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The box went up on a Monday evening in August, a plain white box nestled inside a little wooden tent, mounted atop a fence and beneath the outermost reach of a maple.
“Prayer requests,” reads the side of the tent in black, all-caps lettering.
The box has a slot, like one awaiting Valentines, and the message: “Please write down any prayer requests. We would love to be praying for you!”
Keanu Krech didn’t know what to expect when he set up the prayer box, tucking in a pen and a rock to hold down scraps of paper. The college senior, 22, positioned the box at the edge of his childhood home, which is on a busy residential road between a highway and a gas station in South St. Paul, Minn.
But Keanu knew he wanted to extend the power of prayer as broadly as he could, with a quiet anonymity. He was putting a twist on the Little Free Library concept that began just 20 miles east, in Hudson, Wis., and now exceeds 50,000 locations worldwide, knitting together neighborhoods with a warm and fuzzy literary fiber.
He planned to share the prayer requests, if they came, with his Monday night Bible study, a small group of college-aged students.
The next day, Keanu peeked inside the box and discovered a handwritten note: “For those who are walking not knowing God, heal those with addictions, and for the men and women overseas fighting for our freedom.”
It was a heavy start, covering so much in such little space.
The prayer box was off and running. Keanu and his friends began to pray.
In three months, the box has amassed about 100 prayer requests. Never a week has passed without someone slipping a note inside.
“Please pray for my marriage,” someone wrote.
“Please pray for us that we get a roof over our family’s heads before winter comes,” a note stated in round, puffy lettering.
“I’m here in town with the show Cabaret. I just ran my first half marathon and have lost 270 pounds. Continue to pray for me on my health journey,” a passer-by wrote last month.
“Pray for me,” someone wrote with a left-handed slope. “I picked up a bad drug problem, and I’ve lost my family and everyone I love and I don’t know what to do. … Please pray that God will help me with my troubles.”
Others are shorter. “Arleen’s foot to heal.” “Amber’s eye surgery.” “For God to place good people in Kelly’s life.”
Now Keanu and his friends are praying for Arleen and Amber and Kelly, for the faces they will never see whose hearts have been revealed.
“I’m surprised how deep the prayer requests are, how vulnerable they are,” he told me. “I’ve read some and just cried.”
As a teen, Keanu felt the weight of depression and the tug of life’s big questions. He didn’t attend church, but he’d stay up late, laptop in bed, pouring over YouTube videos from Christians and responses from atheists in an endless loop. His head was spinning, and his heart was aching.
Finally, his mom called a youth minister at her parents’ Methodist church to field Keanu’s questions. They met at a coffee shop and struck up a friendship over hot chocolate. Soon Keanu was attending Sunday night worship services. Something changed in his heart: For the first time in a long time, he felt hope.
As Keanu completes his bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry, he’s letting his faith guide the next chapter. The goal, he says, plain and simple: to love God and love others. And as long as people keep submitting prayer requests, he’ll keep praying for them.
(Christina Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minn., and the editor of SisterStory.org.) †