In January of 1996, the Rev. Joe Wright, senior pastor of the 2,500-member Central Christian Church in Wichita, was invited to offer the opening prayer at a session of the Kansas House of Representatives, and the prayer he offered was this one:
Heavenly Father, we come before You to ask your forgiveness. We seek Your direction and Your 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 have inverted our values. We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your word in the name of moral pluralism.
We have worshiped other gods and called it multiculturalism. We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle. We’ve exploited the poor and called it a lottery. We’ve 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, oh, 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.
Rev. Wright had been invited to serve as the 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 January 23, and 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.
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 that came from every state and many foreign countries after the first 6,500. Wright appeared on dozens of radio shows and was the subject of numerous TV and print news reports, 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.”
I found this story on the internet and I was amazed at the truth stated in this prayer, but more than that, the boldness that characterized it which reminded me of Peter and John in Acts 4. We find there that they were imprisoned for their “. . . teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (v. 2). In the midst of their preaching Christ and their testimony in the willingness to suffer for His sake led many people to believe (v. 4). The captors were amazed as “they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus” (v. 13). What an amazing experience it must’ve been for these learned men (Scribes, priests, elders, etc.) to hear Peter—who was filled with the Holy Spirit (v. 8)—speak with such authority and boldness. They knew that these men had “been with Jesus”!
The world should be able to see this is us as well. We are not to be “ashamed of the gospel,” Paul tells the Romans, “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. . . (Rom. 1:16a). The world should not only see our love but a conviction and steadfastness on the Word of God with a spine-chilling boldness in the face of danger.
How much more holy and pure would the Church be if we suffered persecution (mainly here in America)? I was thinking over this with a friend recently: How often do we get “comfortable” with our faith as it becomes in our thinking “hip” or “cool” to believe rather than “moronic” and “anti-intellectual” to the world? We’re thankful to God for the blessing of living in a country where our faith is tolerated, but do we ever stop to think that it is indeed a greater blessing to suffer for the sake of our Lord? Even now, there are millions of Christians who suffer in many parts of the world. They have the ability to set their eyes on heaven and not in this passing and transitory world. They know what it means to be in but not of the world. They know what it means to be a citizen of heaven and not of any nationality. In the eternal perspective, they’ve got it down so much better than we do.
I pray that as we live each day God would grant us the same boldness as He gave Peter and John, knowing full well that the same Spirit that worked in them now dwells in us for the glory of His name.
Soli Deo Gloria!