The US President met with Mr Graham for 35 minutes as Obama ended a brief vacation in nearby Asheville, and then prepared to depart for a solemn memorial service in West Virginia on behalf of the 29 miners who died when an explosion rocked their Upper Big Branch mine on April 5.
Graham issued a statement after the meeting in which he said, “I am pleased to have had President Obama in my home this afternoon. He requested a meeting since he was spending the weekend nearby in Asheville. My son Franklin and I enjoyed a brief visit with the President, followed by a time of prayer together."
Mr Graham added: “As we approach the National Day of Prayer on May 6, I want to encourage Christians everywhere to pray for our President, and for all those in positions of authority, and especially for the men and women serving in our military.”
Billy Graham with former presidents, George H W Bush, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, during a dedication for the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Thursday, May 31, 2007.
A. Larry Ross, who has served as director of media/public relations for Billy Graham since 1981, told ANS, “Aside from this being the first visit between the two men, President Barack Obama is the first sitting president to visit the Graham home.
“When the President reached out upon arrival in Asheville as part of the process to connect in-person that began in the fall of 2008 and was continued during his birthday call to the evangelist last November, Mr Graham invited the President up for coffee, and presumably a time of fellowship, spiritual discussion and prayer together.”
President Obama is the twelfth President that Mr Graham has known personally during his public ministry, during which media reports have often included reference to him as “Pastor to Presidents”.
Ross went on to tell ANS, “This meeting bookends a unique ministry influence, spanning many decades, as the first -- President Truman -- and now the most recent -- President Obama – were in the White House when they first met. Mr Graham knew all of the others long before they got into national office.
“The 35-minute meeting this afternoon between President Obama and evangelist Billy Graham went very well. Mr Graham was honoured that the President would travel to meet him for an historic first-ever visit by a sitting president in his home, which reflected a cordial, gracious conversation together, along with the evangelist’s son, Franklin.
“Over coffee, the two men discussed a variety of topics, including their wives, and love for and similar experiences with golf and Chicago -- where the President started his career -- and Mr Graham attended school and has had several significant crusades.
“Like others before him, President Obama shared how lonely, demanding and humbling the office of President can be, and how much he appreciated the counsel of people like Mr Graham and the prayers of so many citizens.”
During the visit, Mr Graham presented the President with two Bibles - one for him, and other for the First Lady - after which the President prayed for Mr Graham, who, in turn, concluded with a prayer for the President, his family and his Administration.”