About 18 months ago, Angela Tomiye heard a clear direction from God: "Everyone needs prayer, but not everyone is willing to walk into a church to receive it." The next day, she spray-painted her grandfather's old toolbox yellow, hiked to the top of the Koko Head trail in Honolulu, Hawaii and left it there with a few pencils and bits of paper. She labelled it 'prayer box', and though she left no instructions, she hoped hikers might share their requests.
Ever since, Tomiye has been hiking the trail every two weeks, taking out the prayers and praying over them with a group of friends. Each time she goes, the box is full.
"I did it without any expectations," she told Christian Today. "It wasn't an experiment, it was just an act of obedience and wanting to follow through on what God was asking of me. After seeing the outpouring of prayer requests, it's been confirmation of what God spoke."
The view from the top of the mountain is breath-taking, and it's a staggering 1,048 steps to the peak. It's no wonder that people feel moved to respond with prayer, Tomiye says. Many walkers are looking for an escape; to remove distractions and gain clarity on their circumstances. "There's something incredibly rewarding about reaching a mountain top and seeing your surroundings with a different perspective.
"Being in a serene atmosphere at a peak makes us feel connected to God... It seems natural to go into prayer or to think about the deeper things we're currently experiencing in our lives."
She has shared a number of the prayers on the We Are Prayer Box Instagram account. The requests vary hugely, but many people ask for healing for family and friends, or for happiness, love and contentment for themselves. It's made Tomiye reflect on the way we live. "Seeing so many requests for happiness makes us think that there are a lot of people who don't completely feel alive in what they're doing," she says. "Many of us are allowing fear and doubt to keep us bound from living the life we really want to."
Prayers that deal with the loss of a loved one are among the most moving, she adds. "To me those show the beauty of the human spirit. Although we may go through great pain due to the loss of someone we love or someone we were believing we'd bring into this world, God has us in the palm of his hands."
The strength shown by those who are able to move forward after loss has also inspired Tomiye in her own faith in God: "He is with us in the valleys, when our hearts are shattered and He has the power to mend us back together."
There is, of course, a sense of responsibility that comes with maintaining the prayer box; of intercession, and a commitment to praying on the behalf of others. The "heavy lifting", though, is up to God, Tomiye says. She and her prayer group do their best to stay in contact with those who leave their details, but trust that God is in control. She is simply "honoured to lift up their requests".
"I wouldn't believe in prayer if I didn't see answered prayers in my own life," she explains. "I have had the pleasure of seeing the most amazing miracles happen before my eyes because of prayer. I cannot deny its power. The beautiful thing about prayer is that it brings us to a place where we humbly ask.
"Society teaches us as we grow into adulthood that asking for help or being needy is a sign of weakness. God says the exact opposite. James 4 says 'you do not have because you do not ask God.' Even though God knows what we're going through all the time, I believe prayer is His way of saying, 'talk to me'."
Tomiye doesn't just want to intercede on behalf of others, though. She is passionate about seeing people come to know God personally, and experience his grace for themselves. "I hope that We Are Prayer Box will be a means of connecting people to Jesus, a way of drawing them to the love of their creator," she says.
"And one day when I'm singing and dancing in Heaven, I pray that God will say 'You see all these people? These crowds and crowds of people. They are here because of you, they are here because of We Are Prayer Box.' That would be awesome."