What are prayer beads?

Dear Maggie,
What are prayer beads? Do Episcopalians pray the Rosary?
Roundly Requesting

Dear Roundly,
Thank ye for yer simple yet very good question!  Prayer beads are a way we can bring our bodies into prayer and even engage our minds in a deeper way.  The truth is that we relate to the world through our hands and by using our hands in the act of prayer we are bringing our whole selves into greater focus upon God. 

This understanding of the role of the hands in prayer transcends religious traditions—Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims all use beads or knotted ropes to aid them in attention and focus during prayer.  Christians began using beads or knotted ropes for prayer in the Deserts of Egypt during the 3rd and 4th centuries and the tradition has continued, particularly through the Roman Catholic practice of the Rosary. 

The Rosary is both a set of beads and a form of prayerful meditation on the Life of Christ with an emphasis on the Virgin Mary.  Many Anglicans and Episcopalians, particularly of an Anglo-Catholic bent, pray the Rosary in the same fashion as Roman Catholics.  It can be a powerful form of meditation and one that engages not only the body, but also the imagination as we picture various scenes from the life of Christ.

In the 20th Century, the Anglican Rosary was developed in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas and quickly spread across the Anglican Communion and beyond.  This form of prayer bead contemplation borrows from the Roman Catholic Rosary, but has less of an emphasis on the Virgin Mary and does not employ meditations on the life of Christ as a matter of course.  Since the Anglican Rosary is a less settled tradition there are actually a wide variety of prayers that can be used with the beads. 

If you’re interested in making yer own Anglican Rosary or using some of the prayers, here are some resources ye may want to take a gander at:
How to Make an Anglican Rosary

How to Pray the Anglican Rosary

Christmas is coming and Anglican Rosarys can make excellent gifts and fun crafts for children and adults alike!

I hope that helps ye in yer understanding and in yer prayer.

Peace be with ya!
St. Maggie