When Anne Graham Lotz was about a year old, her dad, 30-year-old North Carolina-born preacher Billy Graham, set up a revival tent in Los Angeles. The city was soon buzzing about the Gospel changing many lives, including Billy’s. Impacting nations for Christ became his destiny.
Billy delivered a simple salvation message to poor and wealthy alike: Surrender all to Jesus—only His blood can wash away sins and give the gift of eternal life (John 3:16). Billy experienced it himself when he was radically saved at age 17.
Before Anne’s third birthday, Billy was invited to the White House. Since then he's known every American president, and served as an adviser to several. The Pope and heads of countries have also welcomed him. He preached worldwide to millions, worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. to end segregation and took his Christian message to soldiers in times of war.
Anne’s daddy, as she still calls him, became one of the most famous men in the world and the very public head of a Christian media empire that included television and radio shows, a syndicated newspaper column, film production and book and magazine publishing. He was named one of the Ten Most Admired Men in the World over 50 times, according to the Gallup Poll.
For many famous families of faith, public interest brings attention to the message of Christ, but it also brings personal trouble and heavy scrutiny. If sin or human frailty is revealed, the press has a field day as the mighty fall. But spiritual roots in the Graham household went deep and self-sacrifice ruled the day, rather than self-glory.
Ruth Graham, Anne’s mother, accepted the call to stay home and raise the children, often alone for months at a time while crusades called Billy away. She was the quiet rock who raised their five kids according to God's precepts.
“My mother was the one who had devotions with us every day and the one who prayed at night when she tucked us in bed. So she had more of that personal touch, you could say,” Anne says.
With this background, Anne heard the Gospel. But it was up to her to make her own decision to follow Christ.
A YOUNG HEART
It was Good Friday and Anne, about 8, sat alone watching an old black-and-white movie, King of Kings, about Jesus and the events leading up to the Resurrection. Though the picture quality was poor, Anne had no trouble following the story of Jesus’ ministry, trials, death and ultimate victory over death.
As the last scene closed, Anne pondered the meaning of the Crucifixion. In those moments, she felt a stirring and responded.
“I told God I was sorry for my sins,” she recalls. “I asked Him to forgive me; asked Jesus to be my Savior and come into my heart. And I believe He did that back when I was a girl. I was born again into God’s family.
“I read the Bible all the way through that year and fell in love with the Scriptures. That began my lifetime love affair with the Bible,” she says.
At 16, Anne realized a profound truth that she hadn’t fully appreciated before: Someday, she would stand alone before God to account for her life.
Anne says, “Up until then I had thought, Well I’ll just tell God who my daddy is, who my mother is, you know, and He’ll give me credit for the family I’m in. And it occurred to me that when I stood before God, that wasn’t going to be the case. I would have to account to Him for my life and the way I had lived it. And so I surrendered.
“I knew it was sort of an all-or-nothing decision. Though I was only 16, I knew I would never be satisfied—and to this day I’m not satisfied—to be a mediocre Christian. I don’t want to be somebody who is saved but just squeaks in the door of Heaven. I want an abundant entrance into Heaven. I want to receive God’s pleasure, His ‘Well-done!’ I want my life to count.”
A MOTHER'S HEART
At 18, Anne married Daniel Lotz. Two years later they had their first child, followed by two more soon after. Managing a home, a new marriage and three little kids left Anne exhausted.
“Because of the busyness of being a young wife and mom and because I went through some infertility issues and other things, I felt I had drifted from God. At 26, I knew that I was slipping and I was crying out to God, but I couldn’t [connect]. To tell you the truth, I was just too tired to keep up with prayer and Bible reading.”
But instead of taking time off from her relationship with God, she leaned into Him for strength and advice. God’s answer: Start a Bible study.
Soon, she launched a Raleigh, North Carolina, chapter of the Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), a national organization of Bible groups. The response was overwhelming, as 500 women attended the first class.
“I taught every week for 12 years and I never missed a class. When I started, my son went into first grade and when I finished he graduated from high school,” she says.
Her father says Anne is “the best preacher in the family,” but she believes her richest gift is as a Bible teacher. Certainly, she shares the Gospel of salvation wherever she goes. But the Lord has given her a special ability to drill deep into the Word, amplifying its meaning with passion for her audience.
Being the daughter of Billy Graham likely factored into the high number who signed up to hear her teach and preach. But while Anne loves and honors her family, she did not inherit her faith in Jesus. She met Him on her own, building her own relationship with the Lord and pursuing ministry at His calling and direction.
A HEART FOR HIS WORD
One day Anne felt God stop her on a particular Old Testament verse. “In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that the Lord had given him in commandment to them,” Deuteronomy 1:3 ESV.
Instantly, she knew God was calling her to make a change in her ministry on a specific date. So, in the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month—April 1, 1988—she announced she was leaving the BSF group. The next step was launching the ministry she still heads, Angel Ministries. For 12 years, she traveled the world speaking at women’s conferences, church gatherings and whatever opportunities opened up.
“I don’t consider myself just a women’s speaker,” she says. “God has given me a broader ministry than that. I am a woman and I love women but over time I became frustrated. In a lot of cases, women’s conferences were offering something that was experiential, emotional and superficial. I felt women could go deeper than that.”
Anne wanted to make women disciples. She believes women should be students of the Word who share the Gospel and make a difference in the lives of those they know. Jesus wants to do much more with our lives than meeting our needs and making us feel better, she says.
During her study of John’s Gospel, God opened another door. He stirred Anne, giving her a personal revival. From this came a series of “Just Give Me Jesus” revivals for women. For more than a decade, she conducted these revivals in the U.S. and abroad.
“I was trying to wake up the hearts of God’s people. And I felt like if I could do that for women, then they could get to their families, their churches, their places of business. God really blessed that ministry.”
Though she teaches mostly women, Anne says she’s no feminist. She sees herself as called by God to open the Bible to as many people as possible.
“I'm a woman on a journey. I’ve still got my focus on God. I'm still trying to live for an audience of One and the desire of my heart is to bring Him pleasure and to bring Him glory,” she says. “I’m not in ministry to be in ministry, I’m in ministry to follow Him. It’s as simple as that. I want to be where He is, I want to fulfill His purpose for my life.”
A HEART FOR GOD
As her life circumstances change, Anne listens to see if the Lord has something new for her and she responds obediently. “Now God has called me home to take care of my husband,” she says.
Daniel, 78, was a diagnosed as diabetic when he was 50. He has kidney dialysis three times a week, a stent in his heart and he’s blind in one eye.
Anne’s voice rises as she says, “He’s still a very strong Christian. He’s still been leading a Bible study and just two weeks ago he received the highest award that North Carolina gives its citizens,” she says. Then her cadence slows. “He’s in the hospital because of dialysis. Something’s not right—they’re trying to figure out why it’s not doing what it’s supposed to do. I wouldn’t want to leave him there alone overnight.”
There’s also concern about her father. Now 96, Billy has trouble hearing, seeing and walking. But during Anne’s visit in late April, his appetite was good, his vitals strong and he was getting excellent care. She loves him and understands that who he is will always be part of who she is.
“In a sense, I've tried to separate myself from the fact I am Billy Graham’s daughter,” she says. “I am pleased to be his daughter, of course, and I'm honored. I consider it a great responsibility to carry his name, but that’s not my main focus. The name is like an asterisk in my name, but that's not my ministry. My ministry is always God’s word. I will always want to give people Jesus by getting them into the Word of God.”
Life has taken Anne into a quieter corner. But she keeps busy writing. She has written or contributed to more than a dozen books focusing on Heaven, prayer and the devastation of wounds inflicted on Christians by other Christians. She is a student of the Book of Revelation and end-times prophecies of the Bible.
In addition to her concerns about her husband and father, she also has concerns about how dark the world is becoming. She sees one chance at reversing our slide.
Anne says, “I don’t think it’s politics, I don’t think it’s election, I don’t think it’s the economy—it’s God. God holds the answer. And if we turn to Him and He grants us real revival because we repent of our sin, I see hope.”
AMONG ANNE'S FAVORITE VERSES
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 ESV
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13–14
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:12–13
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. John 3:16-17
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. Acts 3:19–20
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. Jude 1:3
“This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11
PASSAGES FROM ANNE
The struggles and hopes of Anne Graham Lotz are clear to see in her writing. Here are a few excerpts from her books.
God can take the ugly stains in our lives, those scars that run deep, and transform them into masterpieces of His grace and mercy that will bless others. It’s time for a makeover. Even now God can turn the ugliness of sin into beauty marks. Just come to Him and ask. Surrender your scars to His gentle touch. from Fixing My Eyes on Jesus: Daily Moments in His Word
God is in the darkness and God is in the wilderness. I now know that by personal experience. from Wounded by God’s People: Discovering How God’s Love Heals Our Hearts
I am deeply motivated to know God. I want to know Him as He truly is, not through the distorted reflection of those who called themselves by His name. And I want to make Him known to others as accurately, winsomely, clearly and compellingly as I can. from Wounded by God’s People: Discovering How God’s Love Heals Our Hearts
Stop resisting Him. Stop resenting Him. Stop complaining. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Stop demanding what you want. Stop focusing on the outer wrappings of yourself and your circumstances. Adjust your attitude. Change your mind about things about yourself, about others and about Him. Relax in total trust. He knows what He’s doing. Unwrap the package! Let go, and look up! Let Him open the eyes of your heart. OPEN YOUR EYES. from Expecting to See Jesus: A Wake-Up Call for God’s People
God’s people don’t always act like God’s people should. from Wounded by God’s People: Discovering How God’s Love Heals Our Hearts
You’ll know your heart’s been set aflame by the fire of revival when nothing else matters to you as much as He does—and your love for Him. from Expecting to See Jesus: A Wake-Up Call for God’s People