Area Gatherings Mark National Day of Prayer

Heads bowed, hands clasped, 40 men and women stood in front of the flagpole at Thousand Oaks City Hall on Thursday and prayed for American leaders to heed their vision of the nation's future.

Touching on topics as diverse as Bosnia and the local parent-teacher association, they voiced their fears and comforted one another with assurances that their prayers would be heard.

In a celebration of the National Day of Prayer, established by Ronald Reagan in 1988 as the first Thursday of May, several church leaders from throughout Ventura County gathered their congregations for public lunch-hour prayers.

Scores "prayed for the moral condition of America" in front of the County Government Center in Ventura, said Gloria Stockstill, the wife of the pastor of the city's Gold Coast Baptist Church. "It helps to know we're not alone in our concerns."

As they stood in front of City Hall in Thousand Oaks, the mainly Christian worshipers prayed for God to "lift up our leaders, because they have a really hard job," said George Wibbler, pastor of the Calvary Chapel Church in Thousand Oaks. Spectators at the event--similar to other gatherings across the country--cheered Anne Marangi of Newbury Park, who said she came to the noontime prayer to "make a public statement that we are not a minority in this nation."

Emphasizing that unity brings power, several of those who prayed aloud said they felt the collective spirit loaded their words with extra meaning. When others spoke, some stood quietly nodding and others burst out with "Hallelujah" and "That's right."

The events at both ends of the county were part of the annual National Day of Prayer celebration, sponsored by the Colorado-based religious group Focus on the Family.

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