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Prayer for Our Nation

Claim:   E-mail reproduces a "Prayer for Our Nation" delivered by the Rev. Billy Graham.
INCORRECTLY ATTRIBUTED

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, November 2008]

Billy Graham's Prayer For Our Nation

THIS MAN SURE HAS A GOOD VIEW OF WHAT'S HAPPENING TO OUR COUNTRY!

"Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says 'Woe to those who call evil good,' but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We confess that.

We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it Pluralism.

We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism.

We have endorsed perversion and called it alternative lifestyle.

We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.

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 self-esteem.

We have abused power and called it politics.

We have coveted our neighbor's 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, Oh, God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent to direct us to the center of Your will, to open ask it in the name of Your Son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen"

Commentator Paul Harvey aired this prayer on "The Rest of the Story" on the radio and received a larger response to this program than any other he has ever aired.

With the Lord's help, may this prayer sweep over our nation and wholeheartedly become our desire so that we again can be called one nation under God.
 

Origins:   The "Prayer for Our Nation" piece reproduced above has in recent years come to be attributed to venerable evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham, and before that it was circulated as "Paul Harvey's Prayer" (or "Paul Harvey's On Air Prayer"). However, it was neither written nor first presented by either of those men.

This prayer burst into the public consciousness back in January of 1996, when the Rev. 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. On that occasion he offered the following "Prayer of Repentance" (which was not entirely of his own 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):

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.
 

Rev. Wright had been invited to serve as the Kansas House's guest chaplain by Rep. Anthony Powell, a Wichita Republican who was also a member of Wright's church. Accordingly, Rev. Wright read the prayer at the opening of the legislature on 23 January 1996 and then departed, unaware of the ruckus he had created until his church secretary called him on his car phone to ask him what he had
done.

Reportedly, one Democrat walked out of the House in protest, three others gave speeches critical of Wright's prayer, and another blasted Wright's "message of intolerance." House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer (also a Democrat) asserted that the prayer "reflects the extreme, radical views that continue to dominate the House Republican agenda since right-wing extremists seized control of the House Republican caucus last year." Rep. Jim Long, a Democrat from Kansas City, said that Wright "made everyone mad." But Rep. Powell, who had invited Wright in the first place, claimed that House Democrats were only trying to make political points with their criticism and affirmed that he supported the theme of the prayer.

Rev. Wright said afterwards: "I certainly did not mean to be offensive to individuals, but I don't apologize for the truth." His staff stopped counting the telephone calls about the prayer that came in from every state and many foreign countries after the first 6,500 or so. Wright appeared on dozens of radio shows and was the subject of numerous television and print news reports in the aftermath of his appearance at the Kansas House of Representatives, and his prayer stirred up controversy all over again when it was read by the chaplain coordinator in the Nebraska legislature the following month. Wright later explained: "I thought I might get a call from an angry congressman or two, but I was talking to God, not them. The whole point was to say that we all have sins that we need to repent — all of us ... The problem, I guess, is that you're not supposed to get too specific when you're talking about sin."

What to make of all the fuss? Syndicated religion columnist Terry Mattingly probably explained it best when he wrote: "The easy answer is that he read a prayer about sin. The complicated answer is that Wright jumped into America's tense debate about whether some things are always right and some things are always wrong."

Additional information:
    Joe Wright Joe Wright   (Central Christian Church)
Last updated:   13 November 2008

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Sources:

    Dvorak, John A. and John Petterson.   "Chaplain's Prayer Irks Some Lawmakers."
    The Kansas City Star.   24 January 1996   (p. C1).

    Hord, Bill.   "'Inflammatory' Words Draw Chambers' Ire."
    Omaha World Herald.   23 May 1996   (p. 2).

    Mattingly, Terry.   "Prayer with Political Edge Still Resounds in Kansas."
    Denver Rocky Mountain News.   8 June 1996   (p. D8).