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How To Pray With Anglican Prayer Beads

Woman PrayingThe simple act of using Anglican prayer beads can deepen and transform our prayer into a richer spiritual experience. Praying with a rosary not only allows us to communicate with our Heavenly Father, it allows our Heavenly Father to communicate with us.

Practicing meditation and prayer with beads helps to slow down our busy lives and ponder free from interruption or disturbance. Taking the time to notice what we are doing, feeling and thinking at the time we are actually doing, feeling and thinking it. God is part of our everyday lives, paying attention to God and focusing on God’s kingdom is a fundamental practice of Christian mindfulness.

Here you will find some information and guidelines on how to pray with the Anglican rosary, also referred to as Christian prayer beads.

The History and Use of Prayer Beads

The practice of praying with beads for Christians is believed to originate with the Desert Fathers around the 3rd and early 4th centuries where they carried pebbles in a pouch for counting prayer. These pebbles eventually became beads and were strung on cord.

Our modern English word bead is from the Anglo-Saxon "bede" which translates to "prayer". During the Middle Ages the practice of praying with beads spread throughout Europe and was used in Catholic monasteries. It began with 150 beads to mark the 150 Psalms to recite in a cycle each week.

Eventually another form of prayer and beads were created, these became known as the rosary. The rosary was widely used throughout the Middle Ages and in 1569 Pope Pius V established the current form of the rosary.

In the 1980's an Episcopal priest, the Reverend Lynn Bauman and a group of parishioners studying contemplative prayer began to explore the age-old custom of praying with beads. They developed the simplified Anglican rosary that uses just thirty-three beads.

Prayer beads and rosaries have remained an important part of spiritual practice providing aid in meditation and prayer. Over the years the beads have transformed and changed to various styles and types depending on the religious group or personal need.

Understanding Anglican Prayer Beads and Symbolism

Anglican prayer beads are rich with symbolism. The thirty-three beads remind us of the number of years of Jesus' life on earth before his crucifixion. Christian prayer beads are commonly used by Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians and other Christian denominations.

Prayer Beads DiagramAnglican prayer beads are composed of a cross and thirty-three beads, five large and twenty-eight small. Thirty-two of the beads form a circle, with one large bead and the cross outside the circle.

Inside the circle are four large beads evenly spaced between the twenty-eight smaller beads.

The four large beads inside the circle are called cruciform beads because they form an invisible cross.

The small beads divided into groups of seven by the cruciform beads are called "weeks" because they represent the seven days of the week and also recall the seven days of creation

Some prayer beads include an additional bead just above the invitatory, this is often referred to as the resurrection bead and signifies a reminder that Christ lives on. 

The invitatory bead, the large bead directly above the cross, acts as a call to worship the Lord and invites us into the circle of prayer. The cross of course, is replete with symbolism.

Selecting A Prayer To Meditate On

When praying the Anglican Rosary or Christian Prayer Beads there are no set or assigned prayers, the choice of prayers are your own. A few suggested prayers are:

How To Pray with Anglican Prayer Beads

One of the more important aspects is to just be comfortable and relaxed and don’t feel a sense of being rushed. You want to just be here in the moment, paying attention to each passing moment as you go through each bead. You may also simply hold the beads in your hands while you pray. 

  • First, choose a favorite prayer or words that have a deeper spiritual meaning for you. For this article we’ll assume that you have chosen a prayer (sample prayers here and here). Remember to keep things simple and choose something that is close to your heart or that you can easily remember so that you can fully immerse yourself in the experience.

  • Next, find a comfortable location to sit where you won’t be disturbed for a few minutes. Allow yourself to relax and allow your mind to become more restful and calm.

  • After you have reached a feeling of relaxation, you may choose to begin your experience by holding the cross and saying one of the prayer’s that you have chosen.

  • Continuing on, allow your fingers to select the bead above the cross, commonly known as the Invitatory bead, while saying your next prayer.

  • Next, allow your hand to advance to the first large bead also known as a Cruciform bead, while saying your next prayer.

  • Choosing the next bead while moving to the right, continue on to through the first set of smaller beads, while continuing to repeat or cycle through the prayers you have chosen. There are 4 larger Cruciform beads and 7 smaller regular beads between each Cruciform bead.

  • Continue with each bead and prayer as you continue around the circle of beads. You may want to do this three times, which could carry the significance and meaning of the Trinity, if that feels appropriate for you.

  • As you continue, make sure you are feeling calm and going at a relaxed pace, allowing yourself to develop a comfortable rhythm as you are advancing through each bead.

When you have finished with your prayers and have advanced through the beads to your satisfaction, it would be very beneficial to end with some time to contemplate or meditate to fully absorb and reflect on what you have just experienced. This will also bring you closer to your connection and communion with God.

Additional Prayer Resources