Faith Matters

A thought from the 4 Corners - Steve Stockman: Prayer, the poetic liturgy of revolution

Prayer has the power to transform this land, says Steve Stockman

Steve Stockman

THIS Saturday there is a gathering for prayer at Nutts Corner, under the title Healing The Land.

It is where the market usually happens and starts at 1pm and runs until 4pm. All are welcome, and you are encouraged to bring a seat and a coat - you can check out the details here.

Prayer is the poetic liturgy of revolution. The most famous of all prayers, the Lord's Prayer, has subversive revolution at its core.

That everyone has their daily bread in a world of hunger is a poetic liturgy for social justice; God's Kingdom coming and his will being done on earth sends our imaginations wild with thoughts of what that would look like; for us on this wee island, the call to the revolution of peace is tangible in forgiving those who sin against us.

When events like Healing The Land happen, I ponder whether there has been a country in history where more prayers have been prayed for peace.

Having had the privilege - at times a frightening privilege - of being close to our political peace process, I often wonder whether there have been many answers.

The obvious questions then take over. Is God not listening? Are we praying wrong? What answers do we expect?

To see prayer answered will cost us as we cross divides, act in new ways towards our traditional 'other' and start forgiving until forgiving hurts 

Well, as I understand it, prayer is the poetic liturgy of revolution, prayer is not the revolution. Prayer is not the poor having enough. Prayer is not the Kingdom come. Prayer is not in itself reconciliation, though Protestants and Catholics praying together is a mighty powerful symbol.

The actual revolution is when we get up off our knees and in our radical revolutionary actions change the world.

Prayer transforms, yes. Prayer transforms nations, yes. But prayer's first transformation happens in the soul of the one who prays.

Prayer gives us perspective on who we are before God and reminds us who we are in Jesus. Prayer enables us to focus on what God wants from us.

It helps us ask for the right things and makes us forgivers of others. It guides us in where to go. When we say "Amen" we should be transformed people - people equipped through prayer to be kingdom bringers.

Prayer is not a short cut or even a way for us to get out of the transformation needed by just leaving it all with God.

God longs to boomerang back our prayers. It is not so much that we have prayed too little but that we have opened ourselves to be the revolutionaries too little.

To see prayer answered will cost us as we cross divides, act in new ways towards our traditional 'other' and start forgiving until forgiving hurts.

That is where the prayers will finally bring us peace, when poetic liturgy becomes prophetic action.

My prayer is that Saturday's prayer at Nutts Corner will transform the individuals to be, with God's courage, transformers of a land.

  • The Rev Steve Stockman is minister of Fitzroy Presbyterian Church in Belfast and, with Fr Martin Magill, is a founder of the 4 Corners Festival, which aims to promote unity and reconciliation in the midst of Belfast's - and Ireland's - troubled past.

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