Bush opens up on Billy Graham, prayer
December 14th, 2010
02:00 PM ET

Bush opens up on Billy Graham, prayer

Former President George W. Bush has given plenty of interviews around the release of his new book "Decision Points," but the one airing today on the radio show Focus on the Family is different. In it, Bush - one of the most openly religious presidents in recent history - speaks freely about such faith-related issues as how his mother’s miscarriage shaped his opposition to abortion and how the Rev. Billy Graham helped him to quit drinking and led him to Jesus.

The Graham story was a mainstay of Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign, when Bush strenuously courted evangelical leaders and voters.  These days, Bush is dishing out details of his experience with Graham, like how the future president was actually drunk when the two met at George H.W. Bush’s compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. The story is also in the book and in an interview with Focus on the Family he provides further details.

Here's what the younger Bush tells Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, an influential evangelical group:

My dad invited Billy Graham up there and rather than have a meeting with Billy alone, our big family came to hear Billy, which was so generous of my dad.

And Billy was answering questions, which was unbelievably exciting. My problem was… I probably had about four beers and five wines. I don’t know, but I (was) kinda listening to Billy through the haze of alcohol. Anyway, the next day... Billy and I are walking… (in) Mother and Dad’s beautiful yard there in Maine. And we started talking about religion. And I was obviously looking, yearning for something different with my life.

And Billy sent me a Bible and I started reading the Bible. But it took awhile to fully understand that religion is not a course in self-improvement. That religion is a surrender… that you allow the living God into your life by surrendering to that living God. And then, you… improve to please God, not please yourself.

And that’s hard for a lot of people to understand. As a matter of fact, I believe the acceptance of Christ is incredibly difficult - because you got an ego that gets in the way. Faith in itself is difficult, particularly if you have a logical mind. And therefore, it… the acceptance of Christ is a walk, is a journey... In my case, it required discipline and "focus," to use a word that you’re used to.

Elsewhere in his Focus on the Family interview, Bush talks about prayer:

Prayer meant a lot to me. I pray daily. And… was made aware of the fact that people prayed for me. And frankly, the prayers of people affected me. I could - this is one of those statements that’s hard to prove. I can just tell you, amazingly enough, the White House, the West Wing was a joyous place. … And in spite of the trauma and all the pressure, we were joyous. And I can only ascribe that to the prayer - prayers of people and answered prayer. And it was - it’s a remarkable gift that the American people give to the president and his family and that is prayer.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Politics

soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Jesus M.Burgos

    JS I Agree can't these lefties learn about what happoned to their hero Bill Clinton he was attacked badly by the right wing media they even gave a movie about the hunting of the president this movies even accuses the right wing media of trying to destroy clinton presidency and yet these lefties took the same page from the righties and attacked bush much worse than what the righties did to Clinton .If we should Disagree we should do it honorable but not to the point you should hate the guy Reagan invaded greneda they even called for his impeachment yet he turned out to a great president I know that history will vindicate Bush they will not be pressured by the media but by their consensence the left said bush was going to lose the 2004 election but yet he won in 2007 they said he was going to be impeached yet he stayed in office you see what I mean that Bush will be vindicated the left do not own history nor do they speak for it.

    February 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  2. Iqbal khan

    How would he plead on the day of judgement for all the innocent lives lost because of his ego and evil actions?

    December 17, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
    • sj

      He will plead what all must plea, Jesus paid it all!

      September 19, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  3. JS

    Reading a few of these comments causes me to wonder where the concern is over "hate speech." Ugly comments aren't helpful in solving anything. We need more civil disagreement in this great nation, regardless of the viewpoint. That's one of the points that President Bush made in the Focus on the Family broadcast. There is a God who cares. But He also allows man a freewill, and He doesn't force Himself on others. It's a given that many reject the one who created them. Let's hope there are enough of us flawed individuals praying to God, that he does not remove His hand from the US altogether.

    December 15, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
    • Lorraine

      Wonderfully said, JS. God bless you!

      December 15, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
  4. CW

    Its wonderful to hear that Bush accepted Jesus...period. As far as his presidency...yes he wasn't perfect but our newest president isn't either...he's very backwards on christian beliefs. He's backwards and won't even come out and say...."yes I'm a follower of God"....what a coward.

    Obam-a is....and these are the biggest one's I have the most problem with.
    1.Pro choice – wrong in christian beliefs
    2. Pro Ga-y agenda – This is very wrong in the christian beliefs

    If Obama will come out and say what his beliefs are and live by them....then at least I'll know that he isn't just dodging things so he'll get reelected....which my hope is he won't.

    December 15, 2010 at 11:23 am |
    • NoExcuses

      @CW .....First of all, president Obama has said that he believes Christ died for his sins and has confessed this publicly. what more do YOU require...who are YOU to judge anyone. Are you saved? are you not fornicating, lying(even white lies are a sin), stealing, etc..God's word says that if we transgress one part of his law we transgress all. The bible said ye shall know them by their fruit. I can't judge GW or Obama's heart. How do we know billy graham is living a holy life. Now if you want to talk about fruit...Bush(wars, deceit, greed, etc...) But yet people like you choose to try to say who is saved and who is not. The truth is we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. not whether you are a republican or democrat my brother. The standard is Holiness. Which both parties fall short of.

      December 22, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
  5. David Johnson

    Ummm... I only would like to see Obama give up cigarettes, because it is bad for his health. As for Bill Clinton...Dude! every man should have been able to understand. You see the stain on that dress? If I was Bill, I would have hung that from a White House window! I would have done all my speeches with that dress as a backdrop.

    At any rate, Happy Holidays to you!

    December 15, 2010 at 7:47 am |
    • Frogist

      It's so trite that a matter of se-x is something that people get so worked up about. I still fail to see how doing Monica was detrimental to the country.
      As for Dubya, geez, where do we even start with him? Glad he's gone, but really sad that people want another of him back in office but wearing a skirt and glasses. You betcha!

      December 15, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
    • Lorraine

      I hope and pray God blesses you with a forgiving heart.

      December 15, 2010 at 5:12 pm |
  6. Mark from Middle River

    Geez, seems that Obama can not even quit smoking. Clinton could not keep from Monica ....

    I wonder, these folks that are presidents ....aren't they supposed to be ..umm... Human?

    Good grief

    December 15, 2010 at 1:32 am |
  7. Danny Hilbert

    Religion became a good excuse that Bush used to explain his abstinence from alcohol. It is a filthy little lie like all the other filthy little lies he has told. Laura had had enough of his late night binges and she gave him an ultimatum. He either quits drinking or she'll take the kids and move out.

    December 15, 2010 at 12:46 am |
    • sj

      It is amazing how you know what Laura said. Obvious you do not know what it is like to be saved by Jesus Christ.

      September 19, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  8. Reality

    GB and other presidents and Congress's/our War on Terror:- a synopsis:

    -Operation Iraqi Freedom- The 24/7 Sunni-Shiite centuries-old blood feud currently being carried out in Iraq, US Troops killed in action, 3,481 and 924 died in non-combat, 97,172 – 106,047 Iraqi civilians killed as of 8/10/2010 mostly due the Shiite and Sunni suicide bombers.

    – Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan: US troops 1,116 killed in action, 902 killed in non-combat situations as of 08/10/2010. Over 40,000 Afghan civilians killed due to the dark-age, koranic-driven Taliban acts of horror,

    – Sa-dd-am, his sons and major he-nchmen have been deleted. Sa-dd-am's bravado about WMD was one of his major mistakes. Kuwait was saved.

    – Iran is being been contained. (beside containing the Sunni-Shiite civil war in Baghdad, that is the main reason we are in Iraq. And yes, essential oil continues to flow from the region.)

    – Libya has become almost civil. Recently Libya agreed to pay $1.5 billion to the victims of their terrorist activities. Apparently this new reality from an Islamic country has upset OBL and his “cra-zies” as they have thre-atened Libya. OBL sure is a di-sgrace to the world especially the Moslem world!!! Or is he???

    – North Korea is still u-ncivil but is contained.

    – Northern Ireland is finally at peace.

    – The Jews and Palestinians are being separated by walls. Hopefully the walls will follow the 1948 UN accords. Unfortunately the Annapolis Peace Conference was not successful. And unfortunately the recent events in Gaza has put this situation back to “squ-are one”. And this significant stupidity is driven by the mythical foundations of both religions!!!

    – Bin La-d-en has been cornered under a rock in Western Pakistan since 9/11.

    – Fa-na–tical Islam has basically been contained to the Middle East but a wall between India and Pakistan would be a plus for world peace. Ditto for a wall between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    – Timothy McVeigh was exe-cuted. Terry Nichols will follow soon.

    – Eric Ru-dolph is spending three life terms in pri-son with no par-ole.

    – Jim Jones, David Koresh, Kaczynski, the "nuns" from Rwanda, and the KKK were all dealt with and either eliminated themselves or are being punished.

    – Islamic Sudan, Dar-fur and So-malia are still terror hot spots.

    – The terror and tor-ture of Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo and Kuwait were ended by the proper application of the military forces of the USA and her freedom-loving friends. Ra-dovan Karadzic was finally captured on 7/23/08 and is charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the law of war – charges related to the 1992-1995 civil war that followed Bosnia-Herzegovina's secession from Yugoslavia.

    – And of course the bloody terror brought about by the Ja-panese, Na-zis and Co-mmunists was with great difficulty eliminated by the good guys.

    December 14, 2010 at 11:55 pm |
  9. John Lane

    Nasty comments about a brother in Christ. I will bite my tongue. Hate speech in a Christian blog is ......

    December 14, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
  10. Amalia Sheran Sharm

    She miscarried the wrong one.

    December 14, 2010 at 9:31 pm |
  11. sandra steelman

    He was my President. I think he was very misunderstood and everyone for some reason wanted to twist his goodness into something bad. A bunch of idiots in my opinion!!

    December 14, 2010 at 6:34 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @sandra steelman

      Idiot Bush attacked a country who never did anything to us. His 2 wars and massive tax cuts etc. ruined the economy.

      Bush was/is an idiot. Not even god can heal him of it.


      December 15, 2010 at 7:51 am |
    • Frogist

      @David Johnson:
      "not even god can heal him of it"
      Or us...

      December 15, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
  12. GSA

    I love GW. No comedian could be this good at making me laugh time and again. I can't even look at the picture of him without cracking up, haha. I think if Michael Scott from the Office could become president it would be cery similar to good 'ol dubya.

    December 14, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
  13. Bob

    I bet God is tired of hearing the following prayer:

    "Oh heavenly father, I pray to your godnificience. Please bring me a new puppy and a bone for my mission has been accomplished in the white house and I'm so very lonely. Also, I want pancakes tomorrow for breakfast. Tell Laura."

    December 14, 2010 at 3:44 pm |
    • Frogist

      ROTFL @ Bob

      December 14, 2010 at 4:16 pm |
  14. David Johnson

    Let's see... 2 wars and a ruined economy...Oh yeah, there is a god. LOL

    December 14, 2010 at 2:58 pm |
    • Dindy.....

      God answer to people who seek his kingdom first day and night.

      December 14, 2010 at 6:07 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Bush from article: "Prayer meant a lot to me. I pray daily. And… was made aware of the fact that people prayed for me. "

      All this prayer and Bush still almost destroyed the country.

      There were/are insane people who prayed for Obama to die. Prayed for him to die!!

      Religion makes people delusional.

      My fundies! What more proof do you need that prayer does not work? And aren't we lucky it doesn't?

      Give up your silly beliefs, people!

      Love and Prayers!

      December 15, 2010 at 7:38 am |
    • Lorraine

      Your hate for former President Bush sticks out like a sore thumb. I pray God will give you a forgiving heart for him. He has accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior. If you haven't already, I hope and pray one day you will too.

      December 15, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
    • Lorraine

      May God bless you with a forgiving heart.

      December 15, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
  15. ScottK

    "Faith in itself is difficult, particularly if you have a logical mind." Well, I guess Bush had no problems then...

    "it’s a remarkable gift that the American people give to the president and his family and that is prayer." Im not sure if most of the prayers they received were what he was looking for. I know many who were praying that the war wouldnt start and many more who prayed the war would end soon or that their loved one overseas would survive. I guess George decided not to hear those prayers.

    December 14, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
    • Lorraine

      Your hate for former President Bush sticks out like a sore thumb. I pray God will give you a forgiving heart for him. He has accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior. If you haven't already, I hope and pray one day you will too.

      December 15, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.