Reflecting on Meeting the President and Prayer

I want to share a story with you. A time when I met President Obama. Technically this story is inspired by my brother Eugene Cho, and the article he wrote which you can find here. I urge you to read it.

I worked on President Obama’s campaign, and my specific tasks included things such as helping plan and oversee events around the country, and assisting senior campaign staff. At one point during the campaign, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and attend an event I had helped plan. The event was sold out and I was excited to have the opportunity to attend and hear the president speak, seeing as I had never seen or heard him in person before. I also had the opportunity to personally meet President Obama and take a picture with him. What a blessing.

 The Obamas, Bidens and Clintons at a National Day of Prayer service.

The Obamas, Bidens and Clintons at a National Day of Prayer service.

As the event date started to approach, I talked with friends and family on what I would say to the president. I figured I had about 15 to 20 seconds in which I could really say anything I wanted. Suggestions from friends and family ranged from, “Get me a job!” to “Can I ride on Air Force One” to even more specific policy questions. I can honestly say this was one of the most stressful times in my life. This opportunity seemed too good to be true, and I didn’t want to waste it saying, “You look mighty handsome today to Mr. President” or something goofy like that.

I remember having a conversation with my father who said, “Peter, it might be nice to say something about how you are praying for him and his family.” Those father figures are always filled with wisdom aren’t they? But then I thought to myself, “Do I actually pray for President Obama and his family?” Good thing I had a few days before the event, because you can be sure that the good Lord got tired of hearing me pray for the president and his family.

On the day of the event, I had written out a short phrase that I thought I could quickly say before the picture was taken and I was ushered quickly out of the room. It went something like this, “Mr. President is a pleasure to meet you. I just want to let you know that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.” Simple, Short, and Meaningful.

Well what actually happened? Something more like this, “It is… a… pleasure to meet you, Mr. President….”

I completely froze, I literally could not get any more words to come out of my mouth. I argue that it was combination of the mildly warm room, the dozen or so secret service agents around me, and the fact that I was shaking the hand of the most powerful man on the Earth.

I don’t want the emphasis to fall on the mere fact that I met the president, or the fact that I could not talk when meeting him, but on the simple truth that what I planned on saying to him was true… but not technically truthful. I never pray for President Obama. I never pray for members of Congress either. I hardly remember to pray for my own family! As I thought about this, I was convicted by the fact that my prayer life is many times based upon circumstances. I love to pray when things are going poorly in my life, or when I have a big decision to make. I love to pray when someone in my family is sick, or when a friend comes to me with a tough situation. Yet, I hardly remember to pray when God blesses me with things I don’t deserve such as good health, a loving family, and the opportunity to meet the president of the United States.

I tell you this story in hopes that you may deeply reflect upon your own prayer life. May you continually remember to pray and thank God for the blessings he has provided you, whether in good times or bad. Most of all, may you remember to pray for our president and leader of a country where we are able to pray without fear or imprisonment.

-Peter Court is a senior at Wheaton College.