History Of The National Prayer Breakfast In Canada

March 25, 2008

The National Prayer Breakfast is an annual ecumenical event, where men and women from differing backgrounds gather together with our elected public officials to pray in the spirit of Jesus Christ for Canada. The Prayer Breakfast has been faithfully attended since 1964. In fact, except for 1968 when a federal election caused the Breakfast to be cancelled, the National Prayer Breakfast is the single longest continuous event held annually on Parliament Hill. The first National Prayer Breakfast was held in Ottawa in 1964.

The Prayer Breakfast had its beginning when Members of Parliament began to meet together in a non-political, private breakfast to discuss their faith and issues that were affecting their lives. This group gathered under the leadership of the Hon. Walter Dinsdale (Manitoba) and Mr. Robert Thompson (Alberta).

Over the next few years it became apparent that in order for this ministry to continue to grow, full-time leadership was required. Kent and Kay Hotaling moved from Seattle Washington to Canada in 1968 to further encourage leaders to meet regularly. As a result of this effort, groups began to meet in many cities and Provincial capitals and consequently annual breakfasts began in most Canadian provinces.

From the outset there have always been two unique aspects to the Prayer Breakfast. The first was that it should be a lay person who carries out the work. It was felt that lay people could better relate to leaders.

The other aspect was that everything should be done in a low-keyed behind the scenes manner. The main objective was to build relationships and this can be done most successfully in a personal, quiet, confidential way.

From the outset there were a number of conditions that were agreed upon. The first was that there would be no official organization; no President, Secretary or Treasurer and no official name and no Board of Directors, nothing to join or belong to, except the self-imposed accountability to a few friends that shared the vision of building the body of Christ. However, to enable individuals to support this work financially, a non-profit charitable foundation was formed. The Canadian Fellowship Foundation (CFF) is a federally chartered charitable foundation. The foundation serves no other purpose than to act as a vehicle to fund the activities of the Prayer Breakfast. Any additional assistance is provided on a volunteer basis.

It was agreed that the work done on Parliament Hill would be kept small and simple. The focus was to be solely on Jesus Christ and not on an organization. There was always a concern that when you belong to an “organization” you could eventually begin to identify with the organization and lose the focus on the reason you are there in the first place. The only agenda was caring for people.

In 2004, Jack Murta, a former chairman of the weekly Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast and a Member of Parliament from 1970-1988, felt called by God to consider working with MP’s on Parliament Hill. He continues working with men and women in leadership roles in various parts of Canada.

Each year the National Prayer Breakfast was held in room 200 on Parliament Hills. As the years went by, the participation in the National Prayer Breakfast continued to increase exponentially. This year’s breakfast has been moved to the Congress Centre to accommodate for the growing numbers. It is estimated that approximately 800 participates will attend the event.