An Elder's Prayer

Ben H. Swett
Temple Hills, MD
9 November 1973

Elders need prayer even more than other people do, because we need the Lord's guidance in the exercise of our responsibilities. None of us is wise enough or kind enough to meet our neighbors' deepest needs out of our own resources. Therefore, an elder's prayer is a request for guidance, followed by silent, receptive waiting for the Lord's reply.

The wait need not be long.

For example, I was called at work by the secretary of our church--one of our members had suffered a massive heart attack and was in the intensive care ward at a local hospital. Through his wife, he was asking for the pastor, but our pastor was on vacation. As chairman of elders, it was my job to get it done or do it myself. I made a couple of phone calls but couldn't locate a pastor, so I went to the hospital.

The attendant at the door of the intensive care ward didn't want to let me in, so I pulled rank on him. I told him I was an elder of the church and one of his patients was asking for ministerial support. He had no idea what an elder might be, so he took no chances and let me in.

I sat on a little stool at the side of the bed. Bill was in bad shape--full of tubes and laboring for breath. I held his hand and asked if he wanted me to pray with him. He nodded, so I softly asked for his relief from pain and for healing if possible.

He squeezed my hand, quickly, to stop me. In his labored, gasping breath, he said, "Maybe ... don't ... want to get well."

That struck me as a little odd, because it was pretty obvious he was not going to get well, so I asked, "Then ... what's the problem?"

"Afraid ... of judgement."

That was above my pay grade. I don't know what anyone will face in judgement, and I don't want to know. I had no idea what to say to him, so I internalized my own, one-word prayer: "Help!"

The answer came immediately; I merely relayed it aloud: "Oh, you remember ... Jesus receives mercifully all who come to him humbly."

He squeezed my hand, hard. "Say it ... again."

"Jesus is merciful. He accepts every one who comes to him humbly."

"Oh ..." he said, "Oh ... I forgot that." I felt the tension drain out of him. He relaxed, and I thought he smiled. Twenty minutes later he was gone.