Day 19: Words Worthy
Adapted from the Book of Acts Chapter 7.51-60
Dear Lord, Your servant Stephen, reminded the men opposing him that they persecuted their own prophets, tried to kill Jesus and refused to keep Your law.
Stephen’s speech enraged them. When he told the angry mob that He could see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God, they covered their ears, and with a loud shout they attacked him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.
I encourage you to read the entire story of Stephen in Chapter 7. If you need a Bible, let me know. There are many translations—I rely heavily on the NIV or the NRSV. The Message, by Eugene Peterson, uses more contemporary language. Willimon calls the story of Stephen a “pivotal point” or “watershed” in the Book of Acts. Willimon sums up Stephen’s speech as saying: “You have your nerve to charge that I have violated Moses law—look at you.” (Willimon, acts, 1998, p. 61) Stephen presents a litany of offenses his attackers have committed. However, Stephen’s crime is that he was “full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.” (6.8)
Stephen was one of the seven chosen to help with the everyday details. Saul, who stood and watched, will become Paul. But the words that always hold my attention are Stephen’s last words—“Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” These are powerful words—do not hold the sin of his murders against those who stone him to death. I believe that God listened to Stephen’s prayer. Not only did God forgive Saul’s sin, God worked with Saul to transform him into Paul. This is an effective and powerful intercessory prayer. Will we pray for people who want to kill us to be transformed?
Prayer Recap: Dear Jesus, Help us to speak Your truth and then help us to forgive those whose ears cannot hear it. Let no one teach us how to hate. Let us understand that immediate mob-like violent reactions are not Your way. Amen.