All through grade school my son had various teachers who thought he had ADD or something else because he just didn’t pay attention. Then there were other teachers who saw the side of him that is very intelligent and creative. Finally, when he was in the sixth grade we’d had enough, and decided to put him through a program called Learning Rx. It’s sort of like going to the gym for your brain. It wasn’t cheap but was one of the best investments in his education we’ve ever made.
Learning Rx is not like a homework help or tutor program. Rather, it is a program designed to strengthen a child’s cognitive skills, which are the building blocks of learning. To determine how to tailor the program to each child, Learning Rx conducted a Woodcock-Johnson cognitive skills test on the child. The test is repeated after the program to see what improvement there has been. With my son, though, we didn’t need the test after to see the improvement because it was quite obvious even to his teachers.
The initial test results were not really that surprising to us. They indicated that his visual processing skills were at a college entrance level (keep in mind he was 11 at the time), and his logic and reasoning skills were at a 15-year old level. So why did he struggle so in school? Because the one cognitive skill that he was below his grade level for was executive processing speed. This is the skill that allows a person to deal with competing sensory inputs, to filter out the things that need to be ignored, and to send the others to either long-term or short-term memory. It is the gatekeeper cognitive skill, kind of like the traffic cop before there were traffic lights to direct traffic at a busy intersection.
Side note: Executive processing is the skill that is most often lacking in kids with ADD. If you have a kid that has been diagnosed with ADD, I would highly recommend checking out your nearest Learning Rx program to see if it might help before resorting to medication. There are centers throughout the United States.
So what does all of this have to do with “a billion prayers”? Well, it occurred to me that God must have awesome executive processing skills. Have you ever thought about how God listens to all the prayers in all the world and also answers them?
There are now officially 7 billion people in the world. Of all these people, 16% are secular, nonreligious, agnostics, or atheists, so they aren’t praying – but maybe wishing and does God have to listen to see if maybe it’s a prayer? Another 14% are Hindus who pray to a god or gods other than the God of the Bible. Another 6% are Buddhists who do not pray to a Creator God but do spend time in contemplative meditation. Another 12% adhere to various tribal, Chinese traditional, or other religions. See Adherents.com.
That leaves 52%, or 3.64 billion people, who are potentially seeking to pray to the God of Abraham at any given time. Then consider those who take Paul’s admonition in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray without ceasing” seriously and that’s a lot of prayer.
In 2003, Jim Carrey was in a movie called Bruce Almighty. Bruce, the main character, is a fluff news reporter whose life is not going so well. He is mad at God about it and challenges God that he could do a better job of running things than God does. So God, played by Morgan Freeman, accepts the challenge and gives Bruce all His powers to run the universe, along with all the corresponding responsibilities. One of my favorite parts is when Bruce, trying to keep up with answering all the prayer requests (which come in via email) decides it would be easier to just answer all of the prayers “yes” so he hits “reply yes to all.” The next day, every person who purchased a lottery ticket the day before wins, and so they all get some miniscule amount, like $17, and no one actually wins the jackpot so they are all unhappy.
Thankfully, God, with His awesome executive processing skills and even better logic and reasoning skills, doesn’t just answer every prayer request with a “yes.” God listens to and considers each prayer, no matter how many there are, and determines what is the best answer for each and every person. God sees the whole picture, from beginning to end, and answers prayers in a way that results in the most long-term spiritual benefit for all.
The prophet Isaiah wrote:
Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:6-9 (NIV).
When we pray we often think in terms of our own situation only. We pray that we will win the lottery and be rich. We pray for material comfort and for outward peace. We pray for physical healing of our loved ones.
But God sees the bigger picture and He knows that it is better to grant a big lottery win to one who will use the money wisely than to split the pot up among hundreds. He knows that sometimes hard times and struggles are necessary to bring spiritual healing and to bring us closer to Him. He knows that sometimes physical healing would be less beneficial than for others to see the strength He gives to those who are seriously ill. He knows that sometimes to bring one of His children home is better than to cure whatever disease is plaguing them.
God hears and answers a billion prayers every day, and maybe more. I don’t know how He does it, but I am in awe of the fact that He does. I have a hard time dealing with two sources of auditory input at one time; I can’t even imagine dealing with a billion prayers. I am thankful that even without cognitive skills training, God’s ways are so much greater than mine and that I’m not in charge of all those prayers.