I have this image of people walking or shuffling along, murmuring prayers as they finger their prayer beads. In the Middle East, especially during the Ramadan, you would see people in the souq, under a tree or sitting at their doorstep, praying the ‘Mishbaha’ (Muslim prayer beads). It was one of my earlier encounters with praying beads. When visiting Thailand, begging monks with their bowls and ‘Malas’ (string of prayer beads) were a common sight in the cities.
Prayer beads are an essential part of the spiritual practice for a wide variety of people. Many faith traditions have a rich history of using them. Buddhists, Hindus and the Abrahamic traditions, all utilise this form of prayer. The religious traditions have their specific reason for the number of beads and the prayers they use for the beads. There is no magic in the beads, it is merely an aid to counting prayers, or loosing oneself in the prayer.
Ten years ago, travelling through Italy and France, I would see monks or nuns, fingering their Rosary, murmuring the prayers under their breath as they sat in Church or wandered around parks and streets.
I was intrigued! And envious. It was my desire to learn to pray like that. To be focused; to be at so at ease in my faith that devotions in public would not make me self-conscious. The beauty of sitting in silence in a church, allowing the beads to slip through my fingers as I prayed, or in the park under a tree, devoted to my practice. I was a long way off!
Praying the Rosary or using the Mala beads while saying a mantra is helpful as you concentrate on something outside yourself. This meditation practice has both physical and spiritual benefits. Physically it helps to lower blood pressure, slowing down in general and decreasing anxiety and stress levels. The spiritual advantage lies in getting closer to God, the God within and God without and being present in the moment. It is an aid to a deepening spiritual devotion and awareness.
Although most people are familiar with the Rosary of the Catholic Church; the Eastern Orthodox Church uses knotted ropes or beads for their prayers. The knots are used for counting the ‘Jesus prayer’ or the ‘Kyrie Elision’. The Catholic Church promoted the idea that praying the Rosary may benefit you or others. I don’t believe that at all. There is nothing we need to do. God loves us and does not demand any works of us. Praying the Rosary is for personal benefit, to grow closer to God as you spend more time in prayer.
The Protestants seem reluctant to use prayer beads,
because Jesus didn’t use them, nor is there any reference in the Bible that
promotes the use of beads. Some Anglicans will use Anglican prayer beads which
are set out in a si
milar way to the Rosary but have fewer beads.
Over the last few years of praying the Rosary, reflecting on Scripture and praying have deepened my faith. When I go for my walks, I often say the Rosary as it helps me to let go of stuff in my head.
Do you use a mantra, pray the Rosary to stay focused on the Divine?
Open my heart to your Love.