Since the earliest of times, people have used pebbles or a string of knots or beads on a cord to keep track of prayers offered to God. Virtually every major religious tradition in the world uses some form of prayer beads.
Prayer Beads like the ones shown here are a relatively new form of prayer, blending the Orthodox Jesus Prayer Rope and the Roman Catholic Rosary. The thirty-three bead design was created by The Rev. Lynn Bauman in the mid-1980’s, through the prayerful exploration and discovery or a contemplative prayer group.
The use of the rosary or prayer beads helps to bring us into contemplative or meditative prayer – really thinking about and being mindful of praying, of being in the presence of God – by the use of mind, body, and spirit. The touching of the fingers on each successive bead is an aid ito keep our mind focused, and the rhythm of the prayers leads us more readily into stillness.
Symbolism of the Beads
The configuration of these Prayer Beads relates contemplative prayer to many levels of traditional Christian symbolism. Contemplative prayer is enriched by these symbols whose purpose is always to focus and concentrate attention, allowing the one who prays to move into the Presence of God.
The prayer beads are made up of twenty-eight beads divided into four groups of seven called “weeks”. In the Judeo-Christian tradition the number seven represents spiritual perfection and completion. Between each week is a single bead, called a cruciform bead as the four beads form a cross. The invitatory bead between the cross and the wheel of beads brings the total to thirty-three, the number of years in Jesus’ earthly life.
Praying with the beads
To begin, hold the Cross and say the prayer you have assigned to it, and then move to the Invitatory Bead. Enter the circle of the prayer with the first Cruciform Bead, moving to the right, go through the first set of seven beads to the next Cruciform bead, continuing around the circle, saying the prayers for each bead.
It is suggested that you pray around the circle of the beads three times (which signifies the Trinity) at an unhurried pace, allowing the repetition to become a sort of lullaby of love and praise that enables your mind to rest and your heart to become quiet and still.
Praying through the beads three times and adding the cross at the beginning or end brings the total to one hundred which is the total of the Orthodox Rosary. A period of silence should follow the prayer, for a time of reflection and listening. Listening is an important part of all prayer.
Begin praying the Prayer Beads by selecting the prayers you wish to use for the cross and each bead. Practice them until it is clear which prayer goes with which bead and, as far as possible, commit the prayers to memory.
There are a number of patterns possible with the ones here being only possible suggestions. Over time you will find patterns that hold meaning for you. You may find certain patterns more beneficial on certain occasions.