Before the sun came up Thursday, people walked briskly into Rabobank Convention Center for the 34th annual Bakersfield Prayer Breakfast.
"Bakersfield is definitely a city of God," said Art Gonzalez, 62. "This event lifts your spirits and keeps you in a positive mental state where anything is possible if we work together."
That seemed to be the predominant theme of the prayers of the more than 1,000 attendees who enjoyed scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, orange juice and of course coffee to wake them up for the 6:40 a.m. prayers.
Before Mayor Harvey Hall talked about the history of the event, there were individual prayers for government leaders, public safety employees, healthcare workers, business people, clergy and youth.
Hall said the event began as the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast under former mayor Mary K. Shell and is one of the largest prayer breakfasts in the country.
The event here draws 900 to 1,200 people every year, he said.
"God has called us to some great understanding and undertaking. All we need is the will of determination to move forward," Hall said as the crowd applauded.
Keynote speaker Gary Steffes, a Bakersfield Condors center, talked about his journey to becoming a "disciple of Christ."
When Steffes was in college, he said, he was always worried about what other people thought about him. What would his coaches think? His teammates? Teachers?
He tried to impress everyone, but when his hockey coach did not play him, his world crumbled.
"I felt so worthless, insignificant, like my heart had been ripped out of my chest," Steffes said.
For the first time, Steffes got on his knees and asked, "God help me, please."
From that moment on, his life changed. He now works full time during the off-season with The Fellowship of Christian Athletes-Hockey, traveling the world to spread the good news of Jesus, he said.
Doug Carter, chairman of the committee that put on the breakfast, said he felt fortunate to see a community that comes together to show its love and care for Bakersfield, regardless of faith.
"We hope that everyone will leave their differences at the door and basically come together and be encouraged," Carter said.