Speaker Trevor Mallard changed Parliament's prayer last year despite the new version being less popular among MPs and public feedback than the previous one, which referenced Jesus Christ.

Mallard appeared before the governance and administration select committee at Parliament this morning to speak to the petition, from John Trezise, to remove religion from the parliamentary prayer, oaths, and national anthem.

The prayer is recited at the start of every parliamentary sitting day.

Last year Mallard removed the prayer's reference to Jesus Christ, but decided to retain a reference to "Almighty God" and to the Queen.


Mallard told committee members that it would be impossible to get consensus on the matter.

"There were submissions to me from both sides, people saying 'how dare you in a secular country have God in the opening of Parliament?' and people who wanted to revert to something that was strictly a Christian prayer.

"We won't satisfy everyone but I am satisfied that the balance is about right."

He said he had no plans to revisit the issue, though he would consider it if instructed to by the committee or the standing orders committee.

After the meeting, Mallard said feedback largely fell into three groups: supporting the former Christian prayer, the current one with a reference to God but not Jesus Christ, and those wanting no reference to God.

He said feedback from MPs was about 40 per cent in favour of the Christian prayer, 30 per cent supporting the new prayer, and 30 per cent who wanted no religious references.

Email feedback was "strongly" in favour of keeping the former Christian prayer, he said, but religious leaders were much more supportive of the new one as it was more inclusive.

"I think Parliament should be an inclusive place, and we have people of different religious beliefs who were not comfortable as MPs with the prayer as it was."


He conceded he had overruled the option that had the most support.

"I'm happy to take a step towards being inclusive."

He said the majority had wanted change but were split about what the change should be.

National MP Alfred Ngaro, a Christian who has spoken at rallies at Parliament supporting the old prayer, said Mallard had put his personal view above the feedback.

"It is disappointing because the largest proportion of feedback was to keep the status quo."

Asked about feedback from ethnic minority groups, Mallard told the committee that they were generally supportive of the new prayer as some people were not comfortable with a prayer "to the son of a deity they did not accept".

"That was particularly clear from the Jewish community."

He did not have a view as the Speaker on whether religion should feature in parliamentary oaths or the national anthem, but he added that he personally thought the national anthem could be a lot better than it is.

Other MPs congratulated Mallard on having the prayer spoken in different languages, which Mallard said had garnered international attention and made New Zealand look more welcoming and inclusive.

The prayer that opened the House for more than 50 years was:

"Almighty God, 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 current prayer is:

"Almighty God, we give thanks for the blessings which have been bestowed on us. Laying aside all personal interests, we acknowledge the Queen and pray for guidance in our deliberations, that we may conduct the affairs of this House with wisdom justice, mercy, and humility for the welfare and peace of New Zealand. Amen."