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Praying, Day and Night, for Hollywood


Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Bruckheimer don't know me, but I've been praying for them and their staff.

I belong to a group called Hollywood Prayer Watch. For five years, we've been bombarding Hollywood with intercessory prayers. We pray for its children and families. We pray for its drug addicts and dealers and prostitutes and homeless. We pray for people in the entertainment industry. We pray for law enforcement officers who patrol Hollywood and politicians who represent it.

We do this in the belief that prayer can transform Hollywood's worldwide influence.

On the first and second Saturday of each month, 150 of us from the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood arrange our schedules so that someone is praying every minute of those days, in half-hour segments.

Hundreds from other churches and ministries, such as the Monroe Street Christian Church and Hollywood Christian Life Center, also participate. We also are connected to a global prayer outreach numbering tens of thousands through an interdenominational network of prayer leaders.

The global network, International Prayer Council, is headed by a Pasadena man named John Robb. Robb, who has worked in 100 countries since 1976, says he's asked often, "Why do you [America] ship over your movies that are so full of violence and immorality?" Last year, after he was confronted with the question, he thought to himself, "Why not let the nations pray for Hollywood?" That's how he linked up his legion of prayer networks overseas with those of us who pray here.

"There is such a potential for God's transforming power to come in and to make Hollywood a more wholesome place," says Robb. "We have a lot of hope."

The woman who launched the Hollywood prayer initiative is the Rev. Jeri Penley of Sylmar. She's a mother of two teenagers who spends her days working at an Encino brokerage firm as a sales assistant. She and her partner, the Rev. David Andrade, also operate the Strategic Prayer Strike Center in Pasadena, which trains people in intercessory worship.

In January 1997, Penley approached churches, ministries and people she knew in Hollywood and got them to commit.

"The needs are huge, but God is so much greater," says Helen Griffith, who has been serving as a volunteer coordinator for the Hollywood prayer effort since its inception. Griffith, whose parents served as medical missionaries to Korea in the 1920s, chooses the subjects for monthly Hollywood prayers, offering appropriate Bible verses and specific suggestions for intercessors. Her monthly prayer letter packet arrives at our homes about a week before the prayer slots are scheduled.

"As soon as I get it, I read it and begin to prepare myself," says one intercessor, retired electrical engineer Dick Hamilton, 77. His slot is 6 a.m. on the second Saturday of the month. He prays in his bedroom, seated on his bed.

He has no difficulty praying for schools, churches, police officers and firefighters and folks in the entertainment industry. He grew up here, attending Fairfax High School. But Hamilton says he found praying last Saturday for gangs, at Griffith's suggestion, "tough" because he had no personal association with gang-bangers.

Yet as he prayed, he said, he felt the Holy Spirit interceding in his behalf. "By faith, we have to trust that God knows what's best."

Griffith's suggestions to the intercessors had included praying for understanding and courage for the kids who are invited to join the gangs in Hollywood. Pray for them to resist, she said, and pray that those who want to leave gangs will be given courage to leave and will be protected by God.

My prayer slot is 9 to 9:30 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month. Over the years, this has presented some interesting challenges. I've slipped out of dinner parties to pray. I've put on dark glasses so I could close my eyes for prayer in airport lounges. Last Saturday night, I excused myself in the middle of an after-dinner stroll to linger on a park bench in Santa Monica to pray for such gangs as 18th Street, Mara Salvatrucha and White Fence. I tried to see them as God might see them, creatures made in his image and loved by him.

Like Dick Hamilton, many of us from mainstream Protestant denominations tend to pray in silence--sitting or kneeling quietly as we present our petitions to God and thank him for what he is going to do.

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