Prayer is your lifeline with God; it’s how you communicate with Him.
But, what happens when your prayers go unanswered?
You can be voicing concern for an area in your life over and over again, but if it just feels stagnant, then what?
This can hit especially close to the heart when you're praying for a family member or a friend who doesn't know the Lord. You know their destiny apart from Jesus and it can weigh on you heavily - especially if they used to profess faith [at one time].
Perhaps there is someone dear to you who you've been praying over for five, 10, or even 20 years.
What if you go through your entire life and that person doesn't come back to God? Does that mean your prayers were wasted?
God is sovereign. This means that not only is He ultimately in control, but He sees all that you do.
As the early church grew in the first century, they faced severe opposition along the way. For example, after being falsely accused of speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God, Stephen is stoned by members of the Jewish Sanhedrin (Acts 6:11, Acts 7:57). As this horrific death penalty transpires, Stephen cries out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them," and he fell asleep (Acts 7:60).
After Stephen uttered these words, he died; he fell asleep for good. In doing so, he never got to see the outcome of his heartfelt prayer for those who stoned him. However, you and I do.
At the end of Acts chapter 7, the author, Luke, adds one final sentence: "And Saul approved of their killing him [Stephen]" (Acts 7:60). Saul's life is then brought into more focus at the beginning of Acts chapter 9. His rhetoric hadn't changed; he was still endorsing for the Lord's disciples to be executed (Acts 9:1).
Then, as Saul is on the way to Damascus for the purpose of finding even more disciples to eradicate, he encounters Jesus Christ himself (Acts 9:3-4). Saul is knocked to the ground, and when he opens his eyes he can no longer see (Acts 9:8). For three days he remains blind, and when he finally regains his sight, he is filled with the Holy Spirit. From there, he goes to join the disciples in Damascus for ministry (Acts 9:9, Acts 9:18).
The trajectory of Saul's path is altered completely. He goes on to become a great church Apostle, and to pen most of the New Testament.
Hidden in the midst of Saul's miraculous conversion was Stephen's prayer. Saul was included in this. God looked past the horrid stoning, and chose to redeem him.
The Apostle Paul is one of the greatest redemption stories of all-time.
Stephen didn't witness it, but he didn't need to for it to happen. What's important is not seeing the fruit of your righteousness, but trusting that God answers prayer.