Thursday, February 26, 2009

Billy Graham's Prayer for our Nation 1

This prayer, which has since been attributed to Billy Graham and was purportedly (but never actually) featured on Paul Harvey's radio show, 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). (

I received it as an email forward from my mother and wish to address several points within it over the course of several blog posts. The opening of the prayer is in italics.

'Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness

Picture, if you will, a newborn baby. Utterly perfect and innocent, knowing nothing of greed or hate, envy or gluttony, spite or bitterness. It is sweet and precious in most every way. Is there anything more heartwarming than the feel of a newborn's fingers tightening upon one of your own? Their hand is so tiny that it takes the whole of their hand just to encircle your index finger.

But a newborn baby's grip is tenacious. And should it wrap around a lock of your hair, you will know the sting of tears brought from the sharp tug of that little fist.

As a parent, the guardian and caretaker of this little bright eyed innocent, do you smack the baby's hand for it's hateful behavior? Do you turn the wee sprite over your knee and thrash him to within an inch of it's life for spitefully yanking your hair and causing you harm?

Of course not. A newborn experiences the world on a very different level from you or I. A newborn baby has no knowledge of good and evil. It has no previous experience to compare things with. No memories to draw upon to determine what is normal, abnormal, silly, harmful, delicious, or dangerous. It knows... nothing.

It is said that god created Adam and Eve (not Adam and Steve) in a pristine world. Perfect and without blemish, he created them. With neither knowledge or awareness of good and evil. Within their midst he placed a tree and upon this tree he placed a terrible burden, that of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve possessed not this knowledge, in fact that knowledge was deliberately forbidden to them. They were blameless in their nakedness and unaware of anything but the perfection of the world around them. And unto them god said, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”(Genesis 2:16-17)

Adam and Eve did not know what death was. They did not know what sin was. They were utterly innocent. God placed the tree within their midst.

No rational person would condemn a newborn for tugging on one's hair. In fact, you would have only yourself to blame for putting it within the newborn's grasp in the first place.

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