, not our economy. Whatever you look at, nothing is working. God, we need you.”…
The second thing is … the Daniel Prayer is a prayer of desperation that’s based on God’s Word. In other words, if I can use 2 Chronicles 7:14, “God, you said if your people who are called by your name would humble themselves, pray, seek your face, and turn from their wicked ways, God, you said you would hear our prayer, forgive our sin and heal our land.” It’s not praying what I want. It’s praying what God has said, but we have to meet the conditions. In order for God to forgive our sin, to hear our prayer, to heal America, pull us together, and pull us back from the brink of judgment, then it’s imperative that God’s people would pray and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways, stop pointing our finger at everybody else, and for God’s people to get right with God. Then He says He would hear our prayer and forgive. A Daniel Prayer is taking what God has said and we’re praying it back to Him.
I can’t resist asking this question. What happens at a Graham family reunion? We don’t have too many family reunions. We are huge now. My father has like 42 great-grandchildren, so it’s a big, spread-out family. One of the things that comes the closest to a family reunion is Thanksgiving. Daddy would host this and he would pay for it, but it would be held at The Cove, the Billy Graham Center, where we could all gather in the dining room. … Afterwards [we would] gather in a big double circle and would use a microphone and just share what God had done for us the past year, what we were thankful for. Danny Lotz, my husband, that’s the way we did our Thanksgivings. That’s the way we did our Thanksgivings when Franklin and I combined our families for Thanksgiving. Then we carried it over in the bigger family, the family at large.
Franklin is, of course, now leading the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He’s also doing these tours of the 50 states. I know you’re participating with him in at least a few of those, right? Yes, in Austin, Texas. I’ll be there for a board meeting, and then he’ll come to Raleigh. I’ll be at the one here in Raleigh.
This is a little bit outside the historical norm for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He’s doing this on the steps of state capitols. He’s putting the gospel and a biblical understanding of the world at the center of these, but it’s impossible for these events not to be perceived at least in some ways as political. Does that concern you? I’m going to be very honest. It has bothered me, so I’ve spoken up on the board, and I’ve spoken very strongly to him. But the difference is that the political issues today are moral issues. They’re spiritual issues. When my father was preaching … the issues in that day, it might be foreign policy, something about going to Vietnam or maybe it was about welfare or whatever.
Today, it’s about the LGBT agenda. It’s about gay marriage. There are things that are on the table now, and they’re considered political issues, but they are not just political issues. They’re moral and spiritual issues. Franklin, in his style and in his way, is taking them on. He understands how I feel, and I understand how he feels. I support him because I believe God has given him a vision and a heart to do this, so I support him in what God’s leading him to do.
I heard your mother once chastised your father when people were talking about his possibly running for president. Yeah. Her quip would be, “If God’s called you to be an evangelist, why would you stoop to be a president?”
Your dad followed that advice. He did. What she was doing was helping him keep his focus on what God had called him to do, because people were trying to pull him. They had the money. They had the means. They had the funds and tried to push him into that. I remember another time. I think it was at the table with President [Lyndon] Johnson. He was asking Daddy some policy questions, and my mother kicked Daddy hard in the shins. Then Daddy just spoke up and said, “Why did you kick me?” Then she told him right in front of the president that he wasn’t there to get involved in the political issues. He was there to be a spiritual counselor. She was great about keeping him focused and keeping him on track.
Were you aware when you were young that your dad was hanging out with presidents and traveling the world and speaking to hundreds of thousands of people? Did you know that was not the way most families live? I probably didn’t know that till I got married and had children and saw my family. Then [I thought], “Oh, my goodness, this is more of a typical family.”
Do you feel blessed by that experience or do you feel like you missed something by being raised in an environment that was so different from the way you raised your kids? I think both. I was very blessed. It’s a privilege to be Billy Graham’s daughter, and I love my daddy. He is an authentic man of God. That in itself is a blessing. I would give him up in a nanosecond to preach the gospel wherever he wanted to go, in whatever stadium, whatever venue. What was very hard was to give him up for things that weren’t that—special meetings or interviews or times with people that came or spending longer somewhere than he needed to be. …
There are many things that my father did that were not necessary or a priority as far as his ministry was concerned, but what he did took him away from us. When he came home, one of the first things he did was go to the golf course. I never have been on the golf course with my father. My mother was like a golf widow, almost. That was the way he relaxed, so it was a very beneficial thing for him, but he never really made the effort to say, “You know, I want my children to come with me.” At a certain age, we could have gone on the golf course. …
In Psalm 27:10, it says, “When your mother and father forsake you, the Lord will take you up.” I believe if I’d had a father like my husband was to my children—there in the morning to fix them breakfast or tuck them in bed at night—I wouldn’t have a relationship with God like I have because God became my father. I turned to God. I believe I have a strong, intimate relationship with God, and one reason is because I didn’t have that from my father although in the last few years, I’ve had it more. It’s been really sweet since Mother moved to heaven. Daddy has been much more focused and engaged with us as children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. …
I want to guard my heart rather than become resentful or bitter because I didn’t have whatever. I just thank God for the privilege of having a father that God used in such a broad way. I consider it a great responsibility to be a faithful steward to what God has entrusted to me. Being Billy Graham’s daughter is not just for myself. It’s like a launching pad to get people’s attention to carry out what God’s called me to do. I thank God for that. It’s opened doors for me, and it’s closed doors for me, but it’s part of what God has placed in me and placed in my life, not for myself but to use for His own purpose.