Just days after the 9/11 tragedy shook the United States to its core, Reverend Billy Graham addressed the nation at a prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral.
The prayer service, orchestrated by then-President George W. Bush, was an interfaith service held to unite the country following the devastating attacks.
“We come together this day to reaffirm our conviction that God cares for us,” Graham began. “Whatever our ethnic, religious or political background may be. The Bible says He is the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles.”
The evangelist pointed out that those who committed the treacherous act must be held accountable, “but today we come together in this service to confess our need of God.”
“We’ve always needed God from the very beginning of this nation,” Graham added. “But today we need Him especially. We’re involved in a new kind of warfare. And we need the help of the Spirit of God.”
“The Bible’s words are our hope, ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,'” he added, citing Psalm 46:1.
Graham added that it was natural to feel angry, and question why God would allow something so devastating and evil to take place, but to trust in his eternal power.
In his message, Graham shared five things to be reminded of in wake of the 9/11 tragedy.
The first was that God can be trusted at all times, even when things seem darkest. Second, there is a reality of evil. Third, God is not the author of that evil, but the Savior from that evil. Fourth, we serve a sovereign God. Lastly, God is a loving, merciful, and compassionate God.
The mystery and reality of evil
In the face of the tragedy, Graham said, “we are reminded of the mystery and reality of evil.”
“I have been asked hundreds of times why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I do not know the answer. I have to accept, by faith, that God is sovereign, and that He is a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering.”
The evangelist pointed out that it is important to remind oneself that God is not the author of evil, but the one that offers us salvation from such a thing.
It’s a lesson about our need for each other
The attacks were not just a reminder of how real and present evil is, but also of how deep the human need is to cling to one another and find community in others.
“A tragedy like this could have torn our country apart, but instead it has united us,” Graham emphasized. “So those perpetrators who took this on to tear us apart, it has worked the other way—it has backlashed. We are more united than ever before. I think this was exemplified in a very moving way when the members of our Congress stood shoulder to shoulder and sang, ‘God Bless America.'”
A message of hope
Lastly, Graham pointed out that the attacks serve as a message of hope, something that might be hard to grasp.
“There is hope for the present because the stage, I believe, has already been set for a new spirit in our nation,” Graham said. “We desperately need a spiritual renewal in this country, and God has told us in His Word time after time that we need to repent of our sins and return to Him, and He will bless us in a new way.”
He added that there is also a hope for the future because of the eternal promises found in the Word of God.
“As a Christian, I have hope, not just for this life, but for heaven and the life to come,” he pointed out. “And many of those people who died this past week are in heaven now. And they wouldn’t want to come back. It’s so glorious and so wonderful.”
“That is the hope for all of us who put our faith in God. I pray that you will have this hope in your heart,” he added.
Graham ended his message by encouraging the nation to look to God, and seek His names in the difficult times that were ahead:
“We all watched in horror as planes crashed into the steel and glass of the World Trade Center. Those majestic towers, built on solid foundations, were examples of the prosperity and creativity of America. When damaged, those buildings plummeted to the ground, imploding in upon themselves. Yet, underneath the debris, is a foundation that was not destroyed. Therein lies the truth of that hymn, ‘How Firm a Foundation.’
“Yes, our nation has been attacked, buildings destroyed, lives lost. But now we have a choice: whether to implode and disintegrate emotionally and spiritually as a people and a nation; or whether we choose to become stronger through all of this struggle, to rebuild on a solid foundation.”
“Our need of God” never changes, Franklin Graham says
Last year, Graham’s son Franklin, shared the video to Facebook, remembering when his father was asked to preach following the attacks.
“My father Billy Graham was asked to deliver a message at Washington National Cathedral three days later,” Franklin wrote. “Many things have changed since that day, but one thing hasn’t—our need of God. We need him as individuals and as a nation.”
In a current post to Facebook, Franklin Graham pointed out that eighteen years after 9/11, there is still so much devastation and turmoil in the world.
“Who is able to fix these problems?” Graham asked. “There is no human being who can solve the complexities of the nations. But we have a God who can.”
“I urge everyone to pray that God would give our world leaders wisdom and that each one would turn their eyes to Him, the One who created us and made this magnificent earth on which we live—the King of kings and the Lord of lords, Jesus Christ.”