How Protestant Prayer Beads Are Saving My Prayer Life

Make your own prayer beads

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I didn’t realize until recently that Protestant prayer beads actually exist, but now they’re helping me grow my prayer life for the first time in a long time.


The stresses of the day paraded through my brain. I could see each and every unmade decision, each possibility, each worry taking shape behind my closed eyelids. My body wanted sleep but my brain wouldn’t let me go there. 

“God please…” I thought, then the worries reached their bony fingers back into my brain and snatched away the prayer. 

I reached over to my end table, hand patting around in the dark.

There they were. My fingers closed around the cool string of beads and I clutched them to my chest. 

They were new to me, these prayer beads. For my whole life I had believed that using a tool to help me pray was an unholy cheat. Something used only by pagans who chanted in the dark, not for real Jesus-followers.

How wrong I was. 

In fact, the english word for prayer even comes from the Old English noun bede. It means, prayer. (Source)

Prayer is trickier than I thought when I was younger. Just talk to God, they said. That’s what I said too. It rolled off the tongue and out of my heart easily. Like slipping down a slide at the park. Even when the words didn’t come, the feelings were there. I knew God was close.

But just like bare legs on a hot metal slide, my thoughts began to stick. Instead of connecting easily with God, I got caught partway down. Distracted. Unmoved. Unfeeling. 

The history of prayer beads

Religions worldwide use some sort of tactile tool to help them pray.

  • Eastern Orthodox Christians use a knotted prayer rope.
  • Roman Catholics use a rosary.
  • At least one ancient Christian used pebbles and beads.
  • There are even Buddist, Islamic, and Hindu versions of prayer beads.

Clearly, the human race has sensed a deep need for a prayer tool.

In recognition of our human frailty and distraction, God even commanded ancient Jews to wear blue tassels on their robes to remind them to stick with God and avoid sin. (Numbers 15:37-41) These tassels are still worn today as part of the traditional Jewish prayer shawl, called the Tallit. As a first century Jewish man, Jesus would have worn some version of these tassels on his clothes.

But what about the Protestants? Are we holier because we struggle through prayer without a physical tool to help? Oh sure, we are allowed to scratch our thoughts in prayer journals. But is the prayer journal the only tool we are legitimately allowed?

I assumed that prayer journalling was the only legit tool and despite loving to write, I don’t find my prayers come that easily on paper anymore. I needed something else, but I didn’t even know the words to search for so I simply resigned myself to try harder, to pray better.

Protestant Prayer Beads

A few months ago I stumbled on an article about Protestant prayer beads, and it thrilled me to discover that there were others with the same struggles as me.

I nearly jumped up from my computer. I definitely gave a little fist pump. Finally! I was not alone.

This is what I discovered

This pretty little thing called “protestant prayer beads” has a special design:

  • 4 special beads separated by 4 sections of 7 beads.
  • The 7 represent the days of the week, the liturgical calendar (which I know little about), or the “perfect number”.
  • Hanging from the middle is an invitational bead and a cross. 
prayer bead prayers

Prayer Bead Prayers

There are probably specific prayer bead prayers you could pray, but like most other liturgical ideas, I prefer to take the tradition and reconnect with it in a fresh way.

Here are the prayers I pray with the protestant prayer beads I made:

protestant prayer bead prayers

Bottom stone: reminds me of the empty tomb. I praise Jesus for his resurrection and thank him for the resurrection power available to me today. 

Cross: I praise Jesus for his love, shown most magnificently at the cross.

Invitational Bead: I pray the Lord’s prayer.

With the 4 sets of 7, I do a variety of things depending on how focused I am. 

  • If I am struggling to focus, I simply repeat the Jesus prayer for a whole set. “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
  • I might pray the Lord’s prayer again, saying a section with each bead I touch. 
  • I can intercede for others, using each bead to pray for a specific person or request. (This is how my friend uses her prayer beads – she uses each section for a specific type of intercessory prayers.)
  • I can pray 7 specific prayers of gratitude. 
  • I could also use each section to lift up 7 prayers for each of the 4 sections in the ACTS prayer or another prayer pattern.

At each of the 4 special beads, I stop to thank Jesus for the cross again, as these 4 beads form an invisible cross when the beads are hung straight.

How to make protestant prayer beads

You can purchase homemade protestant prayer beads on Etsy.

Another option is that you can make your own. I bought all my beads on sale at Michaels, and created mine long enough to wear as a necklace.

DIRECTIONS TO MAKE YOUR OWN PRAYER BEAD NECKLACE:

Supplies needed:

  • 28 regular beads
  • 4 special beads
  • a handful of small beads (optional. I used these in between my bigger beads to make it long enough to slip over my head.)
  • 2 or 3 regular or special beads to hang down (cross, rock, etc.)

To make: 

  1. Envision the necklace around your neck. You will start with the beads behind your neck and move downward, then back up.
  2. Thread several tiny beads onto the end. You can change the number later when you figure out how big the necklace needs to be for your head.
  3. Follow this pattern 7x: 1 regular bead, 3 small beads
  4. Thread the first special bead. 
  5. Follow this pattern 7x: 1 regular bead, 3 small beads
  6. Thread the 3 small beads and the second special bead.
  7. Thread the beads that you want hanging down from the necklace. At the bottom, loop the string back up so it goes through the dangling beads twice. Loop it back through the second special bead, then continue the necklace.
  8. Follow this pattern 7x: 3 small beads, 1 regular bead
  9. Thread on 3 small beads and the third special bead. 
  10. Follow this pattern 7x: 3 small beads, 1 regular bead
  11. Add a few small beads to the end (the same amount as the other end of the thread). Your necklace should be symmetrical. Modify the number of end beads based on the size of your head – make sure you can get it over your head to wear!
  12. To finish, put on the last special bead. Tie the ends together, and you’re done!

Struggling to picture these directions? You find a printable version of the instructions AND a numbered picture in my Prayer Templates file. Learn more about the FREE prayer templates and tools here!

Make your own prayer beads

How prayer beads helped me

To be honest, I don’t use the prayer beads every day. I created mine big enough to wear as a necklace, but most often I find myself reaching for them at night.

The prayer beads have helped resuscitate my prayer life. This isn’t because they are a crutch, but because they are a tool. Sometimes we need something sensory to help us connect with God.

Now, instead of letting the bony fingers of worry pull the prayer from my mind, I let the cool touch of my prayer beads give focus and direction to my prayers.

How about YOU?

Will you try it?

It might not work for you. It might feel uncomfortable. It might come with emotional baggage that you shouldn’t pick up. But on the other hand, it might be freeing. Protestant prayer beads might allow you to get unstuck on that sticky slide, helping you connect with God in a deeper and more formative way than ever before. It’s up to you.


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