Prayer Provokes Passions
When Rev. Joe Wright, pastor of Central Christian Church, led the Kansas House of Representatives in the invocation, it became apparent that some light had pierced the darkness. Sabrina Standifer, R-Wichita, walked out while Delbert Gross, D-Hays, sat down.
Gross described the prayer as “divisive, sanctimonious, self-serving, and overbearing.”
Rep. David Haley, D-Kansas City railed, “I take personal umbrage to the prayer we had to suffer through this morning. We’ve got to respect one another. His prejudice and his perversion can be practiced in his own church, maybe where they are worshiping snakes.”
Clearly, these representatives felt uncomfortable in the presence of truth. Not Wright’s truth or my truth, but the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must never forget that the humanistic position is an exclusivist, closed system which shuts out all contending viewpoints – especially if these views teach anything other than relative values and standards. Anything which presents absolute truth, values, or standards is quite rightly seen by the humanist to be a total denial of the humanistic position.
Alexis de Tocqueville, in his famous 1836 book Democracy in America, described the common thread important among differing denominations:
The [denominations] which exist in the United States are innumerable. They all differ in respect to the worship which is due from man to his Creator; but they all agree in respect to the duties which are due from man to man. Each sect adores the Deity in its own peculiar manner; but all the sects preach the same moral law in the name of God…Almost all the sects of the United States are comprised within the great unity of Christianity, and Christian morality is everywhere the same.
Rev. Sam Muyskens, executive director of Inter-faith Ministries disagrees with Wright saying that’s no excuse for exclusive and intolerant views. “When we’re in a public setting and when you’re in the Legislature, you know you have people on both aisles politically, people with strong convictions on all those aspects that were present in (Wright’s) prayer. Prayer should draw them together and recognize their integrity.”
Neutrality is impossible. Some authority, whether it be God or man, is used as the reference point for all enacted laws. If a political system rejects one authority, it adopts another. If a biblical moral system is not being legislated, then an immoral system is being legislated. Any moral system that does not put Jesus Christ at its center, denies Christ:
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other…” – Matthew 6:24
Muyskens fails to recognize that Rev. Wright was prayer TO God, not to the respectable members of the House. Christian prayer is not formulated to give everyone some warm fuzzy feeling or to draw together people mired in an apostate belief in a pagan god. Prayer is communication between the person praying and the Living God of the universe. It is directed toward Him and no one else.
Muyskens says clergymen should follow the Guidelines for Civic Occasions, written by the National Conference of Christians and Jews calling for using universal terms for the deity and for recognizing the pluralism of American society.
Muyskens and others might worship some generic ‘politically correct’ god but Joe Wright worships the God of the universe – the God who created everything, and the God who declared He will not share His glory with any other god.
“All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, but those who believe must be free to speak of and act on their belief, to apply moral teaching to public questions… Tolerant society is open to and encouraging of all religions, and this does not weaken us; it strengthens us… Without God, there is no virtue, because there’s no prompting of the conscience. Without God, we’re mired in the material, that flat world that tells us only what the senses perceive. Without God, there is a coarsening of the society and without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure.” – Ronald Reagan
While some might support keeping prayer out of the public sphere Joe Wright says, “I don’t think my convictions should change or my prayer should change because I’m in a public place. Prayer is prayer. I’m praying to God when I’m praying. I’m not up there to put on a show. I’m there to pray. I don’t do it any differently in public than in private. My convictions don’t change when I’m in public.”
“Compromise is all right in some areas where we aren’t trying to pervert or change truth,” Wright said. “And there are some areas you draw the line in the sand and you aren’t willing to compromise. “…many Legislatures throughout the nation, not just Kansas, have legalized sin. Should I support that as a Christian?”
Compromise will not work in religion. We cannot put aside the truth of Jesus just because it offends the Muslims or the Hindus. We cannot agree to worship their gods in the spirit of multiculturalism. Nor can we stand idly by while our children are taught that New Age mysticism or TV paganism is to be embraced if they are to be “citizens of the global village.” Sorry, we are to be strangers and aliens of such a place.
Evil must be exposed! To expose such evil is a Christian duty (Luke 17:3). To rebuke sin and admonish error is never an option (2 Timothy 2:4). Instead, it is an obligation (Titus 2:15). Modeled by Christ before His disciples (Luke 9:41), and before the world (John 6:26), it is like bearing testimony, an essential aspect of true discipleship (Hebrews 12:5). It was openly practiced by the Apostles Paul (Romans 15:14), James (James 5:1-6), Peter (2 Peter 2:1-22), John (3 John 9-12), and Jude (Jude 4-23). And it has been responsible for many of the Church’s great revivals throughout history.
One major function of the church is to unmask the idols and expose them for what they are. There is no basis for this to be done except the authority of the biblical witness. Unmasking the idols destroys their effectiveness, stripping from the false teachers their guise as angels of light. As Gabriel Vahanian puts it, Christian faith can be true to itself only if it is iconoclastic. If it is to have any effectiveness, it must be actively engaged in breaking the idols.
The only legitimate dividing work of doctrine is to separate fundamental truth from error. That is a divisive element we desperately need in our culture. Hebrews 5:14 describes spiritually mature believers as those who “have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” Good doctrine, well understood and well applied, helps us to differentiate truth from error.
Politically, it might make sense to get rid of the divisive dogma that Jesus is the only way and instead force the masses to accept a new religion that accepts all beliefs, calms the crowds, and gets the workers back into the factories so that they can pay their rents and keep up with their interest payments.
But Jesus is the key to God’s promise to all mankind. That is why Satan hates him so — and has devised this sort of a devious political agenda to paint Jesus as an enemy of world peace and international harmony.
The prayer delivered January 23, 1996
by the Rev. Joe Wright to the Kansas House.
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 worshiped other gods and called it multi-culturalism.
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 fore-fathers 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.
America lies in a very serious, even critical state morally. While our nation sinks in a swamp of immorality and cruelty, most of the church continues with business as usual – Bible studies, prayer meetings, covered dish dinners, and Holy Land tours. These activities aren’t bad, but when we ignore the crucial issues of our day, we become shallow and irrelevant. As people of the light who know the truth, we need to stand against the evils of our day: abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, poverty and corruption. We should be exposing false teachings and reminding people of the truth. We should be teaching others the Word of God. Our focus must not be completely on others though, as we should set an example for believers in our speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity. We should publicly be reading the scriptures, preaching and teaching. We should be exercising our spiritual gift. And, we need to watch and guard ourselves – our life and our doctrine – and persevere in them.
President Abraham Lincoln understood how America came to be a great nation, and he also knew the dangers of turning away from a loving God. He warned:
We have preserved these many years with peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched us.
He continued …
We have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
Portions of the above was reported in the Wichita Eagle, January 24, 1996