Prayer beads are used in many religions and cultures throughout the world. You may have seen them as Catholic Rosary beads, but other forms of prayer beads or prayer ropes are used in Islam, Buddhism Hinduism, Sikhism and yes - even Protestantism.
While the exact origins are unclear, earliest traces of praying with beads can be found in the ancient Hinduism of India dating back to the 3rd century BC. Whatever their origins may be, we know that many faiths have used them to practice devotion and meditation based on pattern and repetition.
So go for it. Be creative and craft your own instrument of prayer. Then let your hands guide you into mystery and meditation. An experience with God is literally at your fingertips!
What you will need:
• Thread, string, or a pipe cleaner
• Variety of plastic or wooden beads
• One large bead, cross, or pendant.
• A willing heart!
First, you will need to make or find your prayer rope. You may be able to find some online or at a local Christian bookstore. But making them is much more fun!
1. Find a variety of beads and something to tie them together with. The beads don't all have to be the same or even match. If you have an old necklace or beaded bracelet you no longer use, take it apart! Use its beads for something new!
2. Tie a knot in one end of the thread or string. Take the one large bead and thread it through. This bead is the main bead. It is the one you will start your prayer with—center your heart with. Choose something meaningful, something funky, something different. It may be a cross pendant from an old necklace or just an oversized bead.
3. Add the remaining beads to the string. You can organize them into a pattern or thread them randomly. Be wild and creative with the beads. Many prayer ropes have 10, 33, 50 or even 100 beads or knots. Yours may have 8 or 12 or 97 beads.
4. Finish the rope by tying a knot at the end to form a straight strand of beads to hold in your hand. Or if you want to use it as a bracelet, tie the ends together.
Did you know the English word for bead derives from the Old English noun bede which means "a prayer"? Prayer ropes are devotional tools that guide our hearts to God.
Begin by taking the main bead, pendant, or cross in your hand. It's here where prayer begins. It's here where we ask God to be present in our practice. Say something like this:
In the name of God the Creator, God the Redeemer, and God the Sustainer. Open my heart to your grace and truth.
O God. Be with me in this place, be in my heart, be in my mouth, be in my hands, be in my thoughts.
Be creative, be yourself. Call God into your prayer the best way you know how. Perhaps it's the Lord's Prayer, or a childhood bedtime prayer. Choose something authentically you!
Next move to the beads. Rest a single bead between your thumb and forefinger. Take a deep breath. Pray.
There is no right way to pray. There are no set prayers. This is a tool, not a test. Some folks pray a short simple prayer called the "Jesus Prayer" on every bead. Others choose their favorite scripture, or favorite hymn, with each bead a different verse. Some even pray for something new on each bead: "For my sister and her cancer" "For the end of violence in my city" "Thank you for this bright and sunny day". Explore different rhythms. Say your prayers aloud, in silence, or even with a group!
Take a breath. Ready? Set. Pray.