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from the Billy Graham Library

Memorable Moments in Presidential Inauguration History

January 20, 2021


Full width picture of Billy Graham quote: It is a great privilege, as well as our responsibility, to pray for our government leaders.

As the nation prepares for the inauguration of our 46th president of the United States, Joseph R. Biden, take a walk with us as we look at some memorable inaugurations where Billy Graham or Franklin Graham delivered the invocation.

Jan. 20, 1989, Billy Graham delivers the invocation at the inauguration of George H.W. Bush.

Full size image of Billy Graham delivering invocation in 1989.“Give him a cool head and a warm heart. Give him a compassion for those in physical, moral and spiritual need. O God, we consecrate today George Herbert Walker Bush to the presidency of these United States with the assurance that from this hour on, as he and his family move into the White House, they will have the presence and power of the One who said, ‘I will never leave thee or forsake thee.’ [Hebrews 13:5]

We pray that the spiritual tide that many of us have sensed running in this nation may continue. As we read our papers and watch our television screens, it seems that evil is getting worse. But we thank Thee for the millions of people that pray daily, go to church and synagogue…and have thousands of prayer groups and Bible study groups around the country. We believe that “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it [Psalms 118:24].”

Jan. 20, 1993, Billy Graham delivers the invocation at the inauguration of Bill Clinton.

Full size image of Billy Graham delivering invocation in 1993.

“And now, on this twentieth day of January, 1993, we commit to you President-elect Clinton and Vice-President-elect Gore, who you have permitted to take leadership at this critical time in our nation’s history. Help them always to see the office to which they’ve been elected as a sacred trust from you. We pray that you will bless their wives who will share so much of the responsibility and burdens. Make President-elect Clinton know that he is never really alone but that the eternal God can be his refuge and he can turn to you in every circumstance. Give him the wisdom you’ve promised to who ask and the strength that you alone can give.”

Jan. 20, 1997, Billy Graham delivers the invocation at the inauguration of Bill Clinton’s second term.

Full size image of Billy Graham delivering the invocation in 1997.“Give to all our leaders the vision of what You desire America to become, and the wisdom to accomplish it, and the strength to cross the bridges into the 21st Century.

We pray also for the members of the House and the Senate; for the Supreme Court; and for all who bear responsibility of leadership in this nation which is blessed with such ethnic diversity.

We have not solved all the social problems of our time, such as drugs and racism. Technology and social engineering have not solved the basic problems of human greed, pride, intolerance, and selfishness. We need Your insight, we need Your compassion, we need Your strength.

As both President Clinton and Senator Dole urged us in the recent presidential campaign, may this be a time of coming together to help us deal with the problems we face. O Lord, help us to be reconciled first to you and secondly to each other. May Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream finally come true for all of us. Help us to learn our courtesy to our fellow countryman that comes from the One who taught us that ‘whatever you want me to do to you, do also to them.’

Remind us today that You have shown us what is good, and what You require of us: To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.”

Jan. 20, 2001, Franklin Graham delivers the invocation at the inauguration of George W. Bush.

Full size image of Franklin Graham delivering the invocation in 2001.

“As President Lincoln once said, ‘We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.’

O Lord, as we come together on this historic and solemn occasion to inaugurate once again a president and vice president, teach us afresh that power, wisdom and salvation come only from your hand.

Give our new president and all who advise him calmness in the face of storms, encouragement in the face of frustration, and humility in the face of success. Give them the wisdom to know and to do what is right and the courage to say no to all that is contrary to your statutes of holy law.”


Jan. 20, 2017, Franklin Graham reads from 1 Timothy at the inauguration of Donald J. Trump.

Full size image of Franklin Graham as he reads 1st Timothy at the inauguration in 2017.

“Mr. President, in the Bible, rain is a sign of God’s blessing,” Franklin Graham said. “And it started to rain, Mr. President, when you came to the platform. And it’s my prayer that God will bless you, your family, your administration, and may He bless America.”

Franklin continued by reading from the New Testament of the Bible, in the book of 1 Timothy.

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings for all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus who gave himself as a ransom for all people … (1 Timothy 2:1-6)

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever (1 Timothy 1:17).

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Other Involvement with Inaugurations

Beginning with his attendance at President Eisenhower’s inauguration in 1953, Billy Graham participated in swearing-in ceremonies and prayer and worship services for a total of seven inaugurations for both Democratic and Republican presidents, including Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush and Clinton.

In addition, the evangelist attended President Johnson’s inauguration and preached at a special inaugural service at National City Christian Church in 1965; attended President Nixon’s second inauguration and preached at a special White House worship service in 1973; and attended both of President Reagan’s inaugurations, offering a prayer and a homily at a private inaugural service in 1981 and preaching at an inaugural prayer service at Washington National Cathedral in 1985.

 

Please join us in committing to pray for our nation and its leaders this year. If you’d like additional resources on praying for our leaders, click here.