This morning I woke up and decided I needed to do something different. I needed to connect myself to the Scripture in a way I hadn’t before. I needed to be able to see and touch and experience Scripture in a way that would help it seep into my memory, down into my heart, and in a way that would help me to live, as Jesus said in Matthew 5, as the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
In the past, I’ve used knots as a memory aid – knots that represent the fruits of the Spirit, or the Gospels, or the three persons of the Trinity, and I have found it to be a helpful exercise. Today, I decided to make prayer beads – a beaded prayer assistant that has grown in use in many traditions and denominations. But, rather than use a pattern that was already out there, I wanted something that would help me to pray through the Beatitudes so that I can carry these words of Jesus around with me daily.
I wanted to give a special thanks to my friend Anna (amazing blogger at Sulfur-Free Jesus) , who helped me learn about how traditional chaplets are structured. Anna also nudged me towards the Prayer of St. Francis, a prayer I have found deeply compelling, as a natural connecting point between the Beatitudes and daily life. Though what I have come up with is not a traditional chaplet, I love how these prayer beads turned out. I am eager to use them as a tool to direct my prayers.
In this post, I want to explain how one might use prayer beads to pray through the Beatitudes and also offer a supply list and some general instructions for making your own.
Jesus spent his ministry talking about the kingdom of God, and pointing his disciples towards a reality beyond what they could see with their eyes. His words were about resisting the power structures and inclinations of this world by looking towards the margins. The Beatitudes illustrate this looking to the fringes in beautiful, succinct, and challenging words. Because of this, I have decided to call this prayer practice The Prayer of Holy Resistance.
Each large bead reminds us of a Beatitude. Following each Beatitude, you may offer the Lord’s Prayer, or silence. The smaller beads are each another opportunity to continue the prayer. I will be praying the Trisagion (Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us) and pausing to ask God how I might put into practice the words of each particular Beatitude. The conclusion of the five smaller beads is an opportunity to give praise to God. This is a good place for the Gloria Patri (Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.) or another expression of praise and thanksgiving.
The Prayer of Holy Resistance
The prayer begins at the cross. Holding the cross, begin the prayer with: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Next we move up to the medallion or the symbol above the first large bead. The first time we pause at the medallion, it reminds us to remember the words of the Apostles’ Creed. The Apostles’ Creed has many translations and slight differences in wording. Feel free to use the version that you are most familiar with. Mine is:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Moving back down toward the cross, pause at the first large bead. This bead begins our movement through the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12).
First large bead: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Second large bead: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Third large bead: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Fourth large bead: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Fifth large bead: Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Sixth large bead: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Seventh large bead: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Eighth large bead: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
**At this point, you may notice that there is another “Blessed are” in Matthew. This is often viewed as a commentary on the previous Beatitudes. I have not included it with its own bead, but at the conclusion of the circle of prayer you’ve made around the prayer beads, I invite you to reflect on this verse: ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
As we return back to the medallion, pause and pray the prayer of St. Francis as a way of moving the words of the Beatitudes into action:
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
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.
A cross (with a ring or hole for attaching with wire)
8 large beads
40 smaller beads
A medallion, or other object that can be attached with wire in three places
Optional: 50 “filler” beads to go in between the smaller beads
Flexible wire or string for threading the beads
Be creative with your prayer beads. Ultimately, these are only meant to be a tool to help guide and direct our prayers. I selected larger beads by color because they help me remember each Beatitude. Do what works for you.
Have you ever prayed with beads? Have you found this to be a helpful practice?