experimenting with prayer beads

One of my spiritual goals this year concerns getting a tool that will help me cultivate my practice of prayer. Having children has (news flash!) changed the rhythms of my day and my prayer practice is not what it once was (rise early, 30 minute run, shower, pray – read bible – read spiritual book).

Yes, I’m a pastor. So, you know, either judge me or laud me for my transparency/authenticity but it isn’t so easy to practice the contemplative life of prayer I once enjoyed B.C.E. (Before Children Era. Incidentally, a favorite quote, reportedly from an actual seminarian: “the most important quality in preaching is authenticity and if you can learn to fake that you’ve got it made!” But I digress; back to the point at hand…). Well, I’ve tried lots, but I’m coming back to the idea of prayer beads as some sort as a practical tool that might help me out.

Here’s the idea: A bracelet (you know, church camp style…) with a bead for each prayer or Scripture or type/element of prayer to engage in. I listed stuff I wanted beads for and narrowed it down to fifteen beads. I have discovered that I am helped by prescribed elements and prompts for spontaneous prayer. The mixture is important. And having a prescribed element, like Psalm 23 or the Lord’s Prayer, gives me something I can pray through slowly or simply recite depending on where I am each day. Prescribed elements help center me, focus my mind and heart, and allow me the freedom to offer the spontaneous prayers of the day/hour.

So, without further adieu, here’s my list. There are five categories (they emerged after I had my list of elements and saw how they would fit together for my practice) and then elements for each bead listed underneath.

  • Centering
    • Psalm 23
    • Breath prayers – various. May be the common “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner” (the “Jesus Prayer”) or some other typically Scripture-based short phrase suitable for the breath prayer practice.
  • Grounding
  • Asking
    • The Lord’s Prayer
    • The “Prayers of the People” – a progression for prayer petitions: family, friends, local church, community, world (including need for justice and the leaders of the nations). You get the idea.
  • Calling
    • The Wesleyan Covenant Prayer
    • A Baptismal Prayer for Discipleship – based on the prayer of blessing over the baptized person (“Heavenly Father, the Holy Spirit work within me this day, that I may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. Amen.”).
    • A Eucharistic Prayer for Mission/Ministry – based on the prayer after receiving at the end of the celebration of communion. (“We give you thanks for this Holy Mystery in which you have given yourself to us. Grant that we may go forth in the strength of your steadfast love to give ourselves for others. Amen.”)
  • Sending

What aids to prayer and practices have you found helpful in your life? Have you had any experience with using prayer beads?

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5 thoughts on “experimenting with prayer beads

  1. I do have a set of “Protestant Prayer Beads” but I have been given rosary beads by two Catholic friends that I prefer. There is something called “The Mercy Chaplet” that I pray from time to time and it engenders deep calmness and peace and a feeling that God has set in motion something good. There is something about the repetitive “chanting,” if you will, that transcends the actual words. It’s like knitting for me – a way to keep my hands occupied that somehow helps me focus. Good for you for exploring prayer beads.

  2. I also have a set of Anglican/Protestant prayer beads and it’s exceedingly helpful to use. I know you’re proposing something slightly different from a rosary, but I have found it extremely helpful.

    There’s a great list of prayers available from Full Circle Beads (who do great work, by the way) for use in an anglican rosary, and there might be food for thought for your prayers: http://www.fullcirclebeads.com/prayers.html

    I find one of the scripture passages I often come back to in prayer is the Christ Hymn from Philippians.

    Thanks for this.

  3. Thanks, Barb and Josh, for your input. I’ve got it on my calendar to evaluate how it’s going at the end of March, so this gives me some more ideas to check out. And, yes, Josh, the Christ Hymn — excellent.

  4. Prayer beads/prayer ropes are a pretty common practice in the Orthodox Church. It was a new idea to me when I became Orthodox, but I found it very helpful to include my body in the process of prayer, as when one is going through times of grief, there are times when it is difficult to pray with words. The sign of the cross was another form of praying with the body that I found to be wonderfully expressive, and it’s now an automatic response.

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