Though the ages, prayer beads have been used as a universal tool for meditation and prayer in most every culture and faith tradition. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, and the Baha’i Faith all use some form of prayer beads to recite chants, prayers, or devotions. Judaism uses knotted fringes on the corners of a prayer shawl as a reminder for prayer.

The practice of pausing on each knot or bead during prayer helps us to center our hearts on God and to guard our minds against distraction.

Using beads during prayer in the Christian faith is believed to originate with the Desert Mothers and Fathers around the 3rd and early 4th centuries when they carried pebbles in pouches to be used for counting prayer. These pebbles eventually became beads and were strung on cord.

The Catholic rosary has been used for centuries with specific prayers prescribed for each bead.  The Protestant Rosary is a more recent invention and allows for more freedom and creativity, as there is no one way prescribed to use the beads. The Eastern Orthodox Church generally uses ropes with knots rather than beads. Whether pebbles, knots, or beads, all of these tools share the common goal of meditating deeply on the mysteries of Christ and the presence of God, through the Holy Spirit.

The protestant rosary features 33  beads signifying the number of years Jesus Christ lived on earth. The circle is divided into four sections of seven beads each, this represents the seven days of creation, seven days in the week, and the seven seasons in the liturgical calendar. The four distinct beads inside the circle are called cruciform beads because they form an invisible cross. The large pendant is referred to as the invitatory bead and serves to invite us into a circle of prayer with God. Just above the invitatory bead is the resurrection bead which symbolizes the light of Jesus Christ, through whom we are invited into relationship with God.

Here is a prayer to use with you beads this Lenten season. This prayer could be used with a protestant rosary or piece of twine tied with knots. Peek in my studio, if you would like to see examples of other prayer beads. Go here to learn more about prayer beads and to find out about upcoming workshops.

May you have a blessed, peaceful, and spirit-filled Lenten season!

Praying Isaiah 64:5-6 on the protestant rosary

Pendant– Focus on God, Our Rock and our Redeemer

Invitatory bead– Focus on Christ, who invites into us into relationship

1st Cruciform bead: How then can we be saved?

1st set of weeks beads: You come to the help of those who gladly do right,
    who remember your ways.

2nd Cruciform bead: How then can we be saved?

2nd set of weeks beads: But when we continued to sin against them,
you were angry.

3rd Cruciform bead: How then can we be saved?

3rd set of weeks beads: All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;

4th Cruciform bead: How then can we be saved?

4th set of weeks beads: we all shrivel up like a leaf,
    and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

Invitatory bead– Prayer to close from Psalm 103:8-12

I praise you God that you are compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
You will not always accuse,
    nor will you harbor anger forever;
you do not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is your love for those who fear you;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far have you removed our transgressions from us. Amen.

Pendant- Take a moment to sit in silence or perhaps listen to the song Lord I need you by Matt Maher. Listen here, lyrics below.

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
Where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
So teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
When I cannot stand I’ll fall on You
Jesus, You’re my hope and stay
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
You’re my one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
Songwriters: Christy Nockels / Daniel Carson / Jesse Reeves / Kristian Stanfill / Matt Maher
Lord, I Need You lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group

*** Shared with permission from CYA Founding Master Trainer & Contributing writer, Kelly McClellan.  You can follow Kelly and more of her musings HERE.