Pray with beads? Is that something I should do? But, I’m not Catholic and I’m not sure about praying the rosary.
I’d been getting questions for a while about how to pray with prayer beads, but had resisted the idea. I wasn’t sure prayer beads were for me – or were for Protestants for that matter.
Then, when one of the ministry directors at my church asked me to write a Lenten devotional for the church based on praying with Anglican prayer beads I knew I had to dig deeper.
Even Protestants Can Pray With Beads
Turns out, praying with beads is for anyone – even Protestants – and it’s become one of my favorite ways to pray.
As I began to pray with prayer beads, I found myself slowing down in my prayers, focusing more on the words I was praying, and spending more quality time with God.
- I wasn’t as rushed in my prayers.
- I brought more scripture to my prayers – and was able to keep those verses with me through the day.
- I prayed longer, lingering in my prayers. I found myself wishing for more time to spend in prayer.
Holding the prayers beads was an unexpected blessing, helping pace and guide my prayers, something tangible and tactile to ground my prayers.
I hope you’ll read on to learn more about Anglican prayer beads, how to use them, and why you may want to try praying with beads. I’ve also included lots of resources on praying with beads, including my Lenten devotional.
What are Anglican Prayer Beads?
Christians have been praying with beads for centuries. The tactile nature of beads helps bring focus to prayers.
While the Catholic rosary has been the most predominant form of prayer with prayer beads, Protestants can also pray with prayer beads.
In the 1980s, an Episcopalian priest in Texas, Rev. Lynn Bauman, created Anglican prayer beads with more Protestant symbolism. While these were originally created for the Episcopal / Anglican tradition, they have been adopted by many Protestants over the years.
What Do the Beads Represent?
These prayer beads start with a Cross as a reminder of Christ’s act of salvation and include 33 beads to represent the 33 years of Jesus’ life.
The first bead is the largest one, called the Invitatory Bead. This one invites you into prayer, calling God into your presence.
The remaining 32 beads are divided into 4 ‘weeks’. There are four Cruciform Beads to start each week, which are symbolic of the 4 Gospels and the 4 seasons of the year. Each ‘week’ includes 7 Week Beads. The number 7 is symbolic of spiritual perfection, 7 days of creation, 7 liturgical seasons of the year, 7 days in the week.
Some may also include a Resurrection Bead next to the Invitatory Bead, as a reminder that Christ has triumphed over death and promises us eternal life in his kingdom.
There is no set prayer to use with Anglican prayer beads. Instead, the intent is to use them in any prayer, for any intent. Prayers with prayer beads are most often based on scripture.
Why Pray with Prayer Beads?
Praying with beads adds a tactile component to your prayers. The act of holding the beads and moving from one bead to the next brings focus to your prayers.
If you struggle to slow down for prayer or feel like you’re always rushing through your prayer time, prayer beads are a great way to bring more focus to your prayers.
I’ve found I spend more time in prayer when I pray with beads and I am more fully present with God. The beads help eliminate the distractions and stray thoughts in my mind. I pray longer because I’m committed to praying through all the beads.
I also love to use the prayer beads for praying with scripture and have found it helps commit the verse to my heart and my memory through the repetition of the beads.
How to Pray with Anglican Prayer Beads
You can find many prayer guides online and in books for praying with Anglican prayer beads, or you can make your own.
- Start by holding the Cross, and say an opening prayer.
- Next, move to the Invitatory Bead and say a prayer to invite God into your presence.
- As you enter the circle of Weeks Beads, say one prayer or scripture at each Cruciform Bead.
- Next, repeat a small prayer or verse for each of the Weeks Beads. Allow the repetition of these prayers to help you pray more deeply and focus more fully.
- Go slowly through the beads, allowing some silence between beads. This is a meditative prayer, intended to help you slow down and pray deeper.
- You may choose to go around the circle three times, or you can simply go around once.
- Return to the Invitatory Bead to close your prayers. I personally like to close with the Lord’s Prayer and then a prayer of my own at the Cross to conclude my prayer time. You can also use a simple benediction at the Cross to close your prayers.
Sample Prayer Using Prayer Beads
This prayer is one of the ones included in the Prepare Your Heart devotional. You can use any scriptures as you pray with beads. I especially like to use the Psalms, but the beauty of praying with beads is that you can use any verse to guide your prayers.
Prayer for Strength in the Storm
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
“All who rage against you
will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
will be as nothing and perish.
Though you search for your enemies,
you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
will be as nothing at all.
For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you. (Isaiah 41:10-13 NIV)
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
(A Prayer Attributed to St. Francis, Book of Common Prayer)
Each Cruciform Bead:
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31 NIV)
Each Weeks Bead:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 NIV)
The Lord’s Prayer
The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.
(Psalm 27:1,3 NIV)
Almighty God, your scriptures repeat these words “do not be afraid”, yet I so often am. You say “do not fear”, yet fear threatens to overtake me some days. So, I will place my trust in you, knowing you are by my side no matter what. You take hold of my right hand and whisper in my ear, “do not fear, do not be afraid”. For I know my help comes from you alone and you will strengthen me and protect me. Stay by my side and hold my hand. Amen.
The Lord gives strength to his people;
the Lord blesses his people with peace. Amen.
(Psalm 29:11 NIV)
Prepare Your Heart – a Lenten Devotional Using Prayer Beads
If you’re ready to try praying with Anglican prayer beads, Prepare Your Heart is a 40-day devotional (focused on Lent, but can be used anytime) using prayer beads.
Each day you’ll start by reading and reflecting on a few verses of Scripture. Then you’ll use the prayer beads to pray through those same passages, dwelling deeply in God’s Word.
Also included in Prepare Your Heart are five bonus prayers you can use throughout the year – Praying for Others, Praying for Thanksgivings and Blessings, Praying for Strength in the Storm, Praying for Guidance and Direction, and Praying for God’s Forgiveness.
Click here for more details on this devotional
Resources for Praying with Protestant Prayer Beads
Are you ready to give praying with Christian prayer beads a chance? Below are some of my favorite resources to get started.
(Many of these are affiliate links.)
Below are some sites to find prayer guides to use with your protestant prayer beads:
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Robin Pantermuehl says
I want to thank you for sharing your insights on prayer via Prayer + Possibilities. I especially enjoyed this week’s topic of praying with beads. As the head of the prayer ministry at our (Lutheran) church for many years, I led the weekly Contemplative Prayer Hour where we explored many different contemplative ways to pray. One of the most popular was praying with the Anglican Rosary.
As you stated, using the beads lends itself to praying Scripture and certainly helps us slow down and focus more during prayer time. Because we prayed the rosary together and aloud, we found several other benefits as well.
1. Praying aloud, with one voice is a powerful expression of unified prayer.
2. Praying aloud, together, helps people who are shy about praying aloud in front of others to slowly overcome their reticence.
3. Praying aloud together makes the prayer come alive to the ears, the throat and the entire body.
4. After praying through the beads three times, the words begin to be written on both the mind and the heart.
5. Praying aloud with others creates a bond of community.
To facilitate using the beads in a group prayer, I would print the prayer on 3 X 5 cards for each participant. This way, they could easily hold the card in one hand and move the beads with the other (or both). Below is an example of one of our prayer bead devotions from the season of Lent. The first part is the card for everyone, the second half is printed on the back side of the leader’s card. The numbers in parenthesis are verse numbers.
Jesus’ Prayer for Those He Loved
Cross: Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son that he may glorify you.(1)
Invitatory: May they know you are the One True God. (3)
Cruciforms: And Jesus prayed, Holy Father,
B-1: Keep them in your care. (11)
B-2: Let them be of one heart and mind. (20)
B-3: Put my joy in their hearts. (13)
B-4: Keep them from the power of the evil one. (15)
B-5: May your truth make them pure and holy. (17)
B-6: Grant that they may be with me in glory. (24)
B-7: Fill them with your mighty love. (26)
Devotion: Read John 17 from The Living Bible
Prayer Beads: 3 rounds
Song: Silent, Surrendered, from Fountain of Life, track 7 (use handout to go over words before playing)
20″ Centering Prayer
Blessed Lord Jesus, even as you faced your suffering and death, you prayed for your friends and disciples and even for me. May the words of your prayer be a guide for my spiritual life and assurance that you are still my advocate with God, our Father. AMEN.
Note: If you decide to try this with a group, don’t be discouraged if, during the first round of the beads, everyone’s timing is a bit different. As you move into the second and third repetition, everyone hears and learns and comes together. Many, many verses of Scripture can be adapted to this format as well as other inspirational texts, i.e. the Prayer of St. Francis.
It always gives me joy to share with other prayer leaders, so thank you for listening.
Thank you so much for sharing these prayers! And what a wonderful idea to use the prayer beads for praying together as a group!