The clipping that dropped from my files is undated and evidently came from the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. The thrust of the article was that the relatives of a victim killed in a bank holdup are suing the bank for failure to provide security. But that’s not what caught my attention.

The four robbers who invaded Peoples Bank that day, taking more than $18,000 and the life of 79-year-old bank customer Willie Pearl Carter, did something truly bizarre. According to the shooter–he’s identified as Ramon Laroi Shorter and a minister’s son, now serving a long sentence in the penitentiary–they wore ski masks and carried .40-caliber Glock pistols. And they prayed.

Just before they entered the bank, the little group of bandits bowed their heads and prayed for success in their venture. Shorter says, “I know it’s kind of awful to say we prayed before we do something illegal, but after we prayed, that’s when we went in and did the job.”

The bank bandits were not the first and won’t be the last to seek the approval of God and the blessings of Heaven upon their wrong doings.

The wife who left her minister husband was certain she was in the will of God, and prayed for the Lord’s blessings upon her new life with another woman’s husband. She was so enthralled with her new circumstances, it just “had” to be the will of God.

The deacon who was embezzling money from the church offerings, often stood at the pulpit in the worship service and called down God’s blessings upon both the gift and the giver.

I have no doubt whatsoever that there are abortionist doctors who bow their heads and pray for success in their procedures.

The evidence just keeps accummulating proving that man is lost.

I’m a fan of very few television programs these days and none of the reality shows at all. By channel-surfing, I’ve noticed a number of the shows where the “stars” bow their heads and pray over what they are about to do. Two that come to mind is one involving plastic surgery on the shallowest of people for the flimsiest of reasons by a celebrity doctor, and another where wanted people are hunted down by characters who look meaner than the criminals. I listen in on their prayers, and sure enough, they all pray “in Jesus’ name.” I sit there stunned, trying to process what I’ve seen and what it means.

I’m not sure exactly why those prayers seem so out of place. Is it because the ones praying seem to be doing something so far removed from the life and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ? Is it because of how they look and the lifestyles they lead? Is there something else I’ve not put my finger on? Are they doing wrong, yet asking Heaven to bless it? Am I out of line?

I honestly don’t know, but I change channels. This is not for me.

My seminary professors do not agree with this–you might as well know that up front–but it appears to me that a certain prayer of the disciples in Acts 1 was completely out of line. During the period between the ascension of Jesus to Heaven and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, 120 of the Lord’s closest friends were holding a 10 day prayer meeting. If all they had done was pray, everything would have been fine. But they decided to take care of a certain business matter.

At one point, Peter got everyone’s attention and called the meeting to order. “As long as we’re waiting,” he seemed to say (my words; not his), “We might as well get a certain matter out of the way. I propose that we fill the vacancy in the disciples caused by the death of Judas.” Then he quoted Old Testament scriptures indicating why Judas did what he did and why they should seek his replacement.

Next, Peter announced the two requirements for the incoming member of the elite Twelve: he must have seniority–that is, have been with them from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry–and he must have been a witness of the resurrection. They looked around and found only two men who met those qualifications: Joseph and Matthias.

Then, they prayed.

The prayer went like this: “Lord, you know everything. You know our hearts. Now, show us which of these two men you have chosen to fill Judas’ place. Amen.”

Then, they drew lots–not entirely unlike flipping a coin–and Matthias’ name came up. They chose him, he was added to the Twelve, and he promptly disappeared from history. My opinion–and that’s all this is–is that we never hear of him again because he was not the Lord’s choice. Paul was.

There are so many things wrong with what they did and how they did it.

First, they had no business choosing the Lord’s disciples. Jesus had done the choosing the first time and He was still capable of doing so. Many a minister reading this can bear testimony that they themselves were chosen for God’s work by the Lord Himself.

Secondly, they should have waited for the filling of the Holy Spirit. Without His power and guidance, we often act in the flesh and by wrong standards, resulting in unending problems in our lives, our churches, and our ministries.

Third, what right did they have for setting the qualifications for disciples? The Lord could choose whomever He wanted. Interestingly, later on when Paul was writing to justify his own apostleship, he spoke of spending 3 years with Jesus in the Arabian desert (of course, this would have been of a different nature from the time the other disciples had known with Jesus) and to having seen the risen Christ. (Galatians 1 and I Corinthians 15)

Fourth, consider their prayer: “Lord, show us which one of these two you have chosen.” I can imagine the Lord saying, “Well, actually, I have someone else in mind.”

“Sorry, Lord, this is it. You have to choose one of these two. We are all in agreement on this.” How like us that these disciples tried to box the Lord into a corner so He could choose only between these two options.

Fifth, we’ll not even get into the fact that they limited God to men only. Women did not even enter into their thinking on this or any other matter.


The next time you hear someone asking God to bless their doings, even though they seem to be acting out of line and in defiance of the very teachings of Scripture, don’t blow a fuse. Don’t even be surprised. We have lots of precedents. It’s been done before. It’s always wrong, but so like lost mankind.

Jesus taught us to pray for God’s will to be done. Not for advice on this little matter, not for Him to fix that problem, and definitely not for Him to choose between two options.

We were taught to pray for the whole will of God.

The first prayer Paul ever prayed to the Lord Jesus has never been improved on. Outside Damascus, as he stared into Heaven’s blinding light and heard the voice of the risen Christ, Paul said, “What will you have me to do?” (Acts 22:10)

That should be the earnest prayer of every sincere follower of Jesus every day of our lives.

Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”


  1. Joe,

    I have heard it a number of times, put forward most effectively by Chuck Colson who deals a lot with the criminal element, that the one Bible doctrine that we do not need the Bible to prove is the depravity of man. Just pick up the Times Picayune and it knocks us over! Keep up the good work. Your blog brings sanity to many of us in this discombobulated world! Blessings–


  2. Joe, you continue to take the time, energy, and thought to put your finger on many foiables of those of us who call ourselves Christians. Your seminary professors may not agree with your thoughts about the 120 electing Matthias as an “apostle” but this small church pastor certainly does. As far as I know, he is never heard of again, but a man name Saul seems to have been called of God for that position. Also, concerning prayer before important events that might not be “Christlike,” I’m afraid we all want to sprinkle our actions with a little magic dust, and what mightier magic dust than that of God’s blessings. This kind of action should call us all into account for the kind of praying we utter. We should give the name of God a break.

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