PrayerPrayer Beadsspiritual disciplines

Prayer Beads for the Forgetful and the Distracted

Rosaries always fascinated me because they were forbidden in the religious tradition I grew up in. They were one of those Catholic trappings, like incense and processing with a cross that smelt of idolatry, like one might just rely too much on them to get you on the good side of God when we knew only Jesus could do that. Of course, anything outlawed becomes what you want. So in high school, when I stayed with my best friend who was a devout Catholic and who slept with her Rosary, which entangled us during the night, I secretly fingered her beads and wondered about prayer. Did God hear us if we used a prop?

I don’t know much about the history of the Rosary, but I know that traditionally it included praying The Lord’s Prayer and saying The Apostle’s Creed which are pretty universally believed among Christians. I could see it being a cross-cultural help to many. Like, what if you didn’t know how to read? If you loved God, you would be happy for something that framed and directed your prayers to him. Whether it’s my age or the pace of modern life, I don’t know, but the least thing can distract me from prayer. An Asian beetle crawling on the ceiling. My grocery list. The tag on the back of my shirt, and somehow I’ve leapt across three continents and an ocean to a Greek Island in the Aegean Sea. When a friend gave me a set of Anglican prayer beads, I was interested. First, their beauty pleased me – he made them out of jade and onyx. Second, their smoothness is calming, holding something physical in my hand helps keep me from wandering off to who-knows-where?

So the other day a friend contacted me. She had purchased several sets of prayer beads as Christmas gifts and wondered how I used them. She wrote, “I would love to include your suggestions for use. The ancient prayers that came with them just didn’t seem right for these particular friends, so, oh well, I started over and came up with this which I thought I’d share. You know. Just in case you are the friend who gets a set.”

There are four sections of seven beads each separated by a larger bead. The larger beads, I use to frame my prayers. Beginning with the cross and moving around the circle, for me, the cross is, of course, obvious – we send all our troubles to the cross. We begin with the cross and end with it. (How appropriate!) The larger beads represent some aspect of Trinity – for example the desire of the Holy Spirit to comfort us. Or the Father to protect us. The Savior to rescue us. Sometimes I might have read a section of the Bible or a daily reading of some kind that reminds me of some characteristic of God and I use that large bead to thank Him and to ask for some of that holiness to be seen in me.

The first section of seven represents the world – what’s out there – outside my personal world and family. Crisis, tragedies in other countries, friends who may need prayer for something specific. I recognize my finiteness in trying to remember EVERYthing, so this at least helps me to be focused outward and whoever or whatever comes to mind gets assigned a bead even if temporary. The second section represents my primary family members. Some of them get their own bead! The third section is me. All seven beads. I always have a lot to pray about regarding myself. My work, my calling, my attitude, my body, etc etc. But the other sections help me not to be COMPLETELY self-focused. The fourth section is Thanksgiving. Each bead represents something I am thankful for. I think of Phil. 4: 6-7 “Do not be anxious for anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This is all purely my own invention. Nothing particularly sacred about it. Hope this helps as you come to God with all your baggage and mess knowing he will receive a humble heart.

One comment

  1. I love this. I think I had read your murky past's post on this…but I love the reminder and the framing and shaping of prayer – especially in this season I find myself in.