“As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’” (Acts 7:59-60)
The Book of Acts reports that while Stephen was being stoned, watching on approvingly was a young Pharisee named Saul who later became St. Paul. Is it possible that Stephen’s intercessory prayer impacted Paul’s heart and opened the door to God confronting him on the road to Damascus?
While we can’t be certain of the answer, we should never underestimate the impact of intercessory prayer. We know that a similar prayer by Jesus from the cross had an impact on the centurion who oversaw Jesus’ Crucifixion. “The centurion who witnessed what had happened, glorified God and said, ‘This man was innocent beyond doubt.’” (Luke 23:47)
When it comes to intercessory prayer, we can easily make the mistake of thinking, “Who am I that God would listen to me and change the order of nature or human life.” Yet, Jesus declares, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be given to you. By this is my Father glorified that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” (John 15:7-8) Jesus offers the parable of the persistent widow to show how we “should always pray and not give up.” (Matthew 8:1-8)
Long before our three daughters were married, my wife prayed for each of them to meet and marry a good Christian man. She offered the same intercessory prayer for our son to meet and marry a Christian woman. This prayer was answered for each of them, and today all four of them along with their spouses are raising Christian families that have blessed us in so many ways including thirteen grandchildren.
For a number of summers we have spent a week at the beach with all 24 of us under one roof for some joyous chaos. With my wife’s initial prayers and our ongoing intercession over the years, we can echo the words of John’s gospel, “From the fullness of his grace we have received one blessing after another.” (John 1:16)
Inside my Bible I keep a list of people that need prayer for healing, discernment, guidance, protection and conversion. Some of the people don’t even know that I am praying for them. Others I have lost contact with, but I keep praying. I don’t need to know the outcomes. We never know when perhaps another St. Paul might be the result.
Do you have a family member or friend who needs an answered prayer?