First of all, may we say it’s a privilege to be asked to provide some prayer pointers for Northern Ireland. We really appreciate the many faithful intercessors who uphold and support us in prayer. Being asked to provide this article brings quite a challenge.
Because this is Northern Ireland it should not surprise us that the issues are complex and are influenced by deep-seated historical roots and wounds. We have had conflict within a divided society, then a peace agreement, but no real deep reconciliation. Both nationalists and unionists have been seeking totally opposite outcomes from the political process and both have their political ideologies concretised in covenants. These two parties are best described as being in a counter-covenantal relationship. Many of the issues we face have profound political as well as underlying spiritual aspects. This means that sincere Christian people can frequently find themselves in disagreement over the nature and the solutions to our difficulty.
At the risk of being very obvious, therefore we should initially remind ourselves that we pray for God’s Kingdom to come, and for His will and purposes to prevail. To help us to be as balanced and objective as possible, we asked a number of faithful intercessors in Northern Ireland to give us some pointers for prayer. This article is a compilation and summary from the responses we received.
To begin to understand our present situation, it is worth recognizing that politically things may be very fragile indeed. With politicians acutely aware of impending elections there is a battle for position and for advantage and party politics can come into play in a big way. Also, with all that has happened around Brexit and the protocol there is also a growing lack of trust and respect for our politicians. As always therefore, we would hope and pray in these days that people would discern what is truth, would act/behave with righteousness and in a measured manner. Particularly that God’s people would model the image of Jesus in all situations as opportunity presents.
In considering how to pray it is helpful to consider some aspects of context….
- The NI trading protocol (sea border) was imposed on us without proper consideration of practical implications. It was UK govt’s means of achieving the final Brexit agreement, but accepting the protocol meant betraying agreements/expectations of unionism in NI (such is politics). Consequently, we have emotions of anger, hurt and betrayal and the unionists are feeling particularly insecure these days, and may look to old tribal loyalties to help secure their position.
- Without COVID, the situation would very likely have descended into violent protest quite some time ago. Whilst there is not a great appetite for return to troubles, many grass-roots unionists feel their “backs to the wall” and are suffering the perennial identity crisis. COVID has presented a great distraction, but underlying issues are unresolved.
- It is worth noting also the trends to seek adoption of liberal policies affecting education, marriage definition, abortion, and so on. Those promoting such agendas have been very successful at gaining support from younger voters and at presenting a very negative perspective on those opposing. Very sadly such developments take NI into situation where there will be no effective conservative voice, and no effective obstacle to policies that are so destructive to marriage, families, education, and so on.
- Whereas, in the past the church would have given moral leadership and direction over many issues, recent times have often witnessed compliance to societal trends and political demands. The church needs to WAKEN UP AND PRAY!
In light of the above, a few prayer specifics could include ….
- There needs to be spiritual breaking of some strongholds or we shall never be able to move forward in a positive direction. For discernment in the various issues we face, and truth to be spoken.
- Politicians are in a desperate situation and fighting to retain power and position. In face of such desperation, what they do or how honorably they behave will remain to be seen. We need politicians who are willing and capable of doing the job for which they are elected. To work for the good of the people rather than political agendas.
- For political systems that are stable and that will work (against background of the assembly being collapsed so many times). For the right politicians to be elected; who will serve with integrity, skill, effectiveness and inspiration.
- Across the UK we have seen the public allowing themselves to be divested of ability to rationally debate matters, or to critically and objectively evaluate information and situations (We know this is a big statement; and it implies big spiritual implications). We are in an increasingly divided and not always rational community. Pray for truth in the media. Also, for EXPOSURE, where there are schemes and plots being enacted at various levels.
- Often, much of the church can be caught up in such division and all “sides” need to consider their speech and influence and to properly value unity (whatever that will look like). There may be seismic change in the church ahead. Pray for the church to rediscover her authority and to have courage to use her voice. To provide leadership in these days.
So far, in this article we have tended to focus on negative aspects of our situation with a hope that people may respond and pray into them. It is however worth commenting on a few positives, and to remember prayer for these as well.
COVID and lockdowns have had many in the grip of fear, and in compliance to limitations in freedom and mixing etc. Without denying the virus, it is clear that it has been be a potent tool for influencing peoples’ perceptions of the present. There are also now clearer distinctions between Christian and non-Christian with all the recent changes in law and the morality that for so long underpinned the law. The whole ‘in-between, on the fence’ position is becoming impossible with people being shaken into choice. We have noticed increased hunger for spiritual reality amongst many, and there has been growth in evangelistic projects and conversations (often with strangers on the street) that might not otherwise have taken place.
It is important that the wider church recognizes all that is going on without being distracted by it or setting her agenda to it. There is huge apathy and disconnectedness within the churches. Many individuals are not returning after lockdown. This is not necessarily just luke-warmness but also can be disillusionment with the church as it is. Whilst there can be disappointing levels of desire or urgency among Christian’s we see this can be an amazing opportunity for God to do something new and has often been the pattern in awakenings. There are some exciting examples of light in the darkness.
It is important in all these things that we do not lose HOPE. It is vital that we see things from both a heavenly perspective and an earthly one. Pray that our anchors will hold and for the faithful remnant to both gather together and to be equipped for the days ahead.
24th February 2022