Anglican Prayer Beads

By Abbot Father Michael Cuozzo+, OFE
 
This brief article is to introduce to the reader a new tool to assist with contemplative prayer that is used in the Anglican Communion – the Anglican prayer beads. It is also known as the Anglican rosary, Christian prayer beads, or Anglican/Episcopalian prayer beads.
 
Since the earliest of times prayer beads are present in almost every culture. People have used pebbles or a string of knots or beads on a cord to keep track of prayers presented to God. Using prayer beads as a tool of meditation is as old as human history.    
 
Church prayer has been a pivotal part of Christian living. Saint Luke wrote that the newly baptized committed themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fraternity, to the breaking of bread and prayers (Acts 2:42). Saint Paul urges us to pray without ceasing to give thanks in all instances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).  
 
Every major religious tradition used prayer beads throughout history. The earliest recorded examples are the Malabeads of the Hindu and Buddhist faiths. The Eastern Orthodox has a prayer cord with cross-knots, and the Roman Catholics have the rosary. The Roman Catholic rosary originated sometime between the 12th and 15th century. There are also the Islamic prayer beads called the Misbahaor the Tasbih.
 
The Rev. Lynn Baumann from the Episcopal Church in the United States created the Anglican prayer beads in the mid-1980s as an aid to contemplative prayer. Prayer beads have grown in approval among those seeking to enrich their prayer life. The prayer beads been adopted by Lutherans, Methodists, and other Protestant groups, thus giving rise to the term Christian prayer beads. There’s also a nondenominational variation known as the Earth Rosary. Consisting of four sets of 13 beads, which indicate the 13 weeks in each of the four seasons, the Earth Rosary has a total of 52 beads, representing each week of the year.
 
The Anglican prayer beads are made up of 33 beads, which represent the years of Jesus’ earthy life, while the Catholic rosary has 59. It is divided into four weeks of seven beads each, and the Catholic rosary has five decades of 10 beads a piece. A single bead separates the weeks and decades on both rosaries.  
 
Beads: Gateway to Prayer, an article written by Maryknoll Brother John Beeching enlightens us about prayer beads, “When we start to pray with beads, our prayer forms on our lips, but gradually it internalizes, welling from within our heart. As we progress, the prayer may become simply awareness or getting lost in the Divine.”
 
Anglican prayer beads is a simply tool to assist in one’s prayer life. Anglican prayer beads are used as a tactile aid to prayer. It helps to bring us into contemplative of meditative prayer by use of mind, body, and spirit. The touching of the fingers on each bead helps in keeping our mind from drifting, and the cadence of the prayers steers us more easily into quietness.
 
Trappist monk and priest Dom M. Basil Pennington reminds us in Praying by Hand: Rediscovering the Rosary as a Way of Prayer, prayer beads simply are a method or instrument “to help us pray, to enter into communion and union with God. Therefore, we should feel free to use it or pray it in any way that helps us to enter into that union.”