Strung Out On Prayer

Prayer Beads

Well in Hand
In matters of faith I try to avoid trappings and focus instead on treasures–stuff like salvation. And my friendship with my Savior.

But when I read Gordon Atkinson’s fine post, “A Rosary for a Baptist,”  last month over at The High Calling, I found myself drawn to the idea of stringing up some prayer beads and incorporating them into my praying life.

Gordon described using his rosary in contemplative prayer. I hoped to use my beads to add measure and structure to my prayers. Perhaps I’d intercede on the first line of little beads and then praise on the next set, instead of the stream-of-consciousness babble, interspersed with quiet, that I usually offered up to God.

Gordon’s post appeared the day my husband Rich and I began our vacation. I had time, plenty of time, to create a strand of prayer beads. When I spotted a bead shop in Mendocino, I dove inside to search for materials.

I think I’d been in a bead shop once before, in Santa Barbara, at least fifteen years earlier. In the interim I’d forgotten the depth of variety that would confront me inside. After I’d browsed for twenty minutes without selecting anything, Rich gently excused himself to explore the shop next door.

I examined and fingered the beads, comparing colors and textures, for another thirty minutes. Then, suddenly, my choices were clear and I quickly gathered together the beads I would use. The shopkeeper advised me on stringing material and tucked my selections into a small bag.

That evening, back at our cabin, I sat down to string my beads. After a few false starts, the pattern I would follow emerged. I completed my prayer beads in an hour or so, a bit disappointed that my project didn’t take more time. Shouldn’t the creation of a tool for prayer take a long time?

The next morning I held my beads as I read my bible. I took them with me when we left our cabin for the day’s adventures. I brought them back into the cabin when we returned that evening. I studied them, noting my amateurish knots.

A few days later, as Rich and I faced a challenging road, I found myself clutching my beads. They soothed me.

It’s been a month now since I strung those beads. I confess that I have not yet mastered the structured, disciplined prayer that I hoped they would encourage. But I treasure these trappings of my faith all the same.

I set them on my desk, to the left of the keyboard, at my office. Sometimes I hold them as I drive, looping the strand over my left wrist. At home they often come to rest on my kitchen counter. I have not yet carried them with me to church.

Unlike the cross I wear around my neck, I can see the beads as I move through my day. I can pick them up and hold them.

They’re always with me. When I touch them while I wade through an accumulation of email, grip them as I drive, or gaze upon them as I chop onions, I remember that my God is with me.

I face no trial alone.
I achieve nothing alone.
Nothing I do, or fail to do, is hidden from God.

8 If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
12 Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day
Darkness and light are alike to You.
Psalm 139:8-12 (NASB)


  1. I, too, was inspired by Gordon Atkinson's blog posting & bought some beads for making prayer strings (the shorthand rosary he pictured in his posting), but I really have not been inspired by my bead choices yet and have not made my rosary. But I have been following the pattern of prayer & keeping track of where I am on paper. It's a fine substitution when I don't have beads, but there is something about the feel of beads in my hand that is definitely missing. I am glad someone else was inspired & I really like the idea of carrying the rosary as a visual, daily reminder. I wonder if I could make the shorthand version into a bracelet as a visual reminder? Food for my thought.

  2. Real Live Preacher

    I'm so pleased that my essay has meant something to you both.

    The rosary pictured in the essay I ended up giving away. I made another rosary that I really like. And I've developed a second pattern of prayer, focused more on praise and less on me. scripture passages and Taize choruses that mean a lot to me.

    BTW, if the time made making the rosary seemed to short (And it is wonderful making them) then give it away and make another. 😉

  3. That's an excellent suggestion 🙂

  4. I gave away my beads last night. Thanks again for the suggestion!

    Now to begin a new set.


  1. […] on May 13, 2011 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 […]