CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Billy Graham’s work as a pastor to presidents is coming to an end, but he is praying for Barack Obama as the nation’s next leader begins his work, Graham’s son said Friday on the ailing evangelist’s 90th birthday.

Franklin Graham said in an interview that his father’s mind remains sharp even as his body continues to fail. But the preacher who has counseled every president beginning with Eisenhower is not in line to mentor Obama.

“My father feels like his time and day for that is over,” Franklin Graham said. “But he would certainly like to meet (Obama) and pray with him.”

Graham’s views of the world are still respected in White House circles. Republican presidential candidate John McCain visited Graham at his mountainside home during the campaign, and Obama tried to meet Graham but wasn’t able to do so because of the preacher’s poor health.

Though never partisan in his preaching, Billy Graham is a registered Democrat. His son expressed concern about Obama’s views on abortion and gay marriage – an issue Franklin Graham raised in a meeting with the Illinois senator – saying that he and is father are conservatives who believe the Bible speaks clearly on those issues.

“President-elect Obama heard our position,” Franklin Graham said. “And I told him that this was very difficult for us and hard for us. It’s a moral issue that we just can’t back down on.”

“But he’s our president-elect, and those positions that he holds that are contrary to Biblical teaching, I hope that God will change his heart,” said Graham, who now heads the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Obama favors abortion rights, and does not support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marrage. He supports civil unions and believes states should decide their own laws about marriage.

About 160 of Graham’s close family and friends celebrated his birthday with an intimate gathering Friday at his home in Montreat, featuring fried chicken, barbecue and sweet tea. His ministry had received some 100,000 greetings – including a video from President Bush – from people who told stories about how he changed their lives. Graham’s son said they would be bound so that someone could read a few dozen letters to him each day.

Encouragement is partly what Graham needs. He still struggles with the loss of his wife, Ruth, who died last year, and Frankin Graham notes his father has said he has more friends in heaven than on earth.

An avid consumer of news, Billy Graham still listens to television – he has macular degeneration and has can’t read more than the headlines of a newspaper – and follows the events of the day. He spends much of his day napping and resting, and Franklin visits on Sundays to try and coax him to make the 100-yard walk to the barn next to the mountainside home in Montreat.

Graham’s health is fragile. He was hospitalized overnight last month after falling over his dog while trying to pet it. Graham was hospitalized last year for nearly two weeks after experiencing intestinal bleeding, and he has also had prostate cancer. But Graham has still outlived doctors’ expectations and some of the doctors themselves.

His days at 90 are a stark contrast to Graham’s days as a globe-trotting evangelist – a ministry that put him behind the pulpit to speak with 215 million people in more than 185 countries and placed him in the confidence of some of the world’s most powerful people.

Graham still writes and remains engaged in the planning and direction of the ministry he founded. This week, his booming voice will once again cross borders as a message dubbed in Portuguese will be broadcast in Brazil as part of an effort to bring some 1 million new believes into the fold this weekend.

Privately, he has been working on a book about aging, trying to put his late-life lessons into context for those soon to follow him.

“He’s always been ready to die,” Franklin Graham said. “But nobody’s prepared him for getting old.”

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