Prayer in the Midst of Tragedy

September 20, 2021

Categories: Billy Graham

On September 21, 2001, in a quick response to the crisis of the September 11th attacks, The Billy Graham Prayer Center opened just a few blocks from where the twin towers once stood. So many people were desperate for hope. The prayer center became a place of respite and comfort for months in the midst of a city aching and hurting.

The Billy Graham Prayer Center opened on Sept. 21, 2001

An Idea Grounded in Prayer

When the terrorist attacks happened on the morning of September 11, 2001, repeatedly Billy Graham paused to pray. He prayed for the people of New York and Washington. He prayed for the President (George W. Bush) and other leaders — not only for their safety but for wisdom in the days and months ahead.

“As I watched those shocking events unfold that morning my thoughts inevitably turned to President George W. Bush, the man on whose shoulders would rest the responsibility for meeting the challenge of this brutal act of terrorist aggression,” Billy Graham said.

The vital heartbeat of Mr. Graham — prayer.

There was such confusion and fear in the days, weeks, and months after the September 11th attacks. Were other attacks imminent? Was Washington (or any other major city) really safe?

Several churches reached out to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) for help with their congregations. They didn’t know what to say to those stricken with shock and grief, and suddenly their pews were packed with people looking for answers.

Ground Zero
Franklin Graham in New York City in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

When Franklin Graham visited ground zero a few days later, he noticed there was a need for more chaplains. Franklin initiated opening a prayer center in New York that would be staffed by teams of pastors dedicated to giving New Yorkers spiritual and emotional support in their time of grief. The Billy Graham Prayer Center would lead to the birth of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team.

Two Decades Later

Two decades later, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team has deployed to 23 countries and prayed with more than 570,000 people one-on-one.

With offices in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia, the team now consists of 2,500-plus crisis-trained chaplains. In addition, the team started a law enforcement ministry in 2014, addressing the unique emotional and spiritual needs officers face during officer-involved shootings and other stressful events. The team specifically deploys one of its 400 chaplains with law enforcement backgrounds in times such as these to help relate to fellow officers.

At The Billy Graham Library

At The Billy Graham Library, you can see the letter President George W. Bush wrote to Billy Graham thanking him for speaking at Washington National Cathedral. You can also watch a portion of that speech in the Journey of Faith Tour.

To find out more about Billy Graham’s ministry, make sure to visit the Billy Graham Library. Admission is always free. Plan your visit today at

President George W. Bush sent a thank you letter to Billy Graham for speaking at the National Cathedral

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