Wednesday, August 27, 2008


This event actually happened in the Kansas House (not Senate) in Topeka on January 23, 1996. Joe Wright is the pastor of Central Christian Church in Wichita and was guest chaplain that day. He prayed a prayer of repentance that was written by Bob Russell, pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. According to an article in the Kansas City Star from January 24, 1996, his prayer did stir controversy and one member of the legislative body walked out. Others criticized the prayer. The controversy didn't end there. Later that year in the Colorado House, Republican representative Mark Paschall angered lawmakers by using Joe Wright's prayer as the invocation. Some members there also walked out in protest.

Paul Harvey did air the story and the prayer. He got such a large response that a phone number was set up to handle the calls. He's aired it a couple more times since.

A real example of the story as it has been circulated:

Thought you might enjoy this interesting prayer given in Kansas at the opening session of their Senate. It seems prayer still upsets some people. When Minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate, everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard:

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 what we've done. 
We've lost our Spiritual equilibrium. We've inverted our values. 
We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word in the name of 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 a lottery. We have neglected the needy and called it self preservation. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. In the name of choice, we have killed our unborn. In the name of right to life, we have killed abortionists. 
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it political savvy. We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it taxes. 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. Show us any wickedness within 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 the State of Kansas, and that they have been ordained by You to govern this great state. 
Grant them your wisdom to rule. May their decisions direct us to the center of Your Will. And as we continue our prayer and as we come in out of the fog, give us clear minds to accomplish our goals as we begin this Legislature. For we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
The response was immediate. 

A number of legislators walked out during the prayer in protest. In 6 short weeks, Central Christian Church, where Rev. Wright is pastor, logged more than 5,000 phone calls with only 47 of those calls responding negatively. The church is now receiving international requests for copies of this prayer from India, Africa, and Korea.

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.


rosemarie said...

I tried very hard to find this prayer. I was sure I had a copy of it on my computer. Thanks for posting it.

Dave Algie said...

Steve, this prayer is similar to the Donald Miller prayer in that it is a political statement masquerading as a prayer. "We have sinned by calling laziness welfare." (!)

Political views surrounded by a "Heavenly Father" and finished with a Bible verse thrown in at the end to make it sound as though it is something it is not.

In this way, it seems no less abominable than the Donald Miller prayer.

Blake said...

This isn't the actual text of the prayer. It's an internet forward. Snopes has the actual text. It doesn't differ much, but it does differ. Oh, and I agree with dave algie.

Carla said...

I remember when this happened, and although there are several versions of this prayer, it's a good example (in my opinion) of the kind of plea that most certainly puts God first, and doesn't dance around playing with politically correct terms.

Priorities in this example of prayer, are strikingly different.

Dave Algie said...

It doesn't seem to me, Carla, that Wright's prayer "puts God first." any more than Donald Miller's.

Miller's prayer takes the approach of asking God to help us do "good things". (Insinuating, perhaps,that conservatives don't do those good things.)

Wright's prayer takes the approach of asking God to forgive us for doing "bad things". (Insinuating, perhaps, that it is the liberals among us who do those bad things.)

Both prayers seem to me to be as much about politics and people as about God.

I suspect we are at risk of saying what kind of prayers please God based more on our individual political persuasions rather than a reasoned or even Biblical approach.

Carla said...

Dave said

"Wright's prayer takes the approach of asking God to forgive us for doing "bad things". (Insinuating, perhaps, that it is the liberals among us who do those bad things.)"

If you read it again, you'll note that Wright repeatedly used the word WE, in reference to how sociecty in general has turned away from God's holy standard. He mentioned among the very foundation of turning away the fact that we've "lost our Spiritual equilibrium, inverted our values and have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word". This is most definitely a prayer that reveals genuine concern with doing things God's way, as opposed to doing things society's way.

When I first read this so many years ago (and again yesterday), what I see/hear is a voice speaking for God's standard and rejecting the twisted, messed up values of the world. I see/hear a man who has the courage of his Biblical convictions to publicly speak out against so many of the bankrupt moral issues plaguing society today and a man who knows that it is God that matters first, and God's standard that these moral issues are held up against, and found seriously wanting.

He continues in his prayer to plead with God to search our hearts, try us, show us the error of our ways in this and set us straight.

I definitely see this as a God-centered prayer, placing HIM first, where He should be.

Dave: "I suspect we are at risk of saying what kind of prayers please God based more on our individual political persuasions rather than a reasoned or even Biblical approach."

Political persuasion has nothing to do with this at all, for me. God's standard of living has everything to do with it, and that's the plea I see in this prayer. It doesn't even matter who prayed it, it was spot on in holding up what we've embraced into our culture as "normal" and showing it to be what it is, before a holy God.

Indeed I do find this to be a God honoring prayer, definitely not one that tickles the ears or massages the consciences of men.

That, is the difference.

Mike Ratliff said...

This prayer is a call to repentance. It is asking God for direction in this repentance. I disagree with those who are attempting to say this is no different than Donald Miller prayer because the focus is on God and His Holiness and how WE, as Carla pointed out, have offended that Holiness.

This is a call to refocus on God and His Holiness in how we live this life. Thanks for posting it Campi.

In Christ

Mike Ratliff

Dave Algie said...

Thanks, Carla for taking the time to address the points I raised.

In the context Steve gives, Wright was delivering the prayer in the Kansas House as the guest chaplain.

I see Wright's use of the word WE in this context differently to you Carla. If you look down the list of things repented for, there are probably not many, if any that a chaplain may have committed. (Possibly, before he was saved!) He is in his prayer repenting for things he has personally never done. Rather, they are at times things you of a political nature that you would expect a liberal government to have enacted.(leveling taxes, providing welfare) These are things I doubt Wright has been part of. Does he really mean WE, then? Or is he being disingenuous to convey his disapproval of policies he disagrees with?

I take your point, that he may seem to be repenting on behalf of society, as you say, rather than for sins he has individually committed. Is this Biblical? (Not a rhetorical question. I am no theologian and would like to hear more on the subject.)

Even if it is Biblical to repent for things you personally have never done, the context Wright gave the prayer in seems to me to suggest he was using the prayer to make a political point in a political context rather than expressing sincere repentence. If he was feigning repentence in a prayer to make a political point he may have indeed done something to really repent of. Even if he was sincere in his "repentence", it takes a tremendous suspension of disbelief to accept he was not promoting a political agenda in places in this speech.

You see the prayer as a plea for a Godly standard of living and I don't deny that there are many things repented of here that should indeed be repented of. I don't believe that every line of the prayer is questionable, but remarks like "We have coveted our neighbors and called it taxes." and "We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare." are political jabs at exactly the same level as Miller's pathetic line about teacher pay in his prayer. Whether these political talking points are
valid or invalid is not the point here. Prayer is not supposed to be for political posturing is it?

I still find on re-reading this prayer that it is not God-centered at all and is in fact designed to tickle ears. (Perhaps not of the Kansas House members but certainly of the thousands of like-minded people who supported Wright afterwards.)

Carla said...

"I see Wright's use of the word WE in this context differently to you Carla. If you look down the list of things repented for, there are probably not many, if any that a chaplain may have committed. (Possibly, before he was saved!)"

Much to our shame Dave, we as Christians do in fact contribute to the degeneration of society by being lazy, cowardly, self-centered and apathetic.

I heard a speaker once on a Christian radio show discussing abortion, and she made a simple but quite profound statement on this subject when she said "silence is consent".

While Wright himself and most genuine Christians may not be guilty of each of the specific sinful behaviors he mentioned (although some are, as we've collectively bought the lies of the world in so many areas), we are most definitely guilty in our nation (and Canada) of sitting quietly while the society around us slides right into the sewer.

That alone is enough to be repenting for, and seeking God's strength and grace to have the courage to stand up and be counted for His glory and honor.

I believe Wright did that, with these words. Not to mention, he most certainly encouraged other believers along the same lines - at the time - and even now.

You see it as politics, I see it as standing up for God's standard of living at the cost of much public derision. Wright knew how this prayer would be received (he lives in the same anti-God society the rest of us do, afterall) and God mattered more than the applause of men.

To that, I simply must say amen. We could stand to see a lot more of this kind of conviction.

Anonymous said...

repentance = bad

sounding nice and sweet = good

Dave Algie said...

Thanks for your perspective, Carla. I see your point about repenting for the “consent of silence.” It is a fair point and you make it well. It might be taken as further evidence that Wright’s repentance was sincere in his prayer.

Nonetheless, to me the fact that the political propaganda seems to have been injected into the prayer prevents me from seeing it as Godly. You don’t see it that way and so perhaps we have met an impasse and must “agree to disagree", if that doesn’t sound too wishy-washy.

Thanks again for responding so thoughtfully.

gigantor1231 said...


While we should not allow what is politically correct to dictate how we pray, we should keep in mind that our prayers should be tailored for and toward God, our prayers should not be for the the ears of other men!

Carla said...


I'm good with agreeing to disagree. You can be wrong and I can be right. Not an issue.

(I'm kidding, for those who have an impaired sense of humor).

I also appreciate the civil exchange on this. Rather refreshing.

KarensFaith said...

I agree with Carla. I remember this prayer too. Wright was actually praying, not just saying the words.

Anonymous said...

I know of another Pastor J. Wright who's prayer would have sounded quite a bit different.

Robin said...

Dave said:
"Nonetheless, to me the fact that the political propaganda seems to have been injected into the prayer prevents me from seeing it as Godly."

Political propaganda?
1) According to God's word, homosexuality IS perversion. This is a moral issue, not a political one.
2) The lottery (all gambling) DOES exploit the poor. This is also a moral issue, as God's word tell us to help the poor.
3) Laziness IS sinful, according to God's word, and we should not reward it by offering welfare for it. Also a moral issue, not a political one.
4) Unborn children in the womb fall under the category of "the least of these." According to God's word, we SHOULD be repentant over this. This is not a political issue either, but a moral one.

There are more examples, but I'm sure you get my point. God's truths were being spoken in this prayer, and that is why people walked out on it. It was offensive, as the truth is to people who don't want to accept it.

By the way, what actually is a political issue? It seems to me that things that matter to God are labeled "political issues" so that people who love and serve Him and try to speak for Him will back off. Well, everything matters to God.

Minister Wright did not back off. Thank God for people like him.

Rick Frueh said...

I do not believe in national prayers in this New Testament age. God deals with the individual and with the church. Wright gave no remedy which is faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the things he listed he used the word"we".

Hopefully most believer do not do those things, our need for repentance centers around different areas. When I pray to the Father, I am not an American. The prayers in the closet I believe are much more powerful than the ones prayed for public consumption.

Tartanarmy said...

This prayer has nothing in common with the other one. They only share the fact that both were said in front of and in the context of a Political audience, but both prayers are miles apart in content and whether God is at the center or not. This prayer has God in mind, the other placates man.

Also, God's Shepherds/elders etc can and should pray as a representative/mediator of God's people, and in that sense do not have to be personally guilty of the sins being repented of.

Just my two cents worth!

Mark a.k.a Tartanarmy