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.
Imagine yourself in Stephen's shoes. He had done nothing wrong. He had only stood up for what he knew was the truth – that Jesus was the Messiah… and that the Jews had rejected Him and crucified Him. But the Jews rejected Stephen's words, just as they had rejected Jesus. And now, unjustly, Stephen was being stoned. The pain must have been incredible... to be pelted with stones again and again and again until one or more finally dealt a death blow. But until death came, there could only be intense, excruciating pain. Stephen could have cursed the men who were stoning him. He could have screamed out in anger and pain. He could have easily hated these men as they threw one stone after another. But he didn't. Instead, his last words reflected the words of Jesus as He hung on the cross – “Lord, do not hold this sin against them." Bleeding and dying, Stephen's last act was one of forgiveness.
Stephen was the first martyr. He was the first Christian to die because of his belief in Jesus. Under his own power, Stephen could not have died such a saintly death. Under his own power, Stephen would most likely have done all those things we mentioned before -- cursed and screamed and hated. But remember, Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit… and it was through the power of the Holy Spirit that he was able to forgive. It was through the power of the Holy Spirit that he was able to pray for those who were killing him.
How many people have hurt you? How many people have persecuted you, or ridiculed you, or embarrassed you, or caused you problems? How many of them have you prayed for? How many of them have you forgiven? That's a hard thing to do. Under our own power, it can be impossible. But through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, no matter how much pain someone has caused us, we can pray for them... we can forgive them.
Allow the Holy Spirit to work in you today – to help you to forgive those who have hurt you – to help you pray for those who hate you. As impossible as it may seem right now, you will be able to forgive – even someone who is killing you.
Read more on Stephen here