(1) And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
(2) And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
(3) And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
(4) And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
Saul was a man of strong convictions. His beliefs did not come to him second-hand. He was truly convinced for himself that what he was doing was what Scripture commanded. If God was going to convert Saul, it would take drastic measures. And there is no more dramatic conversion in Scripture than that of Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus.
Again, I think it’s fair to say that Stephen’s prayer for mercy on his attackers is answered in this passage.
When confronting Saul, Christ clearly identifies Himself with Stephen when He asks, “Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou me?”
Saul does not argue the point. Instead he asks two questions that every human being should be asking God: “Who art Thou, Lord?” and “What wilt Thou have me to do?” The apostle, “born out of due time,” (1 Corinthians 15:8) wastes no time in getting his prayer life in line with what God wants. Neither should we.
In answer to his prayer, the Lord directs him to go to Damascus and await further orders (Acts 9:6).
Sometimes when we pray, God does not change our circumstances, or the people or things we are praying about; He changes us. Often what He changes is our prejudices (racial and otherwise), because the Gospel is not the exclusive property of any one group of people. God intends it for all. We see that kind of “prejudice busting” in the life of Ananias as God changes his mind about Saul, the great persecutor of the church.
(10) And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.
(11) And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,
(12) And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.
Those kinds of visions did not come except by prayer and fasting. Peter received a vision under similar circumstances (Acts 10:9f). So, I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that Ananias was in a similar state himself when God came to him in a vision. What He asked of His disciple was radical. He wanted him to go see what believers saw as the most dangerous man on earth! His reservation is understandable:
(13) Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:
(14) And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.
(15) But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:
(16) For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.
(17) And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
To his great credit, Ananias obeyed his Lord, moved past his preconceptions, and met with Saul. That was God changing Ananias through prayer, and now we see him praying for Saul in a way he probably never expected! As a result, not only did Saul receive his physical sight, he received spiritual sight as well (Acts 9:18). That kind of life-changing “prayer-work” is the responsibility of every believer, and Saul is proof that through it, God can save anybody and literally change the world!
Acts 9:20 “And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.”