“. . . as he called on the Lord . . .” Acts 7:59
The gut reaction of every human being when in trouble is to pray. When the plane hits turbulence, people who’ve never prayed in their life pray with all their might. When there’s a need, when the bills are due, when things go bad, people pray. They are prayers of desperation, but prayers nonetheless.
The reader is not shocked to see Stephen pray in an hour of persecution, torture, and death. After all, who wouldn’t pray at a time like that? But Stephen’s prayer was very different than the one we might pray were we in the same situation. In Stephen’s prayer we learn more by what he didn’t ask for.
He didn’t pray for RESCUE
Stephen’s prayer is better than ours. We would pray “spare me from the pain,” “get me out of this.” Not Stephen. All he asked was that Jesus would keep his spirit. When life goes against us, we should pray, “Lord, keep me from fear, keep me from getting bitter, keep me from clinging to my fleshy ways, keep me clean from residue of resentment. Keep me through this present trial.” Underneath was the assurance that he would be kept by Jesus.
He didn’t pray for REVENGE
Stephen prayed for forgiveness. We would’ve been blinded by our own hurt and blinded by the fact there were others in need. If we were to think of anyone else it would be the people we love. Not Stephen, he thought of the ones who were killing him. It’s natural for us to hit back when struck, or lash out with scornful words. Stephen brings the most powerful reaction under the rule of the Spirit. The heart of forgiveness makes a distinction between the deed and the sin and the sinner. The deed of stoning Stephen was done but the doer was not done.
There was another who also didn’t ask for rescue. One who didn’t seek His own revenge, but with His last gasping breath said, “Father, forgive them.”
It’s not enough to say right things in our prayers, we must cultivate the habit of living what we pray.