70th Anniversary Part VI – Greater Los Angeles Billy Graham Crusade of 1949

October 30, 2019

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Greater Los Angeles Billy Graham Crusade of 1949. The event, only initially planned to run for three weeks, ran for an amazing eight weeks. Over the past five weeks, we have explored many aspects of this watershed event. For previous topics, click here. Our sixth post in the series features a Tale of Two Tents.

Exterior of tent in Los Angeles, 1949. The flags on the side were to keep the weather controlled. At first, the weather was unusually cold for that time of year, causing the committee to consider ending the Crusade at the originally scheduled end date. However, on October 16th, after much prayer from Billy and his team praying to receive a confirmation from God to continue, the tent became very warm. The order was then given by Billy to lift the flags.

A Tale of Two Tents

When it comes to Billy Graham’s 1949 Los Angeles Crusade, many have heard of the big tent at the corner of Washington and Hill Street in downtown L.A. They have heard how newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst sent his immortalized telegram to his affiliates across the country: “Puff Graham,” which is said to have launched Graham’s ministry into the public eye.

But fewer people know about the adjacent little tent — the prayer tent where Christians poured their hearts out in prayer for the people of Los Angeles. Cliff Barrows, who worked side by side with Billy Graham for 60 years, remembers the prayer tent well, with its wood-slatted folding chairs and floor covered with wood shavings. He recalled that some people spent the whole night praying in that tent, and many people felt it was their ministry to pray in the little tent during the service.

“From a secular point of view,” Barrows said, “the words ‘Puff Graham’ to the media might have been very significant, and many give that message the credit for the national publicity. But I believe it was the prayers of the people that God honored.”

Barrows continued, “The Bible says, ‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land’ (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV). We give a lot of credit to the media and to the promotion, and it’s important to get the attention of the public. But it’s the prayer burden of God’s people that He honors.”

Pamphlet of the meetings at the 1949 LA Crusade.

Using his imagination to momentarily step back into that tent, Barrows recalled the days of the 1949 Crusade. “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of,” he wistfully quoted Alfred Lord Tennyson.

“People wept. They poured their hearts out to God. Oftentimes the tears would go down into the wood shavings. The prayer tent became a hallowed place. I often said that what happened in the big tent was governed by what took place in the little tent. It blessed my heart to go in there and kneel with them in prayer.”

An interior shot of the tent. Originally, the big tent had a capacity of 6,000 seats, but it eventually grew to 7,000 seats, along with the added crowds that would often roam outside.

God faithfully answered prayers during the 1949 Los Angeles Crusade, and continues to do so today.

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