As Lodi pastors prayed for the city and the country Sunday afternoon, members of 14 local churches joined them near the downtown Lodi arch.
The three-hour PrayerFest, now in its third year, alternated between prayers by local pastors and songs led by the Worship Team from Century Assembly.
"We felt it was a wonderful opportunity for churches to get together," said Lockeford resident Betsy Robinson, a member of Temple Baptist Church.
The event lasted from 2 to 5 p.m., and an hour into the service, approximately 100 people were gathered beneath large awnings set up in the Lodi Station.
Started in 2000 by Century Assembly Pastor Rick Souza, the event is organized so that people don't have to stay for the whole three hours if their schedules do not allow it. During the three-hour period, though, Vine and Branches Christian Bookstore owner Phil Biddle thought the total attendance might surpass last
year's service, which drew 400 people.
Biddle offered free books, including "Taking Our Cities For God," as his way of encouraging people to join together in prayer for Lodi. With pastors praying for specific groups on Sunday, including youth, families and teachers, the book was especially appropriate.
As people nodded in agreement, Loving Hymn Ministries Rev. Fred Chacon spoke briefly about ending racism before his prayer.
"I've used this analogy many times: The paint job on your car doesn't have anything to do with the performance of your car. It's what's under the hood that counts," Chacon said, likening the car color to skin color.
Then, while those in attendance bowed their heads and closed their eyes, he prayed for gang members and their victims, in both Lodi and the United States.
Lodi Police Chaplain Bill Sherrill had a similar theme, but his prayer was specifically for law enforcement officers and their families.
"We pray for the men and women who carry a gun, hoping they'll never have to use it," he prayed.
"I also want to remember those who have been arrested. … I pray today that their lives will turn around," Sherrill said, his voice shaking.
As people said "Amen" in agreement, the worship band began playing, allowing a time for people to stand and join in song, while others got a bottle of water or soda.
Other ministers then prayed for church unity, revival and local schools.
New Hope Community Church Rev. Steve Jarrett, whose wife is a teacher, prayed for the administrators and teachers, ending his prayer by focusing on Lodi as a whole.
"Lord, we ask that you would smile upon Lodi," he prayed.
Soon after his prayer ended, people began singing, some clapping and tapping their feet as they repeated the chorus: "All things are possible, all things are possible."
For those in attendance, it was a time to join with other churches in unity.
"After 9-11, we see how much prayer our nation needs," Robinson said.
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