History of the National Prayer Breakfast in Canada
The National Prayer Breakfast is a yearly event held under the combined authority of the Speakers of the Senate and the House of Commons and organized by a group of dedicated volunteers and staffers. Traditionally men and women from differing backgrounds gather together with elected 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 June 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).
From the outset, there have been unique aspects to the Prayer Breakfast. It was felt that it should be a lay-person who carries out the work of supporting the activities of the Prayer Breakfast as a lay-person could better relate to leaders.
The other aspect was that everything should be done in a low-key, behind the scenes manner. The main objective is to build relationships and this can be done most successfully in a personal, quiet, confidential way.
When it began, there were a number of conditions that were agreed upon. The first was that the weekly meetings and the annual National Prayer Breakfast would be the main areas of focus. There would be no official organization: no President, Secretary or Treasurer, no official name, no Board of Directors, and nothing to join or belong to, except for a self-imposed accountability to a few friends that share the vision of building the body of Christ.
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!
Throughout the years the leadership has changed. As it grew it became apparent that, in order for this ministry to continue to develop, 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.
The Hotalings moved back to the United States in 1972 and Bill and Sandra Bussiere were asked to consider leaving their business in Montreal in order to provide support to the Prayer Breakfast movement. Bill, Sandra and their three daughters moved to Ottawa and Bill continued being available to Members of Parliament in Ottawa and to other leaders from across Canada until his death in 1994. Rev. Jim Lee then assumed the leadership of the Prayer Breakfast on a part-time basis. Bill’s wife Sandra also worked with Jim, and Members of Parliament continued meeting weekly and holding the annual National Prayer Breakfasts.
In 2004 Jack Murta, a former Chair of the weekly Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast and a Member of Parliament from 1970-1988, felt called by God to consider working with MPs on Parliament Hill. After a period of discernment, Jack and his wife Lyn moved back to Ottawa in 2005. He continues working with men and women in leadership roles in various parts of Canada.
The National Prayer Breakfast also has a Member of Parliament who serves as the Chair. The most recent Chair of the National Prayer Breakfast was Bob Zimmer, MP. The new Chair of the National Prayer Breakfast is Cathay Wagantall, the MP for Yorkton-Melville (Saskatchewan). Her office is responsible for coordinating the 54th Annual Prayer Breakfast to be held on May 2, 2018.