National Prayer Breakfast

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President John F. Kennedy addresses the Prayer Breakfast in 1961.

The National Prayer Breakfast is a yearly event held in Washington, D.C., usually on the first Thursday in February. The founder of this event was Abraham Vereide.[1] The event—which is actually a series of meetings, luncheons, and dinners—has taken place since 1953 and has been held at least since the 1980s at the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue NW.

The National Prayer Breakfast, held in the Hilton's International Ballroom, is yearly attended by some 3,500 guests, including international invitees from over 100 countries. Up until 2023 it was hosted by members of the United States Congress and organized on their behalf by the Christian organization Fellowship Foundation[a] (also sometimes just referred to as The Fellowship). As of 2023 the official National Prayer Breakfast is run by the a new organization, the “National Prayer Breakfast Foundation”.[2] It is designed to be a forum for the political, social, and business elite to assemble and pray together. Since the inception of the National Prayer Breakfast, several U.S. states and cities and other countries have established their own annual prayer breakfast events.

The National Prayer Breakfast split from the Fellowship Foundation (reported in some press under its DBA[b] name International Foundation) in 2023 due to recent controversies and questions regarding the transparency of the coordination of the event. There was a letter signed by 30 groups to boycott the event.[3] The Congress will take over the coordination of the event starting in 2023.


The origin of the National Prayer Breakfast is traced back to prayer groups with business and civic leaders in Seattle, organized by Abraham Vereide in the 1930s. When he moved to Washington, DC, he established similar groups with members of Congress. In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower attended a meeting by invitation of Congressmen, Vereide, and Billy Graham. Vereide's successor Douglas Coe and Rev. Richard C. Halverson have also carried leadership roles in organizing the event. A government leader was quoted as saying that the Breakfast and Coe's influence offers foreign leaders access to the President that "circumvents the State Department and usual vetting... that such a meeting would require," and other participants indicated that their purpose for attending was political.[4]

Initially called the Presidential Prayer Breakfast, the name was changed in 1970 to the National Prayer Breakfast. Every American president since Dwight D. Eisenhower has participated in the annual event.[5][6]


Each year several guest speakers visit the various events connected with the National Prayer Breakfast. However, the main event, the Thursday morning breakfast, typically has two special guest speakers: the President of the United States and a guest whose identity is kept confidential until that morning. Past keynote speakers include:

Many of the past addresses by U.S. Presidents to the National Prayer Breakfast are available online.


While Members of the U.S. Congress, of the U.S. Cabinet, and of the diplomatic corps in Washington are typically invited to participate in the National Prayer Breakfast, the other more than 3,000 guests come from a variety of walks of life. Six heads of state attended the 2008 breakfast, along with Members of the European Parliament; United Nations diplomats; European, Asian, African and Latin American politicians; religious leaders; missionaries working in various countries; U.S. and foreign business leaders; and students. Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister of Pakistan, participated on more than one occasion, and a video interview of her speaking about the National Prayer Breakfast, its meaning and its impact on her faith, was featured at the 2008 closing dinner. In 2006, King Abdullah II of Jordan addressed the Thursday lunch. Ricardo Maduro, president of Honduras, addressed the same lunch in 2005. Musical guests have included Andrea Bocelli, Wintley Phipps, Michael W. Smith, Point of Grace, and CeCe Winans. In 2014, for the first time since Ukraine's Independence, The Patriarch of The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Philaret was present. In 2015, the Dalai Lama addressed the International Lunch, one of the annual National Prayer Breakfast-related events.


Rev. Jim Wallis, founder and president of the Christian social change group Sojourners and a regular attendee of the National Prayer Breakfast, said of the event "it's sort of a time to — where people want to acknowledge the importance of prayer and faith. And that can be kind of a civil religion, civic faith kind of common denominator thing. Or it can be much too sectarian where some people feel left out of it. I remember my favorite ones are when Bono spoke at the prayer breakfast and talked about every faith tradition calls us to stand with those who are left out, left behind. I remember Senator Mark Hatfield spoke years ago when I was in seminary and he called the war in Vietnam a national sin and shame in front of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. I saw their faces and they weren't happy with that. So when it can raise up issues that we ought to be accountable to, whether we are religious or not, I think that's when it's probably at its best."[24]

In 2010, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asked President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders to refrain from attending the National Prayer Breakfast. Executive Director Melanie Sloan criticized the organizing group, The Fellowship, for being what she described as intolerant and secretive.[25] Over the years, other watchdog groups, like the Freedom From Religion Foundation, also criticize the opacity, and maintain the NPB, launched to oppose FDR's New Deal policies, is a Christian nationalist movement, pretends to be bipartisan, and uses unwitting Democrats for cover and legitimacy.[26][27] In 2023, various groups - religious and secular, Black, LGBTQ - lobbied President Joe Biden to break tradition and cut ties with the event.[27]

On Thursday, February 6, 2020, President Donald J. Trump addressed the gathering, including these statements encouraging freedom of religion and appreciation for those attending, citing their bravery, brilliance, and fortitude: "But I’ll tell you what we are doing: We’re restoring hope and spreading faith. We’re helping citizens of every background take part in the great rebuilding of our nation. We’re declaring that America will always shine as a land of liberty and light unto all nations of the world. We want every nation to look up to us like they are right now."[28]

Also in 2020, the event marked the highest level state visit by a Republic of China (Taiwan) official since 1979 when Vice-President Lai Ching-te attended the National Prayer Breakfast.[29]

The National Prayer Breakfast is featured in the Netflix miniseries The Family, from the book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.

Australian National Prayer Breakfast

The Australian National Prayer Breakfast is hosted by the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship with the support of a small organising committee. It has been occurring since 1982 and heavily borrows from US National Prayer Breakfast.[30] Key organisers and prominent participants have had links with the Fellowship such as brothers Jock Cameron and Ross Cameron, Bruce Baird, Kevin Andrews[31] and Kevin Rudd who visited C Street.[32][33][34] Prominent speakers at the National Prayer Breakfast and associated side events include Mark Scott, Major General Michael Jeffery, Cardinal George Pell and Tim Costello.[35][34] For the 2019 Australian National Prayer Breakfast people were invited to bring their MP because of Paul's call to “pray for all those in authority”.[36] Leon Hribar the Canberra director for the City Bible Forum helps organize the Australian National Prayer Breakfast.[37] The main breakfast occurs at Old Parliament House Canberra.

United Kingdom National Prayer Breakfast

The National Prayer Breakfast in the UK is organised by a cross party group of MPs and Peers, working with the support of Christians in Parliament and is not associated with the US NPB. The event normally takes place over two days around the beginning of July, inside the Houses of Parliament. The main breakfast is normally held in Westminster Hall.[38]


See also


  1. ^ the Fellowship Foundation organization is also known by its DBA name International Foundation
  2. ^ DBA - Doing-Business-As


  1. ^ Getter, Lisa (September 27, 2002). "Showing Faith in Discretion". Los Angeles Times.
  2. ^ Olmstead, Molly (February 2, 2023). "Schism! At the Prayer Breakfast". Slate. Retrieved February 2, 2023.
  3. ^ "Concerns over prayer breakfast lead Congress to take it over". AP NEWS. 2023-01-29. Retrieved 2023-01-29.
  4. ^ Lindsay, D. Michael (2006). "Is the National Prayer Breakfast Surrounded by a "Christian Mafia"? Religious Publicity and Secrecy within the Corridors of Power". Journal of the American Academy of Religion. 74 (2): 390–419. doi:10.1093/jaarel/lfj060. ISSN 0002-7189. JSTOR 4094038. S2CID 145575486.
  5. ^ Gillman, Todd J. (February 9, 2013). "Tyler's Louie Gohmert puts Obama criticism on pause at National Prayer Breakfast". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
  6. ^ Winston, Diane (February 1, 2017). "National Prayer Breakfast: What does its history reveal?". The Conversation. Retrieved 2019-11-27.
  7. ^ of Calcutta, Mother Teresa (February 3, 1994). "Whatsoever You Do..." Priests for Life (speech). Washington, DC. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
  8. ^ "Zondervan Author Ben Carson Gives Keynote at 2013 National Prayer Breakfast". PR Newswire. Retrieved 8 February 2013.
  9. ^ "Transcript: Bono remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast". USA Today. 2006-02-02. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
  10. ^ Frommer, Frederic (2008-02-06). "Minnesotan to deliver keynote speech at National Prayer Breakfast". Star Tribune. Archived from the original on 2008-10-10. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
  11. ^ "Tony Blair addresses Obama's first annual National Prayer Breakfast". Ekklesia. 2009-02-05. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
  12. ^ "Spanish PM to speak at prayer breakfast in Washington: reports". EU business. 2010-01-15.
  13. ^ "Randall Wallace Delivers National Prayer Breakfast Keynote Address", Randall Wallace Online, February 3, 2011.
  14. ^ "No pious baloney". World. February 2, 2012..
  15. ^ "Zondervan Author Ben Carson Gives Keynote at 2013 National Prayer Breakfast". PR Newswire. Retrieved 8 February 2013.
  16. ^ Larson, Leslie (February 6, 2014). "The Obamas show their spiritual side at the National Prayer Breakfast". NY Daily News. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  17. ^ Picker, Nedra (February 5, 2015). "#NationalPrayerBreakfast program".
  18. ^ Koran, Laura (February 4, 2016). "Obama at National Prayer Breakfast: 'Faith is the great cure for fear'". CNN. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  19. ^ Merica, Dan (February 2, 2017). "Trump at National Prayer Breakfast: 'Pray for Arnold'". CNN. Retrieved February 2, 2017.
  20. ^ Bailey, Sarah Pulliam (February 8, 2018). "Trump's National Prayer Breakfast speech infused with God-and-country references". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 14, 2018.
  21. ^ "The Latest: Trump promises to always protect people of faith". The Washington Post. AP. February 7, 2019. Archived from the original on February 9, 2019. Retrieved February 7, 2019.
  22. ^ Boorstein, Michelle (February 6, 2020). "At National Prayer Breakfast about unity, Trump swipes at Romney, Pelosi". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on February 7, 2020. Retrieved February 7, 2020.
  23. ^ "U.S. Senator Christopher Coons of Delaware". Retrieved 2023-01-29.
  24. ^ "President Gets Personal at National Prayer Breakfast". NPR. February 4, 2011.
  25. ^ Goodstein, Laurie (2010-02-04). "National prayer breakfast draws controversy". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
  26. ^ Jenkins, Jack; Banks, Adelle (26 January 2023). "National Prayer Breakfast breaks with Christian group that ran it for years". Washington Post. Retrieved 31 January 2023.
  27. ^ a b Larsen, Jonathan (2023-01-17). "Black, LGBTQ+, and religious groups ask Biden to drop the National Prayer Breakfast". Salon. Retrieved 2023-01-25.
  28. ^ "Remarks by President Trump at the 68th Annual National Prayer Breakfast". The White House Archives.
  29. ^ Hille, Kathrin (February 3, 2020). "Taiwan politician's visit to Washington risks enraging China". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 2022-12-11.
  30. ^ "ANPB 2011". Australian National Prayer Breakfast. Retrieved 2019-08-22.
  31. ^ Wroe, David (2016-01-29). "Kevin Andrews angers party whip with 'prayer breakfast' reason for Washington visit". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2019-08-22.
  32. ^ "Elite Fundamentism - The Fellowship's gospel of Capitalist Power". Radio National. 2006-04-18. Retrieved 2019-08-22.
  33. ^ Munro, Ian (2008-06-13). "Secrets of a powerful Family". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2019-08-22.
  34. ^ a b Maddox, Marion (2005). God under Howard : the rise of the religious right in Australian politics. Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1741145686. OCLC 224388713.
  35. ^ "More than just a light on the hill". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2007-12-22. Retrieved 2019-08-22.
  36. ^ "National Prayer Breakfast 2019". Retrieved 2019-08-22.
  37. ^ "National Prayer Breakfast". Tuggeranong Good Shepherd Congregation, ACT. Retrieved 2019-08-22.
  38. ^ "National Prayer Breakfast". Bible Society. 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-08.

External links