Sunday, November 13, 2011

How to Use the Prayer Beads

Created by Beth Miramonti
Prayer Beads
We think of them today as adornments or decorations, personal knickknacks pleasing to the eye and perhaps of some sentimental value. But this is not their original purpose. Beads were designed to be fingered mindfully, to be signifiers of spiritual things, to lift the soul toward the divine. The very word “bead” comes to us from the Old English word for prayer, “bedu,” from which we also get the word “bid.”
One of life’s greatest mysteries is the power of prayer. Used for intimacy with God, it is said to be life altering. The healing power of prayer reaches across science to a place of calm and peace in the human heart and spirit.
Using prayer beads is both compelling and comforting. They welcome you into God’s Holy Presence!
They welcome you to a Holy place of healing and wholeness. They remind you of God’s unconditional love for you. They are tangible instruments of prayer.
Using prayer beads is an ancient form of prayer. Each bead has a special meaning:
• The prayer bead circle has four groups of seven beads called weeks beads. Seven is a holy number in the Judeo-Christian tradition, representing completion and spiritual perfection. Seven represents the number of days it took God to create the world.

• When laid upon a flat surface, the four Cruciform Beads form the ends of an invisible Cross in the center of the beads, reminding us of the perpetual presence of the Cross in the rhythm of our lives. Proceeding around the beads, each Week begins and ends with a Cruciform Bead, reminding us it is through death that we are brought to new life. The four Cruciform Beads provide an obvious place to recite longer prayers, or meditate on scenes of Scripture. The number four also symbolizes the fourth day in which material creation was finished.  They can correspond to the four cardinal directions (North, South, East, and West), the four Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), the four Matriarchs (Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel), or the four letters of the Hebrew name of God (YHVH).

• Directly above the cross is the invitatory bead which invites us to worship God.

• The cross reminds each of us to take up our own “cross” and follow Jesus in his example of helping others. We all have a personal cross to carry; our own need to find our purpose, which can truly be fulfilled by finding a way to help others.
All together there are thirty-three beads representing the number of years Jesus lived.
Using Prayer Beads
Jesus, offers two primary limits on prayer: don’t make your prayers the object of show, and don’t make “vain repetitions” thinking that God is more likely to hear you if you use more words.  So it is crucial for the person picking up a set of beads to watch his or her intentions in reciting the prayers. We should use our beads in seeking a deeper life of prayer; never in order to show how good of a Christian we are. We should never use the beads in order to achieve any material, psychological, or even spiritual gain. Our prayers are not magical spells: we cannot and we must not expect to manipulate anything on earth or in heaven with our prayers. Rather, we should recognize that the prayers help us to make space in our crowded souls for the grace of God, which is beyond human understanding. When not in use, it is generally best to keep the beads put away, so we are not tempted to use our prayer time as a means of show. Setting aside the temptation of pride, we should commit ourselves to the simple and humble work of prayer.

There is no incorrect way to pray!  You may use prayers from the Bible, The Book of Common Prayer, or the Hymnal or you may create your own personal prayers. Some people pray three times around the circle to symbolize the Trinity. It also is fine to pray once around the circle.
1. Find a quiet time and place to enter into prayer. Take a few slow, deep breaths until you feel centered and calm. Bring to mind concerns and prayer requests as your motivations for prayer, then leave them in God’s hands as you enter meditation. As you pray, take as much time as you want to pause and reflect.

2. At the entrance of the beads is a Cross, the central symbol of the Christian faith: that thing which both invites us to pray and enables us to pray.  Hold the cross between your thumb and forefinger and say a simple prayer from your heart.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

3. Slide your fingers from the cross to the invitatory bead and offer another prayer. This bead invites us into the practice of prayer; reminds us that we are entering the holy presence of God. This bead represents the rising sun as a call to prayer, and also the sacred unity of the Trinity. (take a deep, long breath)
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom,
the power and the glory are yours.
Now and for ever.

4. Place your fingers on the first cruciform bead above the invitatory bead and say another prayer. The same prayer is usually used with all four cruciform beads. This keeps a steady focus.
I lift up mine eyes to the hills; where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.
(Psalm 121:1-2)

5. Each Week Bead: use each bead to take a deep long breath and LISTEN.  Slowly move around the circle in a counterclockwise direction, saying a prayer at each bead
“Be still, and know that I am God.”
(Psalm 46:10, NIV)

6. Finish moving around the circle and back down through the invitatory bead to the cross again.

7. Say your final prayer holding the cross.
“Thanks be to God!”

8. Now take a few deep breaths and a few moments to reflect, feeling love in your heart.  You have just made a deeper connection with God!

Submitted by Beth Miramonti


  1. Thanks so much for posting this, Courtney! I know you and I were just talking about my prayer beads and how I find them to be a great tool to help me stay centered and focused on intimacy with God. I hope others find as much joy in prayer beads and I have!
    Heather Budwell

  2. Beth Miramonti was kind enough to submit the above. I'm looking forward to using mine for the first time tonight. :)