While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. —Acts 7:59-60
What would your response be or most people’s response be if someone was doing something mean and cruel to you or them? Would the response be kind words? How about a prayer for them? Is that the response that would be forthcoming from most people being harmed in some way? Highly unlikely. Most people’s response would be retaliation of some sort.
Jesus told us to love and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). That is not the natural inclination. This is a supernatural response. Stephen gave us the example of this by the type of death he died. With his last words he prayed for those who were killing him— “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” This is a similar response to the one Jesus had when He was on the cross— “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Stephen’s final prayer was answered. We see this in the life of Paul who was called Saul. He was there at Stephen’s stoning, giving his approval. Saul went on a vicious rampage seeking to destroy the church (Acts 8:1-3). But Stephen’s final prayer was answered in Saul’s life when the Lord confronted him on the Road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19).
What is your response or my response toward those who persecute us in whatever form— physical or verbal? Do we pray for them? Who knows, the Lord could impact one of those who are cruel to us now to be like a Paul later! We never know, but may we seek to respond as Stephen did.
Dear Father, please help me to not respond in kind to those who may be against me, but help me to pray for them in the authority of Jesus. May Your Holy Spirit convict them and may many respond to Jesus. May it be so!