Thursday, September 19, 2013

Verify, Please Verify!

My mother recently gave me a prayer by Billy Graham.  It was entitled Billy Graham’s Prayer for Our Nation.  It was a pretty powerful prayer.  She had cut it out of a publication, probably a church bulletin, and kept it. She passed it on to me this past weekend when I had gone home for a visit.

I was going to post the prayer on Facebook and on my blog because I liked what was said in the prayer, but something didn’t feel right about it.  It just didn’t sound like Rev. Graham.  It wasn’t something that I could put my finger on, but I decided to do some checking.  
A quick Google search – Billy Graham’s Prayer for Our Nation - brought up lots of hits, and then I saw one for  If you aren’t familiar with, it is a site that investigates thousands of emails and Facebook posts that go around, verifying accuracy. 

And guess what, there was a Billy Graham’s Prayer for Our Nation.  But Billy had never prayed it.  It was also called Paul Harvey’s Prayer.  But Paul never prayed it either. 

So why does a church publish a prayer supposedly by Billy Graham in its bulletin? Because they didn’t verify.  I’m certain the pastor or secretary of the church received an email, Facebook or Instagram posting of the prayer and thought it was so good that they used it in their church’s bulletin.  No harm done, right?  I’m not so sure.  When a church, a teacher, a leader, a pastor or other professional prints, forwards, or sends something like this, it lends greater credibility and is more quickly passed on as true, because obviously a church or teacher or pastor or leader wouldn’t pass on something that wasn’t true. 

I’m certain that the church that published the prayer, that my mother cut out, got it from a source that they thought was reliable, and so they passed it on.  But nowadays every one of us needs to verify before we post or forward or tweet or print.  There is way, way too much stuff being passed around that is completely false, but the people forwarding, or posting never check because we assume someone did. 

Please don’t think that I am some kind of great guy because I checked before passing on that prayer.  I have passed on other things or used in a sermon a story or illustration that I either heard or read that I later found out was a total fabrication.  One was the story of the hitchhiker that turned out to be an angel.  The story goes that a man picks up a hitchhiker and as they are driving down the road, the hitchhiker states that Jesus was coming again real soon and then disappears.   

I had heard the story and used it in a sermon and I was considering using the story again.  This time I decided to check first, and lo and behold this story had been circulating in various forms for years and those who investigated could not find one person who had ever actually picked up a hitchhiking angel warning about the soon coming of Jesus.  Maybe it happened someplace at some time, but it could not be verified.  So I dropped the story from the sermon. 

Another was the story of the Houston, Texas police department putting out a pamphlet, “12 Steps to Raising a Juvenile Delinquent.”  I had read this in a book and was going to use it in a parenting message.  I couldn’t remember what book it was in, so I did a Google search.  I didn’t specifically go online to verify that the police department had published it.  I assumed they had since I had read it in a book.   

I found the “12 Steps” list easily online, but I also discovered that the Houston Police Department has been trying to distance itself from this for years.  They claimed, at that time, to have never issued a pamphlet like this and would never have done so.  I quickly dropped the illustration from my sermon even though it was great for the point I was trying to make. 

However in rechecking today on, the police department has changed the story again.  It seems that the story of a pamphlet supposedly from them has been going around since 1959.  They are now saying that it is possible that someone from their department may have actually come up with that list but did not claim authorship.  To read the entire story on this, click this link. 

What’s my point, simple – verify before you post, forward, print, tweet or re-tweet.  As believers let’s not pass around stuff that sounds great, or brings tears to our eyes, or makes us mad if we haven’t verified the facts.  If you are a church, business or community leader it is more important that you verify.
Going back to the Billy Graham prayer; it is an actual prayer, not prayed by Billy Graham or Paul Harvey but by a Pastor from Kansas.  The reason the prayer rang a bell for me was that I remember the controversy that surrounded the prayer when it really was prayed before the Kansas House of Representatives by Rev. Joe White back in 1996.  It is a powerful prayer and some claim that Rev. White seemed to go beyond praying to meddling on the day he prayed it at the opening session of the Kansas House of Representatives.  Even Rev. White’s prayer was not totally his own but an adaptation of a prayer written in 1995 by Bob Russell, who offered it at the Kentucky Governor’s Prayer Breakfast in Frankford.  I’ve printed the prayer here and also enclosed a link to for the complete story.  

Just remember all of you who have an online presence, and that is most of you, verify before you forward, or email, or re-tweet, or however else you pass on stuff.  It does take time, but at least we can be certain that the story, or quote or prayer is real. 

A Prayer For Repentance

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 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 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, 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. 



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