It stopped raining in Lodi just in time Thursday to keep an estimated 50 residents and a dozen pastors dry for the ninth annual National Day of Prayer celebration at the Lodi All-Veterans Plaza.
"If you don't believe in prayer, it would be raining," said Ken Owen, founder of Christian Community Concerns, who organized the event.
The event, known since 2003 as the God and Country Prayer Rally in honor of military personnel in Iraq and other Middle East countries, featured prayers for every branch of government, from Lodi straight to the White House.
A special prayer was given by Lodi's Denise Guady, whose son, Specialist Ryan Adams, is stationed in Iraq for the second time. Guady credited God for gunfire missing her son by five feet in 2003 and keeping him and other troops away from more gunfire on Dec. 20.
"God saved the soldiers' lives," Guady said.
Befitting the theme of the prayer rally, Owen talked about how great it is to be a Christian living in the United States.
"We're free from the bondage of our sins," Owen said.
Rick Souza, a missionary from Century Assembly, prayed for God to forgive American society for turning its back on him through gang warfare, drug abuse and many actions devastating families and the country.
Pastor Steve Jarrett, of New Hope Community Church of Lodi, put his arm around City Manager Blair King as he gave his prayer.
Addressing God, Jarrett said, "We thank Blair King, who you've sent to us. We thank you for his integrity and his leadership."
Pastor Bill Cummins of Bear Creek Community Church, asking the audience to point east toward Washington, D.C., asked the U.S. Supreme Court to use The Ten Commandments for its guidance. He also asked God to provide wisdom and protection for President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, and Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy.
After Cummins' prayer for federal leaders, Pastor Mark Butler, of Harvest Bible Church, prayed for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"We ask you to surround him with godly men and women, not with their agenda, but his agenda," Butler said.
Other prayers offered to community leaders:
• Pombo and State Sen. Chuck Poochigian, R-Fresno, by Pastor Kevin Suess of Lodi Community Church.
• Assemblyman Alan Nakanishi, R-Lodi, by Pastor Scott Hubbard of Crossroads Community Church.
• San Joaquin County Supervisor Jack Sieglock, by Pastor Tim Pollock of The Home Church.
• Lodi City Council and Lodi Unified School District, by Pastor Chris Chavez of Heartland Community Church.
• Lodi police and fire, by Butler, Lodi police Chaplain Bill Sherrill, Pastor Dale Edwards of Century Assembly and retired Century Assembly Pastor Harold Duncan.
• And finally, the pastors themselves, whom Owen described as "the gatekeepers to the morality of our city."
"They aren't perfect; they have flaws," Edwards said, explaining why everyone needs to pray for their pastors.
Edwards asked God to allow his fellow pastors to follow the example of the late Pope John Paul II, who maintained moral values while refusing to bow to popular opinion.
Owen's sister, Judy Phillips, offered a song for the occasion. And Pastor Chris Siebert of Calvary Bible Church, never bashful to exhibit his singing voice, sang to begin the prayer rally and led a rousing four-verse rendition of "America the Beautiful" during the finale.
Dignitaries participating in the prayer rally were Nakanishi; Sieglock; City Council members Susan Hitchcock, Larry Hansen and JoAnne Mounce; Sara Lapachet, Pombo's field representative representing; and Ann Jordan, Poochigian's district director. Pastor Mike Abdollahzadeh, of Lodi Avenue Baptist Church, also participated.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.