Parliament’s Speaker David Carter has proposed a new prayer to be read at the opening of the parliamentary day.
He is asking MPs for their feedback on the prayer which could replace the existing one adopted in 1962.
I personally don’t think Parliament as an institution should have a prayer. Religious belief is a personal decision, not an institutional one. MPs who wish to offer a prayer should be able to do so as they see fit, but my preference would be that there be no official prayer led off by the Speaker as this jars with being a secular country.
The existing prayer is:
Humbly acknowledging our need for Thy guidance in all things, and laying aside all private and personal interests, we beseech Thee to grant that we may conduct the affairs of this House and of our country to the glory of Thy holy name, the maintenance of true religion and justice, the honour of the Queen, and the public welfare, peace, and tranquillity of New Zealand, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The proposed new prayer is:
E te Atua Kaha Rawa (Almighty God)
Ka whakamanawa taua hunga katoa kua riro atu i mua i a tatau – moe mai okioki (We honour those who have gone before us – rest, slumber on.) We recognise the mana whenua, Te Ati Aawa, the kaitiaki of this region, Te Upoko-o-Te-Ika-a-Maui.
We acknowledge the need for guidance and lay aside all private and personal interests so that we may conduct the affairs of this House for the maintenance of justice, the honour of the Queen and the public welfare, peace, and tranquillity of New Zealand.
The proposed new prayer is superior in that it is no longer explicitly a Christian prayer. If there is to be a prayer, it should be a prayer all MPs with religious beliefs are comfortable with participating in.
But on the downside, I don’t think a prayer to God is the appropriate forum to talk about recognising the local Iwi. Also this is the Parliament of New Zealand, not the Parliament of Wellington, so the reference is inappropriate.