WASHINGTON (RNS) Author and speaker Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of evangelist Billy Graham, has been named chair of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.
The announcement on Thursday (May 5) means that three of the most well-known evangelical women will have led the organization, which promotes the annual event.
Lotz follows Shirley Dobson, who served in the role for 25 years, and the late Vonette Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru) with her late husband, Bill Bright.
“I feel very burdened to get people on their knees and to pray for our nation,” Lotz said at the Capitol Hill event marking the annual prayer day. “I have a burning in my heart to get people to pray.”
Lotz, 67, author of the new book, “The Daniel Prayer,” talked with Religion News Service about her faith and her family, including the recent loss of her husband of almost 50 years.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Do you see you and your brother, Franklin Graham, as having a different emphasis on prayer for the nation ahead of the upcoming election?
A: I think he will say that he believes prayer is what will make the difference. I think he has more confidence in the political system than I do. Maybe confidence isn’t the right word, but more hope. I feel like we’re past that.
What we’re seeing right now, I believe, in our nation is confusion, fear, anger on every level. It really is evidence that God is backing way. We’re losing his favor, his blessing, and that is what grieves me, and the answer to that, if that’s so, is not a political solution, it’s not economics or military or education. The answer is — Joel 2 in the Bible says — to rend our hearts and return to God and cry out to him for his mercy. I think that’s where we are.
Q: Your husband of 49 years, Danny Lotz, died last August. How has your faith been affected by that?
A: It’s stronger. I love the Lord more, closer to him. I got married at 18. Danny’s been the center of my life since I was 17. So I’m single for the first time in 49 years and it’s very different. In fact, it’s made me aware of single people because you’re not alone but you’re on your own. So what that’s caused me to do is just lean harder on the Lord.
My husband was in such poor health; it’s a blessing for him. We miss him, my children, we just grieve together. But as soon as the pain hits us we have to say, “Thank you, Lord,” because my husband is delivered from such a difficult situation. He was very tired. He wanted to go to heaven.
Q: You call for prayers of confession, saying Christians are often “practical atheists who say we believe in God but act and speak as though he doesn’t exist.” Do you think the church is pushing people away instead of drawing them in?
A: Yes and no. I think sometimes our churches turn people away because we seem so self-righteous and judgmental and yet they see some of us doing what they’re doing, but we go to church. I think others want to be so inclusive that they’re saying anything goes and they’ve departed from the truth of Scripture and they’re compromised, and so I think the church needs revival. I’ll pull it back to election year: Evangelicals are described not by the love we have for each other or the love we have for others. We’re described as a voting bloc. That grieves me that we would be known by our politics more than our identity with Jesus.
Q: How is your father doing?
A: I was just up there two weekends ago. He had on this gorgeous robin’s egg blue shirt and his eyes matched, and he still has his thick white hair. He knew who I was even when I walked in and called me by name and usually he wears a headset and I talk to him through a microphone because he’s very deaf. But I said, “Daddy, I’m going to give you a kiss” — because I didn’t want to startle him — and he said, “Oh, yes, at least three.” He held out his arms and so I kissed him three times, like you do in Europe. And he’s just precious. My husband wanted to go to heaven. My father seems to be more content. I ask people to pray for him. I know the Lord has just exactly the right moment when he’s going to take him and I think it has to do with probably the world situation. He’s going to use my father’s death to maybe once again preach the gospel to the whole world, or else we’ll all go up together. I’m expecting Jesus any minute.