If you need to talk with President Trump, just call 202-456-1111. That’s the phone number for the White House, but lotsa luck getting through to the president.
That hasn’t always been the case. Rutherford B. Hayes had a phone installed in the White House in 1877. (He put in the request six months earlier, but you know how customer service is.) Just one phone. Down the hall.
That’s why I’ve got to give a shout out to Grover Cleveland. If you called the White House in 1893, Cleveland was the one who answered it.
If you are of a certain age, you know what it’s like to explain to someone who is, um, not of a certain age what it was like to have one telephone in the house. No phones for everyone who eats and breathes at your house. No family plans with Verizon. And if your parents were especially nice, they sprung for that really long phone cord so you could take the phone in the bathroom to talk to your girlfriend.
So there you were, watching Gomer Pyle on the one TV in the house (a 19 inch). The phone rang and everyone under the age of parent dashed for it. The most commonly heard phrase at my house was “I’LL GET IT!”
That’s the picture I have of Grover Cleveland. There he sits in the executive office (there was no oval office yet) conferring with a couple of advisers over some pending legislation. The phone down the hall rings, and President Cleveland shouts, “I’LL GET IT,” and runs down the hall like a presidential eight-year-old.
Honestly, I love that picture. Of course, back in the day that phone didn’t just ring for any reason. That phone was only used in emergencies. (Real emergencies. Not like the ones at our house. “Call Jet’s Pizza!”)
It’s a quaint picture in light of today’s phones. In 1893, the United States was on the cusp of being a formidable player in world politics, but anyone with a phone could call and talk to the president.
Not so today with its multiple lines and switchboards. The one time I was asked to call the White House, I was given the direct number to … an assistant. [The story]
Long gone are the days when the president might pick up the phone, but that’s not the case with One more powerful. We have a direct line to the sovereign, all-powerful God and Creator of the universe—and I think Christians take that too much for granted. God calls us to talk to Him—He invites us to pray—and we do when we feel like it.
The same God who “made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding” (Jer. 10:12) is the same God who said, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (33:3).
So why don’t we pray more?
Why don’t I pray more?
We can bemoan the state of our country. (And there’s a lot to bemoan.) We can grieve over the large numbers of young adults who are walking away from the church. We can fuss about declining ethics and morality in the world—and in the church. But what if we got serious about praying to the all-powerful God in the universe who is full of grace and love?
Next time you feel the urge to complain or shake a finger at the world’s problems, let that urge be a signal to pray instead.
“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).
That right there is a good reason to set our phones down.
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