Enrich your prayer life using Anglican Prayer Beads and get your free Prayer Beads Prayer Cards for your devotions.
When most of us think of prayer beads, we often think of the Catholic Rosary or maybe even the meditation beads (mala beads) used by Hindus and Buddhists. Many of us in the Protestant tradition look at these prayer aides with curiosity, and perhaps a little hesitancy.
I was recently gifted a beautiful Anglican prayer beads rosary made by an artisan in our companion church in Amazonas, Brazil. What I found when I started to explore the tradition was a rich prayer practice that reaches back to the earliest monastic communities. Beads and prayers have been intricately connected for thousands of years. The old anglo-saxon word for bead, bede, even means “a prayer.”
Table of Contents
What are Anglican Prayer Beads?
Christianity is full of devotional practices that use aids to help encourage and guide our prayer life. Many of us wear crosses as a reminder and symbol of our faith. When the Israelites struggled on their journey to The Promise Land, God instructed them to put fringes on the corners of their garments to remind them of his presence and commandments (Numbers 15: 38-39).
God knew they needed something tangible – physical – to hold onto and remind them that God was with them. So God told them to take up fringe – a common, ordinary, everyday object – and hold onto it when they needed comfort, guidance, assurance, love.
The early Christian monastics (the Desert Mothers and Fathers) carried pebbles in their pockets to help them chant all 150 Psalms each day. To keep track, they dropped one pebble for each prayer. Later, Orthodox Christians used knotted prayer ropes to say the Jesus Prayers in their own quest to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). The Catholic Rosary helped each believer contemplate teachings from scripture and the church.
In our Protestant traditions, the Anglican Prayer Beads are pretty new, created by the Rev. Lynn Bauman with his contemplative prayer group in the 1980s. There’s no set of formal prayers for the Anglican Rosary. You can create your own, use scripture, or follow a guide. I hope you’ll enjoy the two devotions shared at the bottom of this post. Sign up to get your Free Prayer Bead Prayer Cards to inspire your own practice!
The Symbolism of Anglican Prayer Beads
Anglican prayer beads are created with a cross and 33 beads: 1 large Invitatory bead, 4 large Cruciform beads, and 4 groups of 7 smaller Week beads in between. The thirty-three beads in total represent the thirty-three years of Jesus’ life.
We start at the Cross to remind us of Jesus’ loving gift of salvation.
The next bead above the cross is the Invitatory Bead. This bead calls us to prayer and sets our intention, letting go of distractions and opening ourselves to God’s presence.
A newer version of the Anglican Prayer Beads has an additional small bead above the Invitatory bead called the Ressurection Bead. This reminds us that Christ continues to live with us, here and now.
Following to the right, 28 beads create a full circle. The four Cruciform Beads are evenly spaced to form four points of the cross. They also remind us of the four Gospels, four compass points, and four seasons of the year.
Between each of the Cruciform beads are 7 smaller Week Beads. The number seven is used in the Bible to symbolize spiritual perfection, the 7 days of creation, and the Sabbath (the 7th day).
How to Pray with Anglican Prayer Beads
1. Get comfortable
Find a quiet and comfortable place, on a cushion, a cozy chair, or a mat on the floor.
2. Select your prayer
Choose a prayer or set of scriptures that speak to you. Allow yourself to be led by the Spirit. Don’t over-think it, just let it come to you.
3. Start rolling
There’s no “right” way to use your prayer beads. You can simply hold them or move through the pattern saying the prayer you have assigned to each bead as you go.
Begin by holding the cross and opening your prayer, for example: In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Continue to the invitatory bead, setting your intention for your prayer.
Move to the first cruciform bead, saying the prayer you have created for each of these “cross points” for the first time. It will be repeated with each cruciform bead around the circle.
Reach out to God and move through your week beads, contemplating the prayer assigned to each. You can pray the circle once or as many times as you like before returning to the invitatory bead. A common number is “3 times” representing the trinity.
Close on the cross with an offering of praise and gratitude for God’s continued presence and work in our lives.
4. Rest and listen
Give yourself a final moment to sit in silence and rest with God before continuing with your day.
Why use Prayer Beads?
Many people find that using Anglican Prayer Beads can enrich and deepen their prayer life. I love how the beads are a physical reminder for me to step away from the busyness of my day. It helps me center myself – to stop the racing thoughts and worries – and be present in this moment reaching out to God. Handling each bead can ground us and keeps our mind from wondering, encouraging us to listen and draw ever closer to Jesus. And it’s also a great way to reflect on scripture within my prayers.
If you are used to extemporaneous prayer, using prayer beads may at first strike you as a little ritualistic. Much of what we learn about prayer is rooted in our particular church context. There’s a wide diversity of how we pray individually and in worship between denominations. But what matters most is not how we pray but our intention – if it is to seek God from the depths of our heart – exposed, vulnerable, and offering our whole self to Christ who offers himself in return.
Christian Prayer Beads Prayers
A Prayer for Overwhelming Times
Cross: In the name of the God of Truth, of healing, and peace.
Invitatory Bead: In you, O LORD, I take refuge. You are my rock, my fortress and my deliverer. Fill me with your peace as I put all my trust in you. (Psalm 18:2)
Cruciform Bead: I cast all my anxieties on you, Lord, because I know you care for me. (1 Peter 5:7)
- When I call to you, God, I know you answer me. (Jeremiah 33:3)
- And your peace, which transcends all understanding, will guard my heart and mind. (Phillippians 4:7)
- I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phllippians 4:13)
- For with You, all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)
- I know Your power works best in my weakness. ( 2 Corinthians 12:9)
- But because of Your great love I am not consumed (Lamentations 3:22)
- My heart is always filled with Your unfailing love and the gift of Your Spirit (Romans 5:5)
Invitatory Bead (last time): Give me patience, wisdom, and understanding as I go through my day and may I honor you in all that I do.
Cross (last time): The Lord’s Prayer
A Prayer of Thanksgiving
Cross: Blessed be the one, holy, and living God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Invitatory Bead: “You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118: 28-29)
Cruciform Bead: I’m grateful Lord for the many blessings you have given me.
- For the wonder of creation that surrounds me;
- For your unconditional love that lives in and through me;
- For all my experiences and lessons learned;
- For each new day and infinite possibilities;
- For supportive friends and loved ones;
- For kindness, laughter, peace, and joy;
- For your mercy and grace that I may be free and have eternal life.
Invitatory Bead (last time): The Lord’s Prayer
Cross (last time): In Jesus’ name, I believe and pray, Amen.
Sign up for our Newsletter and Stay Connected at the end of this post to download your free Prayer Cards. You can purchase Anglican Prayer Beads from Christian Book stores, Etsy Shops, or Amazon. If you would like to make your own, Kristen Vincent has included a full set of instructions and video here.
I would love to hear your own prayer beads experiences and devotions. Share with us in the comments below!