If you’re like me you have probably received an email with a story about “America’s Prayer of Repentance” given in the Kansas Legislature and popularized by Paul Harvey on his syndicated radio program. The prayer was originally written by my father and offered at the Kentucky Governor’s Prayer Breakfast in 1995.
Noting that the prayer continues to be widely circulated to this very day, Phil then re-offers it as a prayer for our nation. As he does, he quotes a passage from a book written by his father, Bob Russell, and titled WHEN GOD ANSWER’S PRAYER (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010):
AMERICA’S PRAYER OF REPENTANCE
Former governor of Kentucky Brereton Jones asked me to speak at the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast during his final year in office in 1995. In my speech, I mentioned that our nation has turned away from God. We’ve lost our spiritual bearings, I said, and we need to repent. I wrote a prayer and suggested that we offer it as a nation.
A few months later I printed the prayer in my weekly column of the Lookout Magazine. My friend Joe Wright, pastor at Central Christian Church in Wichita, Kansas, read the prayer and was moved by it. He was scheduled to deliver the opening prayer before the Kansas House of Representatives two months later. On January 23, 1996, Joe Wright stood before those legislators and prayed that prayer! You may have heard about the controversy stirred that day. The prayer infuriated several legislators; one member stormed out of the hall in protest. Several gave speeches critical of the prayer, and one even called it a “message of intolerance.”
Joe’s staff stopped counting how many phone calls they received after the first sixty-five hundred. All but a small handful of the calls were supportive. Since then the church has been contacted by people from every state and many foreign countries asking for a copy of the prayer. I understand that the chaplain coordinator in the Nebraska legislature read the prayer the following month, stirring a debate there. Paul Harvey reported on the Kansas controversy and read the prayer on the air. He has since repeated the story, claiming it is one of the most requested readings he has ever had. The prayer has been widely circulated by e-mail. One of our elders recently sent it to me and said, “You need to read this prayer – it’s great!”
Joe Wright and I have joked often about the publicity he received for the prayer I wrote. But it’s OK with me – I didn’t have to take all those hits! And he deserves credit for having the boldness to actually pray the prayer in front of the legislature! I’m thankful that this prayer has resonated with so many Americans. I hope we don’t just read it but really pray it and genuinely repent before God:
O God, we Know that 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 and New Age spirituality.
We have committed adultery
and called it an affair.
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 frugality.
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 failed to execute justice swiftly as your Word commands
and called it due process.
We have incarcerated non-violent offenders
instead of demanding restitution
and called it protecting society.
We have set rapists and murderers free to prey on the innocent
and called it justice.
We have failed to love our neighbor because of the color of his skin
and called it maintaining racial purity.
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 made the Lord’s day the biggest shopping
and entertainment day of the week
and called it free enterprise.
We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers
and called it enlightenment.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart: test me, and know my anxious thoughts: See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting.” Psalm 139: 23,24 NIV