The prayer that caused a storm

In January of 1996, Pastor Joe Wright, senior pastor of the 2,500-member Central Christian Church in Wichita, was invited to deliver the opening prayer at a session of the Kansas House of Representatives. He offered the following “Prayer of Repentance” (which was not entirely of his crafting but rather was a version of a prayer written in 1995 by Bob Russell, who had offered it at the Kentucky Governor’s Prayer Breakfast in Frankfort). This prayer caused an upheaval, but why? Before we answer that, let’s look at this prayer for righteousness.

"Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and seek your direction and guidance.
We know your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good,” but that’s exactly what we’ve done.
We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values.
We confess that we have ridiculed the absolute truth of your Word and called it moral pluralism.
We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism.
We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it choice.
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building esteem.
We have abused power and called it political savvy.
We have coveted our neighbors’ possessions and called it ambition.
We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.
We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.
Search us O God and know our hearts today; try us and see if there be some wicked way in us; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.
Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of Kansas, and who have been ordained by you, to govern this great state.
Grant them your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of your will. I ask it in the name of your son, the living savior, Jesus Christ.
Amen."

For a Godly individual, this sounds like a robust foundational prayer for our nation. Pastor Wright read the prayer at the opening of the legislature on January 23, 1996, and then departed and went about his day. Like most Pastors, he was unaware of the ruckus he had created from this prayer until his church secretary called him to ask him what he had done.

Reportedly, Democrats were upset. Some walked out of the House in protest, and some called Wright's prayer a "message of intolerance." The bottom line was this prayer started a firing debate of injustice.

Pastor Wright was reported as saying, "I certainly did not mean to be offensive to individuals, but I don't apologize for the truth."  Many of his staff reported that his staff stopped counting the telephone calls about the prayer from every state and many foreign countries. The Pastor appeared on radio shows, television, and printed news reports in the aftermath of his appearance at the Kansas House of Representatives. His prayer stirred up controversy for months to come. Pastor Wright later explained, "I was talking to God, not them."

So why all the ruckus? The answer is that this prayer triggered personal sin in those hearing it. God's word is sure and final. Humankind will debate and do what is right in their own eyes and depart from the divine truth.

Can you believe that the event was in 1996? How much more significant is this prayer today? The growth of unrighteousness in our nation must be addressed through prayer. Great prayers can only come from those who truly worship Jesus Christ and hold to His foundation for good. What will you pray in the next few weeks for our nation? As the election intensifies, people will grow more and more angry and divided. How will you stand for righteousness in a culture of unrighteousness? Pray with boldness because you are talking to God, not them.

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