They came to pray for rain Sunday, people and pastors from churches around Bakersfield.
More than 1,000 hopeful souls filled Harvey Auditorium at Bakersfield High School. They preached, they sang, they exhorted, unified in beseeching God's blessings.
But the crowd was actually seeking heavenly assistance for more than one of the worst droughts in the state's history.
They were also praying for help with a spiritual drought.
"When God is not king, things get mixed up," said Jim Crews, pastor of Valley Bible Fellowship.
He said too many people believe prayer is "a cosmic Santa Claus list." Instead, he said, people need to look into their hearts.
"God allows difficult times to draw us back to him," echoed Monsignor Craig Harrison, of St. Francis Parish.
But even before the Pray For Rain gathering gathered, rain was in the forecast.
Bakersfield is expected to get a few hundredths of an inch of rain Wednesday, and then up to a half-inch of rain Friday and Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.
"We're finally having a couple of Pacific weather systems moving into California," said meteorologist Jim Dudley of the NWS Hanford office. "It looks much wetter for the weekend system coming in."
A ridge of high pressure that has prevented systems from reaching the valley is moving off to the east, he said.
Wednesday's precipitation will bring snow to elevations around 7,000 feet, Dudley said, while Friday's weather will bring snow as low as 5,000 feet.
He said the wet forecast was made before Pray for Rain began Sunday night.
Nevertheless, he said, "I think any help from any source would be a good thing."
Martin Varga attended Pray for Rain wearing his Kern County Water Agency shirt, which made sense since he's the engineering and ground water services manager there.
His wife, Jeanne, was with him. She's a public information consultant for the agency.
"We believe in the power of prayer," she said, "and see firsthand the impact of limited water supplies.
"By the strength of all of us coming together in prayer, we come away with more hope for improved water supplies."
The 90-minute service brought together more than 30 churches and featured the music of the Canyon Hills Worship Team. The program was divided according to lines from the Lord's Prayer, with each line usually featuring a pastor and layperson.
Included among the presenters was Clinton Shick, chairman of the board of Blue Diamond Almonds, a TV meteorologist and Don Crabtree, owner of California Drilling Fluids.
Sunday's gathering was the first of several planned community prayer efforts.
According to David Goh, pastor at The Garden Community Church, churches will be asked to participate in 40 days of daily prayer beginning May 1 with the National Day of Prayer.
That culminates Sunday, June 8 with the Global Day of Prayer.