Prayer for Belfast

Prayer for the 32 Counties in Ireland

Belfast City – Prayer Points

Belfast derives from the Irish Béal Feirsde, later spelt Béal Feirste The word béal means "mouth" or "river-mouth," while feirsde/feirste refers to a sandbar or tidal ford across a river's mouth.

The City's motto 'Pro tanto quid retribuamus' translates as 'What shall we give back in return for so much?' and is taken from Psalm 116. This particular psalm centres on thanksgiving. The Psalmist not only recognises there is a God but acknowledges His presence every day; the God who listens, shows mercy, compassion, who is on the side of the helpless, and seeks to rescue and shower with blessings.

Originally a town in County Antrim, the county borough of Belfast was created when it was granted city status by Queen Victoria in 1888. In 1890, the Ulster King of Arms made a Grant of Arms to the new city of Belfast. The coat of arms depicts a sailing ship, a reference to the City's port and a silver bell (a play on the City's name). A chained Irish wolfhound and seahorses can also be seen.

In the 19th century, Belfast became Ireland’s pre-eminent industrial city with linen (it was nicknamed ‘Linenopolis’), heavy engineering, tobacco, and shipbuilding dominating the economy. It had the ideal location for the shipbuilding industry, which was dominated by the Harland and Wolff Company that alone employed up to 35,000 workers and was the largest shipbuilder in the world. The ill-fated RMS Titanic was built there in 1911.

The people of the city were significantly impacted by both World Wars, the Great Depression of the 1930’s and repeated sectarian conflicts. Belfast remains a segmented or divided city with, in a number of areas, communities continuing to be separated by so called “peace walls”. Belfast is the largest urban area in Northern Ireland and the province of Ulster with a population of 345,000 (2021), the 12th largest city in the United Kingdom and the 2nd largest city on the island of Ireland. It’s population has grown by some 20% since the 2011 census.

The world renowned academic and Christian author C.S. Lewis was born in Belfast and the surrounding landscapes likely inspired The Chronicles of Narnia.

Prayer Points

1.    The Economy

NI has the highest percentage of low–paying jobs of any UK region and is one of only three regions with more jobs paying poorly rather than well. The rate of economic inactivity is the highest in the UK, at 25.8% – meaning over a quarter of all adults are neither in work nor looking for work – and the gap between our public spending and the tax revenue we raise is £4,939 per year, per person.

But give thanks for the recent major shipping contract from the MOD for Harland and Wolff, and other investments in the energy and IT sectors. Pray for a healthy and growing economy in the city.

2.    Health and social care 

Demographic change means rising demand for health and social care. However, little has been done to make the structural changes needed to provide for these changes in demand. Waiting lists which were already the longest in the UK have lengthened considerably as a result of the Covid Pandemic.

Only 5% of health spending goes on mental health provision, half the proportion spent in England – despite estimates showing instances of mental ill health are 25% higher in Northern Ireland.

Social care is stretched to breaking point, while demand continues to increase. Between 2018 and 2043, the numbers of people in NI aged over 65 and over 85 are projected to rise by 56% and 106% respectively. Over the same period, the overall population will rise by only 6%.

Pray for all who work in the NHS and social care in the city that the tough and difficult decisions which need to be made are taken to ensure the long-term viability and effectiveness of services.

3.    Education 

Our segregated education system has elements of excellence but also suffers from major inequality:

·        The proportion of students getting ‘good’ GCSEs – at least five A*–C, including English and maths – is 94% in grammar schools but only 52% in secondary schools.

·        52% of pupils entitled to Free School Meals got five ‘good’ GCSEs compared to 80% of pupils who are not entitled to Free School Meals.

·        78% of pupils entitled to Free School Meals attend secondary schools, and only 22% attend grammar schools.

The education system is expensive, and finances are increasingly over stretched. Pray for school principals, teachers, and support staff in the vital and challenging work they do to educate children. May they receive the resources they need.

4.    Poverty 

Children here are more likely to live in poverty than adults (1 in 4, vs 1 in 5). Failures in the education and training systems contribute to persistent poverty across generations.

Northern Ireland has the highest percentage of children living in long–term workless households out of all UK regions – 13.6% of children, compared with the UK average of 8.2%. Children growing up in workless households are much more likely to have lower educational attainment, be unemployed, and live in poverty later in life. The current economic situation is exacerbating poverty in Belfast and across the province.

 Pray for all those working to alleviate and eliminate poverty in Belfast.

5.    Community relations 

Social division cuts across all policy and debate in Belfast. Key public services like education and social housing remain largely divided along lines of perceived culture and community. However, division along sectarian lines is not the only issue we face. There is a racially motivated hate crime an average of three times a day, despite the relatively small number of people here from ethnic minorities or from other countries.  Domestic violence is a major and growing problem.

Pray for peace and harmony to reign in Belfast.

6.    Other Issues

These include escalating misuse of hard drugs and growing levels of addiction resulting increasing drug-related deaths. Mental health issues and increasing suicides especially amongst young men.

Pray God’s hope and life into the darkness.

The legacy of the troubles continues to affect many communities. The impact of Brexit and the NI Protocol has had a toxic effect on the political process and between different communities.

Pray God’s shalom peace over Belfast, for reconciliation and the healing of bitter divisions.

Pray for the work of food banks across Belfast. Pray for organisation like the International Meeting Point amongst refugees and asylum seekers in Belfast.

In recent years, a growing number of churches in Belfast have closed due to declining congregations.

Pray for ‘vacant’ congregations that they will receive new ministers, pastors or priests and also for new church plants across the city that God will bless them in their innovative outreach and evangelism as He brings spiritual revival to Belfast. 

Belfast is the setting for two universities. Pray for the chaplains of the different denominations at QUB and UU as they come alongside students many of whom are away from home for the first time. Give thanks for the growing number of city centre chaplains who connect with the commercial centre of Belfast – there are now currently around 40 representing the full gamut of denominations and streams.



photos *unsplash