EDITOR’S NOTE: Life Behind the Pine Curtain is a series of anecdotes collected and edited by Herald-Press Publisher Gary Connor.
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 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 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 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!”
The 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 Jan. 23, 1996.