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Letters to Heaven: Pastor uses special mailbox outside Slope church to collect written prayer requests

Praying it forward: Rev. HyoungDock Yoo collects passersby’s written prayer requests from a mailbox outside Park Slope’s Grace United Methodist Chruch, before sharing them with the man upstairs.
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He’s saying your prayers!

A Park Slope pastor offers down-and-out locals a direct line to the man upstairs in the form of a special mailbox outside his Seventh Avenue church where needy passersby can drop their written requests for spiritual aid, he said.

“I bring these prayers to the alter, I lift them up to God, and I ask for God’s grace for these people,” said Rev. HyoungDock Yoo, a clergyman at Grace United Methodist Church.

Yoo installed the confidential prayer-deposit box at a friend’s suggestion six years ago, after he moved from Connecticut to preach at the Park Slope house of worship at 33 Seventh Ave. News of the receptacle was first reported by City Lab.

The preacher said he received hundreds of prayer requests since, from people of all creeds and walks of life that are suffering deeply personal crises that drove them to seek help from above.

“There are a lot of desperate people,” Yoo said. “The last thing they can think to do is turn to God.”

Yoo reaches out to the boss each morning at dawn, kneeling down at the 150-year-old church’s alter for a moment of silent prayer, during which he passes along the day’s special requests as his two-year-old Maltese mix, Lucy, plays in the background, he said.

“She’s not very good at prayer,” Yoo said.

Anonymous prayer pleas usually come in at a rate of about two or three a week, but more tend to arrive around the holidays or amid a national crisis, such as the aftermath of a terrorist attack, the pastor said.

But most petitions are unique to their maker, according to Yoo, who said the requests for divine intervention are prompted by all types of calamity, including cancer scares, financial emergencies, drug addiction, and even rent hikes.

The faith leader admitted he can’t promise anything on behalf of the Lord above, and that most people who use the prayer box aren’t the church-going type, leaving him unsure of their fates.

“I don’t know if I’m helping them or not,” Yoo said. “They have to wait for God to intervene, or they will find their own way to God.”

But that doesn’t bother the local pastor, who said he always holds the whole of Park Slope in his own prayers.

“I can still do my best,” the reverend said. “I want them to know I’m here to pray for the community.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 9:17 am, January 4, 2018
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