If you need a place to send notes to God, head to Lakeside, on the corner of Glenwood and Crosley. There, near the Great Lakes Church, stands a white mailbox with "prayer requests” painted on the side.
The Karas family, Nancy, John and Catherine, all longtime members, are the sort-of stewards of the box and its contents. Catherine was part of the youth group who dreamed up the prayer request box about five years ago, and the idea was to offer blessings to people in the neighborhood or passersby.
The box is locked, with an opening in the front for incoming notes. The requests are often anonymous, though, some people add their name, some their address, and some are visitors with numerous requests at a time.
Catherine checks it regularly.
Sometimes, the box can remain empty for several weeks, and sometimes during winter, it’s hard to get to.
When there is “mail,” it goes to the church’s prayer team, of which her father, John, is a member. “There’s some people who are really hurting,” he said. “Broken families, addiction, lost jobs.”
Often, prayers are for people who have mental or physical health issues, struggles in family relationships or financial woes, added Catherine.
The requests used to end up on a board in the church hallway — more eyes, more prayers — but that ended up being a low-traffic space. Now, people or families take a prayer request home, for added good tidings after the fact.
The family Karas assumed requests come from non-congregation members. Nancy surmised: “We do prayer meetings at church. If people were comfortable enough to share them in person, there’s definitely an opportunity for that.”
Regardless of where they come from, people want to be supported, said Great Lakes Church Pastor Aaron Fregard.
“We all have struggles and have pressure and fears and insecurities. … Prayer is a simple way for us to connect with God to receive help,” he said.
Some people journal, a lot of people talk to God out loud or without words. Prayer is not a set structure, he added.
For John, he prays whatever’s on his heart.
“Like talking to a friend, but he’s more than a friend. He’s almighty, and we certainly want to pray according to what his will is.”
The act of checking the box and delivering its contents reminds Catherine to pray herself, and the process feels special.
“The fact that the person is there writing their prayer down, and they put it in that box, it’s a step of faith. … God honors that,” she said.
Receiving requests is also a faithful act for the Karas family.
“You don’t really ever find out about those situations after, but that’s OK,” she added.
The Great Lakes Church prayer team holds regularly scheduled prayer times from 9-10 a.m. Sundays, open to anyone with limited capacity due to the pandemic. The church is offering limited in-person services as well as on Facebook Live.