Thousands of prayers cover the corner of Heaven’s Gallery, an angel store on Main Street in Downtown Ventura.
The prayers span onto adjacent walls and over a doorway. They hang lightly disrupted by the wind of the fans above but serene, as harp and flute music plays in the background. They can be found among angel paintings and behind shelves, and on a painting of the Virgin Mary. There are so many that there are multiple layers with prayers taped to other prayers. Most are in English but others are written in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Farsi, Arabic and Tegal.
These notes to the divine are quiet thoughts in ink and lead on post-it notes of all colors, seeking guidance, answers and hope in a world that too often leaves people questioning faith and God. Faith, however, can be renewed as there are many who return to leave more prayers and express gratitude after getting answers: becoming pregnant after months of failed attempts, receiving a kidney transplant after many years on dialysis, coming out of a coma after six months, renewed relationships, financial security and more. Just ask the owners, Keith and Francesca Richardson, for the journals titled Miracles documenting the answers to prayers.
“You always figure you can fix something, but when you write it, you let it go and let God,” Francesca said.
When the Richardsons decided to close the shop after a rent increase was on the way, they went in search of a home for the prayers. At the funeral of an angel artist many years ago, the Richardsons met the pastor of a church in Santa Barbara who has now agreed to give the prayers a new secure place to call home, where others can read and add to them. The prayers depart the store between 4 and 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 15. The store closes for good on Oct. 21.
Unfortunately, there were no takers locally who would keep the prayers public.
“I think all of us are in divine order, and I think a lot of people are looking for love, and maybe they feel like this is a place where they won’t be judged and only loved, and that’s what God is,” Francesca said.
The prayer wall was conceived the day that Aquariana Paul, a customer over 24 years ago when the store first opened, asked to leave a prayer about her cancer diagnosis. While the Richardsons told her that they felt the San Buenaventura Mission would be a better place, Paul insisted that she leave her prayer at the store on a modest bookshelf with nothing more than pictures and a few angels. Paul died two years later but her faith in the store proliferated into a place of hope for thousands of others.
“It was amazing, something we didn’t expect that started with one little prayer,” Keith said. “It was on the only display in the store and we thought it would be in the way of being able to sell things on there.”
But they knew Paul and obliged her request. Twenty-four years later, the store is closing but the prayers have found a new home for others to seek heavenly resolve.
“We are sad to see them going but we are really happy about where they are going, a denomination that accepts all faiths,” Keith said.
The prayers will be housed at Center of the Heart at 487 N. Turnpike Road, Santa Barbara. Visitors can post their prayers at the church from 2:30 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, call 805-964-4861.