Strung Out On Prayer, Part Two

Prayer Beads. April, 2011.
Working in a Holy Place

When I wrote in March about stringing prayer beads, I mentioned the amateurish knots I’d tied, and that the project ran ahead of me, finishing itself in an hour–less time than I had hoped to devote to it.

Gordon Atkinson, whose post over at The High Calling had inspired me, wisely advised me to give the beads away and begin a new strand.

His counsel was sound. I gave my beads to my bonus daughter Rebecca and gathered together the materials to make a new strand. I had read about stringing beads in the interim and was looking forward to practicing the techniques I’d learned.

The first evening I sat down with my beads, neatly sorting them by type and nestling them on a tray lined with fleece to prevent them from rolling away. I played with design, lining up the beads on the fleece, rearranging, nudging the pattern I would create into being.

A few evenings later I began stringing the beads. Manipulating the small glass spheres, catching them on wire and fixing each one’s place next to its neighbors, soothed me. Their smoothness hummed to my fingers as I worked.

More than once, that first evening, I removed all the beads from the wire, reconsidered my design, and began again.

It was patience-growing work.

It wasn’t until after I’d finished them that I realized these beads felt holy to me in a way the first strand did not.

I thought about that difference for a while and realized why:

I had strung these beads in a place of known holiness.

I’d made my first set of beads while we were traveling on vacation. Our cabin on the Mendocino coast was cozy and charming, but the night I made my prayer beads, I had not yet felt God’s presence there.

I had not met the place’s holiness.

These new beads I’d strung at home. In our four years here, I’ve breathed in God’s presence while mixing meatloaf. I’ve felt His steadying hand upon me while fetching the heating pad for my sick husband. I’ve heard His voice in my heart when I’ve called on Him in prayer.

God has blessed our home and now I feel its holiness. The prayer beads showed me.

16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

Genesis 28:16-17 (NASB)

Update: a Small Miracle

When I drafted this post its not-rightness nagged at me. Originally I’d written from a different angle: I’d focused on the better workmanship of the second strand of beads–no more amateurish knots–but noted that the second strand still contained a conspicuous flaw. In crimping the wire to complete the strand, I’d applied too much tension to the wire, crushing one of the filigree balls.

So the draft was about reaching for perfection and falling short.

It was not right. It pestered me as insistently as a burr in my sock. I set the draft aside and reflected further on the beads.

Finally this story emerged. As I wrote it, I could feel its rightness.

Later I picked up my strand of prayer beads to examine them.

And I saw that the crushed bead had fallen completely away.

My prayer beads remain imperfect, of course. But the disappearance of the damaged bead reminds me that in Him, everything is ultimately perfectible.

The Crushed Bead, Just Beneath the Biconical Bead.
After the Bead Fell Away. Notice how Smoothly the Cross Lies Now.
6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6 (NASB)


  1. Real Live Preacher

    There is no end to the spiritual lessons that come with this small practice, is there?

    I too have had to make peace with imperfection. Seek perfection too hard and I never get a strand finished. But not embracing the craft and pride in work leaves me, like you were with your first set, feeling less connected.

    My most recent strand has taken a new turn. When I'm in a significant worship or spiritual event, I hold the beads in my hand. Thus they are with me always when I seek the presence of the Creator.

  2. You are right, Gordon, about this practice, and I thank you again for introducing me to it.

    I hold my beads a lot, too.

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