"Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them!' " Acts 7. 60
Just because you refuse to take offense, at something someone does to you, doesn't mean that it wasn't offensive. It was offensive. You just chose not to take an offense.
Don't misunderstand the process. The offense still exists. It happened. The questions remains, as well. What are you going to do with it?
Stephen was falsely accused, viciously slandered, the victim of a conspiracy to abort justice, physically assaulted, in a court of law, and summarily dragged out into the street and stoned to death. All in all, no matter how much the most positive saint could put a sanctified spin on it, it was a bad day. THEN...
Stephen prayed! He recognized what was happening to him was sin. He didn't try to spin sin into something other than what it was. He didn't pretend people were better than they really were, or just misunderstood. He knew they were sinners. Some of the most delusional people in the world are saints, who keep expecting sinless behavior, from sinful people. Don't be one of them. Stephen wasn't.
However, Stephen wasted no time building his case, defending his rights, clearing the record, setting things right, putting his house in order, or getting even. He prayed. Good to know.
More than using prayer to deliver a brief devotional thought, or deliver a clever catch phrase, Stephen cried out to God. This was no "bless the gift and the giver" mantra, he cried out to God, for mercy, FOR HIS ENEMIES. With the last breath in his lungs, he took the worst people could throw at him, and asked God to deliver to them, the one thing that mattered most, forgiveness. Sound familiar?
"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Jesus
This similarity, between the two prayers, was no coincidence. It was the consequence of consistent companionship, between Stephen and Jesus.
Prayer does not always transform the crisis, into the best thing that has ever happened to us. It takes the worst thing that has ever happened to us, and allows God to make something good out of it. As trite as it may sound, the truth remains. When crisis comes your way, or an offensive act hits your life, you have a choice. You can either let it make you bitter or better. Your call.
Prayer paves the way for the offended, to take the right path, and avoid the detour of retaliation. Prayer releases the offense into the right hands, and empowers the prayer warrior, to make the right response, rather than make the wrong reaction.
Stephen's cry to God, was a prayer of intercession. It closely resembled the cry of Jesus on the cross, for those who had put him there. This is no accident. Stephen was a man of prayer, and patterned his prayer life after the prayer life of Jesus. Jesus prayed, "Not MY will, but THY will." It was not lost on Stephen. When crisis came to him, Christ flowed out of him. Crisis reveals character. This only happens...EVERY TIME.
Prayer does not transform the crisis, into the image of our will. Prayer conforms us, to the will of The Father. Crisis reveals one of two things. It either reveals, the image of Christ, or exposes the absence of it.
Prayer can be crammed into any crisis, at the spur of the moment, but it rarely produces Christ's character, in the same span of time. That is why most prayers sound like a search for a quick fix, or reveal a toxic mixture of panic and whining. Prayer will turn your WHINE List into a THINE List. Don't get drunk on WHINE. Sober up!
Character is a result of consistent companionship with God, unbroken fellowship with The Spirit, and saturated sessions, in Christ's Presence. Praying to God, in the name of Jesus, and with the advocacy of The Spirit, may not transform the crisis, but it will conform you to Christ's character.
Prayer softens the ground of a hardened heart, by placing any crisis and every offense, IMMEDIATELY, into the hands of Jesus. Prayer warriors cannot grip The Sword of The Spirit, if they are holding on to grudges, or warrants for the arrest of those who have done them wrong. This may reveal why the enemy doesn't fear our retaliation, but our intercession. When we are praying in The Spirit, we have a grip on The Sword of The Spirit, which is the Word of God. Satan fears it. Draw it out, and throw away the scabbard.
Note to self: Letting go of an offense does not mean the offender is getting away with anything. For every real offense, there will be real consequences. Let it go, and let God take the offensive against your offender. If you don't turn an offense over to God, your life will become an endless DO IT YOURSELF project. STOP IT!
The Prayer of Stephen is not some "Prayer of Jabez" knock off. It is not about expanding yourself. It is all about dying to self. Praying to be magnified is not the same as praying to be crucified. The Prayer of Stephen resulted in a life that looked like Jesus. So should yours. His prayer turned MY will into THY will. So should yours. His prayer sought God's forgiveness, for his enemies, not his personal revenge, over them. So should yours.
TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!