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      How to Use Prayer Beads

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How to Use Prayer Beads

Prayer is a time to protect the mind. When you are ready to allow the noisy world to fade into the background, this is a very good time to pick up your prayer beads and fill your mind with blessed thoughts. When entering a state of prayer, one can awaken innate goodness, kindness, serenity, all virtue, joy, and a peaceful heart.

Using Prayer Beads

Prayer beads originally were devised to help people to keep track of repetitive devotions. They enabled one to pray while doing routine jobs and between activities. In the very earliest times, prayers were marked by dropping little pebbles one by one on the ground.

What Are Prayer Beads?

Each strand generally consists of three primary, larger beads surrounded by smaller complimentary beads. They vary in length from 4-5 inches to as long as 17-18 inches.

Holding onto the first large bead, repeat the first line of the prayer and think of what it means to you today – in this moment.

Next, move down to the second large bead and repeat the second line of the prayer, repeating the process.

Finally, move down to the last large bead representing the heart bead and fill your thoughts with taking good care of yourself. Or, you may consider devoting this prayer to someone who is in need of loving kindness. You may even consider presenting them with prayer beads of their own.

Other Ways to Use the Prayer Beads

There are ways you can use your prayer beads for present-moment practice. Here are a few suggestions:

Beginning a New Day

Each morning when you wake up, reach for your prayer beads. Let the texture awaken your fingers, and allow this vitality to permeate your entire body. Now you are ready to set your intentions for the day. These can include anything you would like to emphasize: listening to people more carefully, telling the truth, being grateful for small things. As you make your way through your day, touching the beads will return you to your initial intentions.

Walking in the Present Moment

As you move from place to place during the day, use these moments to acknowledge the transition between tasks. Bring your beads into the palm of your hand, and let their texture remind you to feel your feet on the floor and take a breath, feeling both the inhalation and exhalation. You might have your beads tucked away in your pocket, or, you might wear your strand on a leather thong around your neck. Be creative in ways to make your prayer beads accessible to you.

Grounding Practice

During important conversations or even thinking about things by ourselves, we can find ourselves getting caught up in "what was" and "what if." You can use your beads for grounding when you find yourself worrying about the past or the future. When things get difficult, take up your beads and allow their pleasing weight to bring you into the present moment. You will then be able to see more clearly into the current situation. By remaining grounded in the present, you will be more open to listening and accepting life as it is, rather than as you wish it to be.

Calming your emotions:

Some people find themselves feeling very emotional in a situation at some point during the day. These emotions cause one to sometimes do irrational things. This could be regarding a work situation, your spouse or other family member or pretty much anything. When this occurs, take out your prayer beads and feel their smooth textures, consider their pleasing weight, observe their unique colors and absorb their beauty and eternal patience. This will help you feel more cause over the situation and will calm your anger or extreme emotion about something and allow you to see the situation rationally and come up with a solution. Try it!

Ending the Day

When you are in bed and ready for sleep, pick up your beads and let their texture resonate in your body. As you rediscover each bead passing through your fingers, let yourself feel grateful for your day. It's also important to recognize the pain we might have caused or experienced. By acknowledging the truth of who we are, we can change and grow. As you approach sleep, breathe in and out with an awareness of your body. As you breathe in, focus on your toes, and on the exhalation, relax them. Continue breathing and moving up your entire body until you reach to the top of your head. It's perfectly okay to fall asleep while you are moving up the entire length of your body.

Sharing With Another

Perhaps there is someone you know who might benefit from the prayer beads. These beads could also be a gift – an action of thoughtful kindness – to show you care. May your prayer beads bring your peace.

History of Prayer Beads

Prayer beads are commonly associated with the Middle Ages (A.D. 600-1400) and Roman Catholicism. Their use, however, is universal and predates the Christian Era. Christianity, in fact, was the last of the major religions to employ prayer beads in an important ritualistic role. Even today, the religions of nearly two-thirds of the world’s population utilize some form of prayer beads.

The word bead is derived from Anglo-Saxon bidden (“to pray”) and bede (“prayer”). During the medieval period, when jewelry was discouraged by the church, rosaries were acceptable as convenient portable devices for counting prayers. Their purpose was to assist the worshiper in accurately repeating from memory the correct number of prayers and incantations required by his faith.

Although the number, arrangement, and materials of prayer beads are different with each religion, there are shared concepts that link the beads of the major faiths.

Worry Beads

Visitors to present-day Greece, Turkey or the Middle East see men and woman holding “worry beads.” At business meetings in Saudi Arabia, businessmen discuss transactions involving millions of dollars while fingering strings of beads. If questioned people will deny the beads have any special meaning. However, since there are usually thirty-three beads on the string with vase-shaped retaining bead ending in a tassel, they are probably derived from Islamic prayer beads. Worry beads, like prayer beads, are made in a great many materials - plastic, glass, olive pits, wood, amber, ivory, and semi-precious stones - catering to various owners’ wealth and status. Their primary function as a release for tension provides a security that may, in fact, be subconsciously spiritual.

The Religious Use of Beads

Traditionally, prayer beads have consisted of strings of similarly sized beads, seeds, knots, or even rose petals and beads made from crushed roses, from which we get the word "rosary". The Sanskrit term japa mala means "muttering chaplet," which refers to prayer beads' function as a means of recording the number of prayers muttered. Since counting prayers was initially so important, each religion embracing the use of prayer beads developed its own symbolic structure to follow.

In addition to helping keep one's place in structured prayers, prayer beads also symbolize the commitment to spiritual life. With their circular form, a string represents the interconnectedness of all who pray. Each bead counted is an individual prayer or mantra, and the rote repetition of prayers and mantras is meant to facilitate a sole focus on the prayer or mantra itself.

Other Prayers for Contemplation with Your Prayer Beads

Hasidic song
Wherever I go - only Thou!
Wherever I stand - only Thou!
Just Thou, again Thou! Always Thou!
Thou, Thou, Thou!
When things are good, Thou!
When things are bad, Thou!
Thou, Thou, Thou!

Shaker Hymn
'Tis the gift to be simple,
'Tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down
Where we ought to be -
And when we find ourselves
In the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley
Of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend
We shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn, will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning
We come round right

Buddhist Prayer
May I be happy
May I be peaceful
May I be free

May my friends be happy
May my friends be peaceful
May my friends be free

May my enemies be happy
May my enemies be peaceful
May my enemies be free

May all things be happy
May all things be peaceful
May all things be free

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu,
Buddhist, Sufi, or Zen. Not any religion

Or cultural system. I am not from the East
or the West, not out of the ocean or up

From the ground, not natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all. I do not exist,

am not an entity in this world or the next,
did not descend from Adam and Eve or any

origin story. My place is placeless, a trace
of the traceless. Neither body or soul.

I belong to the beloved, have seen the two
worlds as one and that one call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being.

Eastern Orthodox Prayer
O Lord, grant me to greet
The coming day in peace.
Help me in all things
To rely upon thy holy will.
In every hour of the day
Reveal thy will to me.
Bless my dealings
With all who surround me.
Teach me to treat all that comes to me
Throughout the day with peace of soul,
And with firm conviction that
Thy will governs all.
In all my deeds and words
Guide my thoughts and feelings.
In unforeseen events
Let me not forget that all are sent by thee.
Teach me to act firmly and wisely.
Without embittering and embarrassing others.
Give me strength to bear the fatigue
Of the coming day with all that it shall bring.
Direct my will, tech me to pray,
Pray thou thyself in me. Amen.

Kenyan Prayer
From the cowardice that dare not face new truth
From the laziness that is contented with half truth
From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
Good Lord, deliver me.

St. Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I 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.

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Copyright 2011 This article may not be reprinted or published without permission from Emily Gems.

No claims are made. These alleged powers are gathered from writing, books, folklore and various sources.