“He Hears Our Cries”

By Chris Potts   •   April 15, 2010

*This is an excerpt from an article featured in Truth and Triumph magazine.

The receptionist for Focus on the Family had just come back from lunch when she heard the disturbance at the glass doors in front of her. She looked up into the very intense face of a man demanding to talk immediately with Dr. James Dobson, head of the ministry.

Graciously, the receptionist began explaining that Dr. Dobson was with his wife, Shirley, in Washington, D.C. that
afternoon for National Day of Prayer observances …but she quickly became distracted.

The man, she realized, was holding a gun. And tied around his waist were what appeared to be some kind of explosives.

The Dobsons had just returned to their hotel room when the phone rang with word that the receptionist and three others were being held hostage at the ministry in Colorado Springs. The couple immediately paused to pray for the Focus staff and the gunman, and began asking others around them to pray, too.

“Since I was a small girl,” Mrs. Dobson says, “I have always had a heart for prayer. I grew up in a dysfunctional family, with a father who had a drinking problem.” Her mother took Mrs. Dobson and her brother to a local church, where young Shirley, just six, heard from her Sunday school teacher about a God “Who knew me by name, heard all my prayers, and saw all my tears.”

She gave her heart to Christ, and it was then, she says, “that I started kneeling by my bed at night, praying for my father, that he would go God’s way. Whenever my heart was breaking, I would cry out to my Heavenly Father, confident that He loved and cared about me and my situation.”

Events such as the hostage incident at Focus only served to reinforce that confidence.

“As He’s done over and over through the years,” she says, “the Lord used that situation to impress on me that He hears our cries and responds according to His loving, sovereign purposes. We can’t anticipate what the future will hold, but we serve a great God.”

One of the things that Mrs. Dobson herself didn’t anticipate was a request in 1990 from Vonette Bright (co-founder, with her husband, Bill, of Campus Crusade for Christ) that she consider taking over the reins of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.

Her first answer was “no.” Being Mrs. James Dobson and, at the time, a board member of Focus on the Family, were — at the time — “a very full cup.”

Mrs. Bright’s response was appropriate enough: she urged Mrs. Dobson to pray about it.

“The more I prayed, the more I felt that the Lord had His thumb in my back,” Mrs. Dobson says. She looked to her husband for confirmation, confident that he, of all people, would appreciate her predicament. “He was in his office when I approached him,” she remembers, “and I’ll never forget his response. He leaned back in his chair, put his hands behind his head, looked me straight in the eyes, and said, ‘Shirley, what more important ministry could you be involved in than leading he nation in prayer?’ I gulped and said I would continue to pray about it.”

Ultimately, the tag-teaming between the Lord, her husband, and Mrs. Bright proved persuasive. “When Vonette asked me a second time,” Mrs. Dobson says, “I realized the only answer I could give and be obedient was ‘yes.’

“I expected to serve as the chairman for two or three years. Now, 19 years later, I am in awe of how God has grown and blessed this ministry.

“Each May, thousands of events are held,” she says. “They take place in churches, parks, stadiums and prisons, on the steps of state capitol buildings, on military bases around the world … even on buses, trains, and private planes. The creativity never ceases to amaze us.” During the eight years of the Bush administration, the Dobsons were invited to special prayer services at the White House.

For the past two years, the observance held at the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C., has been aired over the Internet on GodTV, “and this has allowed us to add millions of new participants here and in countries around the globe.”

An event that involves millions of people inevitably requires a massive amount of planning and cooperation. “Because we are often working with well-known musicians, as well as highly visible religious and government leaders who have busy schedules, selecting individuals for the program and making things work smoothly takes much effort and prayer,” Mrs. Dobson says.

But she takes her greatest encouragement, she says, from ordinary citizens who plan and participate in local and state events across the country.

“We have an ongoing outreach to our volunteer coordinators throughout the year,” she says, “the wonderful men and women who plan local and state events across the country.

“Knowing there are so many believers who come before God regularly for the sake of our nation is a great source of strength and inspiration to me,” she says. “It’s easy to become distressed by the circumstances facing us as a country, but I’m hopeful when I see there is a strong and faithful remnant of God’s people who remain devoted to Him and His Word. The overwhelming response of our countrymen to the Task Force’s call to prayer has been humbling, yet incredibly encouraging.”

*The National Day of Prayer was signed into law as a national observance in 1952 by President Harry Truman. Since then, Americans from multiple backgrounds have been overcoming differences to join together and pray for our nation.


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  1. Debbie Estienne says:

    I still watch Billy Graham and his son on the internet daily, what an inspiration of hope and love. My husband and I both give monthly to the Graham ministries through the CVC campaign, and will continue. Bless you all

  2. Theresa says:

    It is amazing how this message still applies to us today. Never can have too many prayers!
    My ex-father-in-law, pastor in Alpine, CA is in the hospital with pneumonia due to complications from COPD. Please pray for healing.
    Also, I’m a disabled woman that needs a van conversion, I underestimated how much they cost ($50-$70k); I cannot afford the high monthly payments, but the vehicle is a necessity in my life. Please pray for the means to get this vehicle without the extreme cost to my finances. Until that time comes, I ask for His continued blessings in providing my every need. I have seen so many miracles in my life personally & in my family & friends, therefore I believe He will grant me the desires of my heart as promised in His Word.

  3. Vicki Leach says:

    Thank-you so much for sharing your wisdom with me. Sharing the daily walk has helped me tremendously. I don’t think I could of made it through the last few months without it. I recently lost my son very unexpectedly and am trying to keep my head and soul with the Lord. Your daily devotions have helped to keep me focused on the Lord not myself. Words don’t really convey the help you’ve given me. The bread you’ve cast on water is keeping me alive. Thank-you.

  4. Gail Pinter says:

    I thank my Heavenly Father for the bible app! I love to read God’s word in my quiet morning time. The many different plans I get to read and learn of God’s grace and love for us all! I look forward to more learning.

  5. Crystal says:

    This message was so important and such encouragement for me as I’m being faced with losing my job after 21 years. I’m single and the only income. Thank you. I’ve learned so much about prayer this week

  6. Mike Mc says:

    “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

  7. Deborah Slaughter says:

    Just a shout out to all the wonderful works you are doing for GODS kingdom! Please pray for courage & discipline for my family in these End Times we are living in! America has turned their back on GOD & the world has surrounded Gods chosen people. We ask for increased faith in Yeshua. Blessings*

  8. Lois says:

    Good to hear how God is doing through u. Pls pray for me. I have a zeal to serve God, but issues of life are distracting me. I am a widow with 2 teenage children. Bills must be paid and all that. Pray for financial break through to sort out some major needs. God bless and keep u, as u expand His Kingdom business..

  9. Nancy Watilo says:

    I pray that God received glory for a miracle! What was the outcome to the gunman & hostages?

  10. Shannon McCarthy says:

    I really enjoyed reading about you and your husband and the national day of prayer, I am like a new born baby in Christ. I am starving for the word of God . I also ask that you please pray for me that doors may open in the employment area of my life. Bless you and all the work you do . Lord bless you and all you do for the sake of man kind. In Jesus mane I pray Amen