Modesto Mayor Jim Ridenour has proclaimed Monday through Saturday a "Week of Prayer for Modesto."
Prayer for specific groups, from business to government to schools to pastors and nonprofit agencies, will be held at 10 sites over the six days. A facilitator representing each group will begin the time of prayer, then open it to others who show up.
The idea stemmed from a push to hold a mayor's day of prayer and breakfast, Ridenour said.
But there already are prayer breakfasts in the area, he said, such as the Stanislaus County Day of Prayer, a similar event in Turlock and a breakfast for law and safety personnel.
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So he changed the focus to a week of prayer and turned to the City Ministries Network, a group of church ministries and nonprofit agencies, to coordinate the event.
Gayleen Terry, head of pastoral ministries for women at First Baptist Church of Modesto, is the network's prayer coordinator.
"Prayer is something tangible we can do for our city," she said. "We have a lot of problems here, and prayer is part of the solution. When we pray, God works. We also have many blessings in our city that we're thankful for."
The Modesto City Council has welcomed faith-based groups over the past few years in different ways. Elected leaders encourage Love Modesto, a coalition of church groups that regularly conducts community service projects.
The city also has reached out to religious leaders for certain collaborations, such as the Weed and Seed program in west Modesto and a south Modesto anti-gang program.
The idea of praying for specific topics or "spheres of influence" goes back to the 1970s when some internationally known Christian leaders expressed interest in prayer for seven areas: business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family and religion.
All the help they can get
In these difficult economic times, those areas need all the help they can get, coordinators said. They believe the event will promote unity in Modesto and other positive results.
For example, "a move toward city transformation that is initiated and sustained by a spirit of ongoing prayer," said Marvin Jacobo, who works with Youth for Christ and the ministries network. "That our city would be a good city to grow old in and a good city to grow up in."
The latter is especially a concern for the mayor.
"So much of (the prayer focus) is about families," he said. "We need to get back to families so the kids don't want to get into gangs."
He said people of any or no faith are invited to participate.
"We're not saying a particular religion," Ridenour said. "Everybody's welcome, no matter whether it's Protestant or Catholic or whatever. If everyone prays, it will work. It will pull a lot of people together."
Ridenour said he hasn't heard from folks who might oppose a religion-government connection.
"We've done everything according to what outside attorneys have told us. We're not limiting this. It can be for any religion, no religion. If someone else wants to do something, I'm open to it.
"We've had so many people coming out for different areas of this. I think it's going to be a great experience."
Bee staff writer Sue Nowicki can be reached at 578-2012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.