I read the other day statistics about the President of the United States and how he intentionally keeps his thumb on the pulse of the American people.
It should come as no surprise to anyone to discover that when you send a letter to the President of the United States, he is not the first person to read it. It first passes through the Office of Presidential Correspondence.
This office was founded under President McKinley in 1897 to help his administration address the roughly 100 letters arriving for him per day. By the time Herbert Hoover was president, the office would receive around 800 letters daily.
Today the president gets tens of thousands of letters, parcels, and emails every day, and that office employs approximately 85 staff and interns, as well as over 300 rotating volunteers to read the mail!
Those who write to the president know that he himself will most likely not see their message. Many of their letters start with phrases like, “I know no one will read this.”
On several occasions, I have written to the president personally, as many of you have, and received a letter from him in return thanking me for my interest. Although the letter is signed by the president, I know that he probably never even saw my letter.
On one occasion, when I wrote to him, I even asked for the actual person who wrote the return letter to sign his or her name instead of stamping the president’s signature on the response to be sent to me. That individual did just that!
Before letters arrive at the Office of Presidential Correspondence, the Secret Service opens and inspects them.
After being screened, paper letters are clipped to the envelopes they arrived in. Then it is up to the staff and interns and volunteers to dig through the letters and emails and figure out which ones to pass up the chain to the director, who personally reads around 300 per day.
The director then selects a very few of those letters – for President Obama the number was 10 – and those letters are scanned and inserted into the president’s nightly briefing book.
Aren’t you glad that reaching out to God is so much less complicated than that?
Sometimes, I believe we do not take the time to pray because we believe that God is like the President of the United States, and does not have the time to even listen to our meager requests.
But that is not reality. The Creator of the universe is even right now ready to hear the cries of your heart and mine. He assures of that over and over again in the Bible, His love letter to us.
In 2 Chronicles 7, there is a passage which is often quoted about the importance of the children of God coming to God in prayer. You may have even memorized it.
In verse 14, God tells his people that “if my people, who belong to me, humble themselves, pray, seek to please me, and repudiate their sinful practices, then I will respond from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.”
After issuing that challenge to His people, the Lord then says, “Now I will be attentive and responsive to the prayers offered in this place.” Did you get that? God promised to hear every prayer that was lifted up!
A few centuries later in Israel’s history, the prophet Jeremiah was very much in tune with God, and the Lord revealed to Him some very comforting words, words which many have counted on to take them through the various trials they face in life. “‘For I know what I have planned for you’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
While that sounds very promising, the next verse tells us why. “When you call out to me and come to me in prayer, I WILL HEAR YOUR PRAYERS” (Jeremiah 29:12, emphasis mine).
In other words, God does not have a staff of even hundreds of people going through the prayers and selecting the ones for Him to hear and answer.
He hears them all! He is never too busy or too tired or too preoccupied to hear and answer our pleas, as Elijah on Mt Carmel accused Baal of being (1 Kings 18:27).
Did you know that when horses have a problem they can’t solve themselves, they’re not above asking their human friends for help? That’s the conclusion of scientists from Kobe University in Japan.
In a study published in the always-exciting journal Animal Cognition, the researchers found some interesting results.
Here’s how the experiment worked. First, the researchers placed carrots in a bucket inaccessible to the horses. Then, a human caretaker would arrive.
The researchers observed that the horses displayed certain behaviors that could be interpreted as asking the human for help: Standing near the human, looking at them, touching and even pushing them. They did these things more frequently than in a control group where no carrots were hidden.
They found that hiding carrots in a bucket that was maddeningly inaccessible to horses prompted the animals to ask for assistance. When human caretakers who were unaware of the hidden food placement came on scene, the horses in the test lingered near them, looking at them and even nudging them, as if to say: “Errm, that bucket over there has some carrots in it! Little help?”
Some of us, perhaps even all of us, could learn a lesson from horses. It is OK to ask for help from the ultimate, infinite Living God.
But often we are simply not persistent enough, or close enough to Him, to believe that God hears and will answer.
How’s your prayer life?
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Hillsboro Times-Gazette and the Wilmington News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Faith Community Church in Hillsboro and Port William UMC.