Prayer beads were first introduced to me when a new pastor joined our church. She had a ministry where she would sell prayer beads and use the proceeds to fund a scholarship fund for graduating seniors. She
Even though I loved the idea and now had a set, I had no idea how to use them or the significance of the design. If you are considering adding prayer beads into your prayer life let me break down for you the significance of the design and provide some suggestions on how you can use them to help focus your prayers.
Parts of Protestant Prayer Beads
There are two main pieces of the prayer bead design. There is a “tail” and the main circle.
The tail (or stem) is where your prayer will begin and end. It includes a charm (theme bead) and an invitation bead. I have also seen designs that include an additional bead referred to as the resurrection bead.
- Theme Bead: This is a charm that hangs at the bottom of the stem. The design should be something that is significant to you. Many of my designs will contain the tree of life or a compass to signify the journey we are all on. I also like to use charms that have power words (hope, faith, strength, love, as examples)
- Invitation Bead: This bead sits between the theme bead and the first cruciform bead. This bead can be a different bead (my personal preference in design) or it can be the same as the cruciform bead.
- Resurrection Bead: If this bead is used in your design it sits between the invitation bead and the first cruciform bead. This is typically a different bead in the design as well.
The second part of the prayer bead is the larger circle that contains a pattern of beads. Typically its four beads with seven different beads in between.
- Cruciform Beads: These are the four (typically) larger beads that are equally distributed around the circle.
- Weeks Beads (Creation Beads): These are the 4 sets of seven beads that sit between each cruciform bead.
Sometimes you will also see seed (or spacer) beads that are used in the design. These smaller beads are placed in between the larger beads and are used to create the design.
Significance of the beads
Now we know the main parts and the names of the different beads. But what exactly are they meant to represent?
- Theme bead – This bead is meant to have spiritual significance to you. This will be the point where you start your prayer time and use it to focus your mind and energy.
- Invitation Bead – This bead is meant for you to invite God into your time of prayer. You will also use this to close your prayers at the end.
- Resurrection Bead – This bead is meant to remind you that Christ conquered death. Use this bead to remind yourself that Jesus conquered death.
- Cruciform Beads – When your prayer beads are laid flat these beads will form the shape of a cross, reminding us of Jesus sacrifice. These four beads can also remind us of the four gospels, four seasons, the four directions or four parts of a person (body, mind, spirit, and soul)
- Weeks Beads (Creation Beads) – The number 7 has much significance in the bible. Here it can remind us of the 7 days of the week (or the seven days that God took to create the world).
- The number of beads in the set is also significant. In a full set of prayer beads, there are 33 beads (if you exclude the theme bead and the resurrection bead). They remind us of Jesus’s time on this earth living and teaching with us.
Using the Prayer Beads for Prayer
In my research I have not found any one definitive method for using prayer beads. But here are some suggestions for ways to use them.
To provide focus to your mind and energy
I know a number of people (myself included) that simply hold the beads to provide strength and comfort when needed. If you are thinking about using your beads in this way be sure you select a set of beads that will help you.
When using the beads for focus think about the sensory aspects of the beads and how they affect your senses. Feel the weight of them in your hands and the feel of the stones in your fingers. Hear how the stones rub together when they are moved. See each of the beads – sets that have natural stones with variations in the pattern will give you something to focus on. Smell the fragrance – Some of my beads are designed with lava rocks as the cruciform beads. These beads act as diffusers for essential oils. Simply add a drop or two to each bead and rub them in. The rocks will absorb the oil and release the scent over time.
When using the beads this way, sit in a quiet spot and just focus on the beads. Open your mind up to hear what God has to say to you in this time.
To create a standard prayer
I have seen methods where people create a standard prayer as they move from bead to bead. Each set representing something different. Some examples are:
- Theme bead – take a moment to quiet the mind and prepare for prayer.
- Invitation bead – used as a call to prayer, an introduction or a welcome to God
- Cruciform beads – often seen used to create a theme for your prayer time. It is suggested that you create a phrase that you will come back to each time you land on one of these beads. This phrase could represent something that is weighing on your heart “Lord, be with me today” or it could be a lead into what you will be praying for with the Weeks Beads.
- Weeks Beads – this can be the same prayer said across all 28 weeks beads or you can change it up for each set. I have read that some folks might use the first set of 7 to confess sins, the second set to show gratitude to God, another set to raise prayer concerns and the last set to praise God. I have also read where some people will take each set as prayers for different sets of people in their lives – friends, family, co-workers, leaders .. etc.
- Once you have completed your journey around the prayer bead (which can be done once or multiple times) you can then exit the prayer using the invitation bead again but this time in closing and then the theme bead to reset your mind.
As you can see there are as many ways to use prayer beads as there are people who use them. So find what works best for you!
Different Designs for Prayer Beads
While the standard prayer beads are as we described above, I do design two other versions. A pocket version and a wrap bracelet.
My pocket versions are designed three ways. One is just a short bead that starts with a theme bead, an invitation bead, a cruciform bead, a set of weeks beads and ends with a cruciform bead. I have made these as stand alone’s or attached to a key ring or bookmark.
The way to use these would be no different just instead of going around once you can move up and down between the cruciform and weeks beads until your time of prayer is complete.
Prayer Bead Wrap Bracelet
I personally love this design as a way to keep the Lord close to me and still stylish doing so. Wrap bracelets are great because they fit anyone without having to worry about the clasp. I design mine with the same pattern as a standard prayer bead but at the end of the bracelet I add anther invitation bead (or an ‘Amen’ bead) to help you exit your prayer along with a smaller charm (theme bead) typically with a word of encouragement as you enter back into the world (My favorite says “Made with love” because I think we all need to be reminded that we are thoughtfully made by our creator)
There are so many ways to incorporate prayer beads into your prayer time. I personally have found them to be powerful not only during times of prayer but when I preach or even just in my everyday life when I need that extra reminder that God is always with me.
Have you ever used prayer beads? What tips can you share for new users?