Prayer Beads and Ropes

Growing up catholic, I was quite familiar with the rosary. Even still have the one gifted to me for my first communion.

The use of beads and ropes as a way to focus our thoughts and enter into silence has been around since long before Christianity and used by many different religious traditions. It’s generally a structure for meditation.

I’m not quite well versed with the traditions of other religions with regards to prayer beads and ropes, so I’ll stick with the three many prayer beads/ropes from Christian traditions.

komboskini/chotki

Chotki – Russian Prayer Rope

The use of a prayer rope dates back to the early church fathers. Eastern Orthodox Christianity has generally preserved this early tradition where the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”) is stated (silently) for each knot in the rope (100 knots on the full sized rope).

Some Eastern Orthodox Christians walk around with the prayer rope in their left hand as a reminder to pray without ceasing. Others may have a smaller bracelet version to wear upon their wrist.

When praying in private it is tradition to pray the Jesus Prayer while working through the rope in your left hand and performing the sign of the cross with your right hand.

The Komboskini (Greek Orthodox) and Chotki (Russian Orthodox) are both 100 knots long. The main difference is that the Chotki has a tassel on the end. For further reading on the Eastern Orthodox Prayer Rope check out Orthodoxprayer.org

Catholic Rosary

My Catholic Rosary gifted to me after my first communion.

The catholic rosary consists of one crucifix and 59 beads. The first 4 beads stand alone while the remainder are broken up into 5 decades (of 10) with one solitary bead in between each decade. The prayers associated with each bead vary based on traditions.

There is also smaller single decade rosaries and rosary rings. The intent of meditation through repeated prayer connects both the Orthodox and Catholic rosaries to Anglican rosaries.

Anglican Rosary/Prayer beads

Anglican Prayer Beads

The Anglican Rosary might be my favorite. With only 33 beads (one for each year of Jesus’ life on Earth), it’s on the smaller side.

This set of beads is the youngest of the three as it is attributed to Rev. Lynn Bauman (an Episcopal priest) in the 1980s.

The Anglican Rosary begins with the cross, then the invitation bead (directly above the cross), followed by 3 laps around the loop and then conclude with the invitation and cross [ a total of 100 prayers just like the Orthodox Prayer Rope]. The loop consists of 4 sets of 7 beads (the weeks) separated by 4 larger beads (the cruciform). You typically have a prayer assigned for the the cross, the invitation, one for the cruciforms and one for the weeks. Since there is no assigned set of prayers for the Anglican Rosary, you can find plenty of different sets of prayers. There is an interesting digital walkthrough of one set here. And another author wrote a handout that includes space for you to write your own.

My favorite during the UMC GC2019 was written by Sister Brigit-Carol, S.D.:

The Cross
In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Invitatory
O God make speed to save me (us),
O Lord make haste to help me (us),
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
The Cruciforms
God of your goodness, give me yourself,
For you are enough to me.
And I can ask for nothing less that is to your glory. 
And if I ask for anything less, I shall still be in want, for only in you have I all.
The Weeks
All shall be well, and all shall be well,
And all manner of things shall be well.
Or
In His love He has done His works, and in His love He has made all things beneficial to us.

Some final Reflections

The end goal for each of these should be a quite mind that meets the Ground of Being/the Divine/God in the midst of silence. So, don’t rush yourself and leave room for silence.

You can adapt all of these to meet your needs because prayer is about doing what brings you closer to God.

You can also use any of these as a way to pray as a group. Though it is my understanding that the Eastern Orthodox Prayer Rope is not intended for group prayer.

If praying short prayers is too much for you, you can start with shorter prayers or just prayer words like, “Come, Lord Jesus”, Maranatha, or just “Jesus”.

Lectio Divina

St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) Founder of the Jesuits

I was first introduced to Lectio Divina almost 10 years ago and it has been my go to method of meditating on Scripture. Like the Prayer of Examen, Lectio Divina is generally traced back to St. Ignatius of Loyola. I’ve seen many different ways of phrasing the method of Lectio Divina, but generally it’s based on reading a passage of scripture slowly multiple times with different intentions. Below is a summary from Richard Rohr.

 With the first reading, listen with your heart’s ear for a phrase or word that stands out for you.

During the second reading, reflect on what touches you, perhaps speaking that response aloud or writing in a journal.

After reading the passage a third time, respond with a prayer or expression of what you have experienced and what it calls you to.

Finally, rest in silence after a fourth reading.

Rebuilding Our Contemplative Foundation: Weekly Summary

I’ve heard this summarized as Read, Reflect, Respond, & Rest.

A quick search on YouTube will provide a handful of guided meditations through different passages of scripture. It can really be done with any passage that you would like.

More recently I’ve been introduced to using coloring book pages with scripture on them as a guide for Lectio Divina.

Prayer of Examen

The Young Adult Sunday school at Emmanuel is currently discussing Diana Butler Bass’ Christianity after Religion and this week we were discussing how our faith should shape our behavior. One of the main parts of the discussion was about spiritual practices so I wanted to take some time to gather together resources on different spiritual practices from across many traditions.

This week I’ve gathered a few resources on the Prayer of Examen. I’ve used this both on my own and also I have used it to lead a guided time of reflection for a group of people from incredibly diverse Religious backgrounds. The beauty of the examen is that it is not prescribed and can be easily adapted for the name that you give the Ground of Being.

This Prayer/Meditation was designed by St. Ignatius as a way to reflect on the presence of the divine in each day. It generally has the following parts:

  1. Become aware of God’s presence.
  2. Review the day with gratitude.
  3. Pay attention to your emotions.
  4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
  5. Look toward tomorrow. 

When I first started trying to do the Examen, I found it hard to memorize the 5 steps (I know, it’s only 5). But I found great joy and support in various guided versions of it. A quick search on Spotify or Youtube will lead you to many different guided meditations for the examen. Here’s three of my favorite:

Rev. Anna Blaedel at Enfleshed

This video guides you through the Examen in about 16 minutes. Here’s the reflection that they wrote to go with the meditation.

A New liturgy

The 6th project from A New Liturgy focuses entirely on the examen. The full 28 minute version is available to stream for free on sound cloud. If you purchase the full album, the mediation is broken down into several parts and it also comes with a 10-minute version of the meditation and a few tracks about it’s usage and history. The album page does allow you to stream the full album if you want.

Fr. James Martin, S.J.