James Casey served as an elder of the Missouri Street Church of Christ for thirty-seven years (1967-2003). He was a man in whom it was easy to see faith, hope, and love and deep humility, genuine wisdom, and great courage were not lacking. He was a man in many ways, as we say, “ahead of his time.” I was privileged to serve under his leadership as such during the final ten years of his service and what a great joy in particular it always was for me to hear him pray. Words are simply not adequate to express the way he blessed my life over and over again during that time, often through his prayers.
Due in part to my relentless encouragement and insistence (more like nagging, actually) for him to submit a piece to Image magazine regarding eldering, “Casey” (as his friends were want to call him) penned “An Elder’s Prayer.” Denny Boultinghouse, Image‘s editor, kindly published it in the July/August 1996 issue (pp. 34-35). Image magazine is no longer in publication and Casey passed on to be with our Lord this January; however, his “Elder’s Prayer” deserves preservation and remembrance. With that in view, today, tomorrow, and Friday I’ll reproduce “An Elder’s Prayer” here. If you are an elder, you may want to make this prayer, or parts of it, your own. If you are not an elder, may it teach you as to some of the ways you can pray for your elders.
Thank you, Heavenly Father, for your good servant, James O. Casey, an elder’s elder.
Father, into our hands you have entrusted your flock. What a fearful responsibility! We thank you for that trust, but we do feel the added burden on our shoulders and the occasional inconvenience, but Lord, are we really prepared for the dedication you expect of us? We feel so helpless at times, Father! What can we do?
We call your sheep by name, Lord, but they do not come. We lead them to pasture, but they do not eat. What can we do to make the food for palatable? Could it be that we have fed them stale and unattractive food? Could it be that they have seen the argumentative nature we have developed from the food we revel in and thus shy away from the table? Father, we don’t want to feed them anything that is not on your menu, so please help us provide the proper food in its most luscious and appetizing form – the kind that will make them want to come back for more. Grant us the ability to discern when to feed them milk and when to provide meat.
Lord, forgive us for trying to drive them rather than lead them. Help us understand where effective leadership ends and lording it over begins.
Many times, Father, we have failed to strengthen the weak. It is so much easier to neglect them and hope they will survive on their own. Forgive us for not putting forth the effort required to determine and meet their needs – that is, their real needs – not that which coddles them, but that which causes them to grow strong and enables them to exercise their senses to discern both good and evil.
Forgive us, O Lord, for allowing the sick to go unattended. We know the Good Shepherd applies healing balm to his sick lambs, but we often let them die while we argue about the cure, then blame them for having been so sickly.
How often, Lord, have we seen your little ones fall prey to the wolves and receive serious injury on themselves. After all, we frequently warn them to stay near the flock for protection! But we know that these wolves come in many forms – even in the negative spirit of the lawmaker – yet we allow them to come in unchallenged, and the sheep are eventually overcome.
Why, O Lord, would a sheep want to stray from the flock and eventually get lost? What? You say he may not have planned to get lost? Do you mean he may have simply gone looking for greener pasture and strayed over the ridge and out of sight? Forgive us, Lord, for not noticing his lack of interest in remaining with the flock and for not searching for him when he was eventually missed. We have no excuse, Lord, because our Shepherd taught us the importance of looking for the lost one when the ninety-nine were safe at home.