When Carolyn Chandler of Kettering says she will pray for you, you can guarantee she will keep her promise.
About two weeks ago, Chandler was working in her front yard when a neighbor friend pulled over to confide in Chandler that she was diagnosed with cancer. Chandler asked her friend if she could pray for her.
“Coming back from talking to her I thought, ‘How can I let her know that everyday I am praying for her?’” Chandler said. “So many times we say ‘I’m praying for you’ and you know they never pray. I thought, I’m going to put a prayer in a bottle for her and hang it on this tree. I never told her that.”
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Even if Chandler’s neighbor never found out the meaning for the plastic bottle hanging in her front yard, Chandler said it represented her promise to pray.
The tree is a Japanese Empress, or Royal Empress, and is just weeks away from getting its roots dug from the Chandler’s front yard. Though it was once one of Carolyn and her husband Dale’s favorite trees among their ever growing landscape, this one in particular continued to die about every three years.
“Lots of houses have this tree in our neighborhood,” Chandler said. “Why this one died I don’t know.”
After the initial bottle was tied to the tree, it wasn’t long before a couple neighbors discovered the reason behind the odd decor and tied a plastic bottle of their own.
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“As people stop, I say ‘This is not a Republican tree, this is not a Democrat tree, it’s for the United States,’” Chandler said. “God’s will is exactly what I would choose if I had all the facts. I tell the Lord, we want your will in all these bottles, whatever it is.”
As the dead tree collected more bottles from passersby, Chandler posted a Styrofoam sign in front that reads “Pray Tree — Put a Pray in a bottle for USA. Hang on tree.”
A friend of the woman who was recently diagnosed with cancer walked by and asked Chandler what the bottles were for. The friend now regularly stops by the tree to pray.
“I don’t bother them,” Chandler said.
Though the Chandlers will never open the bottles or read the prayers inside, every night Carolyn and Dale pray in their bedroom for every person who has hung a bottle.
“My husband said ‘We’re going to have to get a notebook, I can’t remember all these people,’” Chandler said. “So we went to the store to get a notebook to remember everyone we want to pray for.”
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On Wednesday, Chandler was getting ready to leave to visit her best friend who had a stroke on Tuesday. Before leaving, she said she was going to hang a bottle of her own.
“Anybody can put a note on here ,” Chandler said. “I don’t want it to be just a sick tree where you can’t pray unless you got sick. It’s just a prayer tree. We need prayer so bad. … A (prayer for your) hangnail can go up there if you have a hangnail.”
More than a dozen bottles now hang from Chandler’s tree. Some are from neighbors, some are from complete strangers and one Chandler said is from a four-year-old down the street who wanted to pray for his family.
One prayer is hung in a sandwich Tupperware container from someone who might not have had a bottle handy — this one makes Chandler smile whenever she looks at it.
The prayer tree will stay up for another couple of weeks before the bottles are thrown away and the dead tree is uprooted.
“I think the Lord will let me know when it’s over, when it’s time,” Chandler said.
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