The Calgary Leadership Prayer Breakfast – and Developing Imaginal Leaders

I did not grow up in a family that modelled how to have a faith in God. In addition, I had no interest in learning about that. I enjoyed playing sports, being with my friends, getting passing grades (average was good enough), and skiing on the weekends. I thought very little about the larger issues of life.

But at 20 years old, nearing the end of university, all that changed. After a year of asking questions about life, and researching the reliability of Jesus and the Bible, I became a Christian. It was the best decision that I ever made.

I grew in my faith but it wasn’t until I was married with children that I attended my first Prayer Breakfast.

A Prayer Breakfast? Did that mean you ate while you prayed? Sort of – and since then, I have attended Prayer Breakfasts in different cities and countries.

Fast forward to 2010 when my wife and I arrived at Master’s Academy and College. After four or five years, I heard about the Calgary Leadership Prayer Breakfast and decided to not only attend myself, but take students and staff from our school.

Master’s has a strong community presence and the school provides a top quality education for its students – as well as developing what our school calls Imaginal Leaders. These student leaders are challenged to see and create the future, to study future trends, and design systemic solutions for parts of culture that need transformation. The foundational piece to their personal development is challenging them from Kindergarten through Grade 12 to be a Christ-follower, to see the world the way God does, and to respond with compassion the way that Jesus did.

How does a relevant Christ-follower engage with their culture and play a role in positively influencing society?

Engaging with culture requires a careful study of culture to see what needs to be transformed, and then designing change that will be in line with God’s heart for people and His world. Some of this will require action, like British Prime Minister William Wilberforce’s fight to pass legislation that eliminated slavery in his country or Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity that provided dignity to the dying and ‘wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.’

Prayer is also an important way to engage culture. It is important for our young Imaginal Leaders to see what praying for their society really looks like and to see a relevant faith modelled for them by the generation ahead of them.

We need to value intergenerational relationships and mentorship which, according to research, is one of the practices that helps adolescents maintain their faith into their 20s and 30s.

We want them to know that people can only do so much, and that calling upon the Lord for wisdom, guidance and intervention is normal for a leader. This is part of being trained as an Imaginal Leader. Master’s Advancement Director, Jeff Graham, wrote an excellent blog in October 2018 that described the breakfast that he attended with some staff and students.

Each year, most Canadian provinces and many cities host an independently run annual Prayer Breakfast, including the National Prayer Breakfast held in May each year in Ottawa and the Alberta Prayer Breakfast, which was last held in November 2019.  Many other cities around the world hold similar events.

Communities and their leaders gather because they have such a strong sense deep within them that they need help beyond themselves to solve the issues of their day. We live in a broken world, and we need help with how to live in it well, and so we turn to God in prayer when we are beyond ourselves.

A Prayer Breakfast is therefore a cry from the inner heart of a city that recognizes we can only do so much as people, and so we plead for the intervention of our heavenly Father to sort it all out. To sort out what needs to change in our own lives and what needs to change in our cities, our countries, and our world.

The Calgary Prayer Breakfast was founded in 1968 as the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast. The stated purpose of the Calgary breakfast “affirms our faith in God through prayer, testimony, scripture, reading and fellowship” and is “a declaration of faith, hope, and love as we seek God for what we cannot do in our own strength.”

We should be praying for our authorities. The Bible says “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.(1 Timothy 2:1-2).

The 2020 Calgary Leadership Prayer Breakfast was held this October for the 52nd straight year and had over 1000 devices (including several groups) accessing the event online (calgaryprayerbreakfast.com). Usually held at a large downtown hotel, the event took place this year at the Samaritan’s Purse warehouse in northeast Calgary, and due to COVID-19 restrictions, no breakfast was served. But the importance of prayer compelled everyone to go ahead despite social distancing during a pandemic.

Each year, the committee organizing the Calgary breakfast invites a keynote speaker. Past speakers have included Sean Brandow (Chaplain, Humboldt Broncos – 2019), Licia Corbella (Columnist, Calgary Herald – 2018), and Preston Manning (former Leader of the Opposition – 2017). This year the speaker was Benjamin Ferland, Associate Legal Counsel, Christian Legal Fellowship. Benjamin, as a lawyer, spoke as a ‘witness’ and pointed out that our society does not do as well under the wisdom of men as it does under leaders who employ the wisdom of God as they govern. Our culture needs the wisdom of God now.

Hope in God was a major theme. In attendance were several provincial leaders, MLAs, and community leaders including Fire, Police, and EMS. Various people prayed heart-felt prayers for community organizations, for the disadvantaged, first responders, government leaders, leaders of tomorrow, parachurch organizations, and church leaders. Premier Jason Kenney passed on his encouragement by pre-recorded video. People prayed for practical needs to be met so that the people of the land are blessed and taken care of. They prayed that God’s Spirit touches the inner recesses of our hearts so that the hurts of our lives no longer form the lens through which we see our circumstances and our world. They prayed: “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

This year, before our staff started their PD day, they were given the opportunity to tune in and participate in the online 2020 Prayer Breakfast. Master’s staff believes in prayer. They pray – on their own, before their meetings, for their students, families, city, country – that God’s love is realized by people. Master’s hopes its students learn to value talking with and listening to God.

I hope you can attend a Prayer Breakfast soon. You will be a part of asking God to help your city and country, and to bless our land and our leaders. Maybe after Covid we can gather again to share a meal together while we pray.

But for this year, I enjoyed sitting with my wife in our home as we joined others in online prayer – with our own coffee and our own breakfast.