Ireland transformed dramatically in the last 30 years. EU membership and foreign investment helped the economy, and increased contact with Europe and the world. But this new wealth only benefitted some, and many people struggle economically. Cooperation with Northern Ireland (from the late 1990s) led to greater peace, an answer to prayer! The political future of Northern Ireland remains a sensitive issue, but healing, reconciliation, and forgiveness can occur. Pray that all Christians (Protestant and Catholic) might work together towards Kingdom goals.
The Catholic Church was, for centuries, the preserver and defender of the Irish. Catalyzed by secularism, the rapid onset of modernity and a series of high-profile scandals and cover-ups in the priesthood, the nation is rapidly losing the deep Catholic sensibilities that once tied it together. Once an exporter of trained priests, the Catholic Church today ordains few. Weekly church attendance, once 85% nationally, is now less than 50%, and as low as 5% in parts of Dublin - and there are more non-religious Irish than ever before. Despite this, there is a vibrant charismatic renewal movement within the Catholic Church and unprecedented collaboration with other expressions of the Christian faith. Pray for the Irish nation to rediscover its ancient heritage of deep and profound faith in Christ.
The sex abuse scandals that rocked the Catholic Church devastated the nation's confidence in what was once a deeply trusted institution. Possibly the only things more damaging than this tragic and sinful abuse are the cover-ups and collusion that occurred after these incidents came to the knowledge of Church leaders. Ireland's Catholic faith was already on a downward trajectory; these scandals may have thrust it into a death spiral. Pray that true repentance, forgiveness and, where possible, restoration might occur on the part of those involved, and that this may lead to purification and redemption of Catholicism in Ireland.
Immigration sees a "new Ireland" emerge, complete with radical change in ethnic, cultural and spiritual spheres. The pastoral Celtic image of days past has given way to a context where 90% of population growth is from immigration, and where foreign religions and denominations thrive. Ireland willingly adopts these new arrivals, who in turn bring cultural diversity and spiritual passion. Pray for those who do not know Christ or who come from other religious backgrounds, that Ireland may be the land where they meet the Saviour.
Evangelicals are experiencing sustained growth, especially among charismatic and Pentecostal groups. The immigration surge contributes to this, with around one-third of evangelicals coming from non-Irish ethnicities.
Pray for young people. Ireland has a young population by European standards, with 21% under age 15. Their spiritual need is underlined by the rapid increase of serious social issues: alcoholism, suicide, broken families, alternative lifestyles and post-Christian attitudes. Many are open to the gospel when it is presented and expressed in a new way. Ministry in schools and Christian camps is run by Scripture Union, CEF (67 full-time workers), the Faith Mission, IFES and others. Ireland also hosts increasing numbers of international students. Pray for many young people to have life-changing encounters with Christ.
Ireland has a long tradition of sending missionaries, from the peregrini of the early Celtic Church onward. But now the number of Catholic missionaries is rapidly declining as is the number of traditional Protestant missionaries, though to a lesser degree. The new churches recognize the need for reaching the unevangelized in their midst and in the wider world. Pray for the release, training and funding of more Irish missionaries and leaders by evangelical churches and fellowships.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.