Praying with prayer ropes is one of
the oldest ways of doing prayers, mostly used by monks. Prayer ropes have a
symbolic character. Most of them are made in black color, which reminds
us to live solemn lives in repentance. They are made of pure wool, which
signifies that we are the rational ships of the Good Shepherd-Jesus Christ,
who as an innocent Lamb of God had suffered and died on the cross for our
salvation. Small prayer ropes, usually have 33 knots. There are also the
bigger ones, with 50, 100, or 300 knots.
According to an ancient tradition, there was a monk who
wanted to make a wool prayer rope in order to count his prayers. Unfortunately,
he was unable to finish it because the Devil would come and untie the knots. One
day, an angel of God appeared to him with instructions on how to make the knots
with seven crosses entwined in each knot. That was one of the most complicated
ropes, which the Devil was not able to untie.
HOW DO WE PRAY WITH PRAYER ROPES?
prayers that people read at an appointed time and from their prayer books, our
Church gives us also the blessing to use other prayers that could be repeated
continually. These prayers help us to gather our thoughts, and to keep our minds
from wandering around.
First, gather and clear all the
thoughts in your mind, and then, take the knot of your prayer rope into your
left hand, holding it slightly in between the thumb and the index finger. Then,
make a sign of the cross with your right hand and quietly begin your prayer,
counting every prayer with a knot.
The most common
prayer, that we use when praying with the prayer rope is the Jesus
"O Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner!" This prayer can be recited in the
shorter version: "O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!"
The Jesus prayer is the most
important prayer in the life of every Orthodox Christian. According the
rules of our Church, it can replace another prayer. When we recite this prayer
continually, we feel that the grace of God descends into our hearts, and makes
us feel comfortable, filling our souls with an unspeakable peace. This is
because the prayer itself is sanctified with the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Many Orthodox Christians are accustomed to this prayer, and they are able to
keep the name of Jesus on their lips and in their hearts, even while sleeping.
When you repeat this prayer constantly, it becomes like a habit, which is the
same as the process of breathing. The power of this prayer is in the name of
Jesus Christ, which expels all doubts and unrest out of our hearts,
bringing into us peace and God’s grace.
Beside the Jesus prayer, we can recite
a prayer to the Most Holy Mother of God, or to the saints: "O Most Holy
Mother of God, save me - a sinner!"
"O Holy (name of the saint) pray to God for me -
With prayer ropes we can pray for our
relatives, neighbors, or our people, by holding the first knot of our prayer
rope and saying:
"O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on
Thy servants (name, or a list of names), and with the rest of the
knots we do not repeat again the names of those that we prayed for, but we say:
" O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on Thy mentioned
we can also pray for the departed relatives: " O Lord Jesus Christ, give rest
to Thy servants (names), and again with the rest of the knots: " O Lord
Jesus Christ, give rest to Thy mentioned servants!"
When we are alone, it is good to
choose a quiet place for prayer, and to pronounce the words of the prayer
quietly. Most of the Orthodox Christians pray in front of the icons and
vigil lamps, standing with reverence and fear of God. Sometimes, in the case
when a person is sick or unable to stand, the prayers can be done in a sitting
or lying position. It is good to make the sign of the cross each time a prayer
is recited. That way, our focus is more on the words of the prayer.
The practice of praying with the
prayer ropes is not connected just to a quiet and secluded place. We can do our
prayers in every place and occasion: on a bus or airplane, when walking, on busy
streets, waiting places, stadiums, etc. Many Christians lie down in bed with
their prayer rope, and then pray quietly until they fall asleep. In the morning
they start the day with a prayer using the prayer rope.
Paul teaches us to pray without ceasing, and therefore, it is very
useful for us to devote some time in the morning and the evening to do our
prayers with the prayer ropes.
It is forbidden by our Holy Fathers
to let our imaginations go astray during the prayers. We must be constantly
focused on the words of the prayer. That is possible only through concentration
and practice, paying attention to the words, and not to the number of recited
Sometimes, we tend to do our prayers
quickly without thinking of the content of the prayer. God hears and fulfills
only those prayers that are pronounced with calmness and peace. However, it is
very hard to calm our thoughts quickly, and therefore we have to recite our
prayer more frequently in order to pay attention to the prayer. The best way to
get used to a prayer is to recite it continually, whether we are calm or not. It
is like a drop by drop of water dripping over a rock causing a hole in it, in
the same way a continual prayer makes us closer to God, even though our thoughts
are wandering around.
situation when we are not using our prayer rope, we can hold it inside of our
pocket, or if it is a small one, around our wrist. It is not proper to play with
our prayer rope, if we are not praying. The only purpose of a prayer rope is to
use it when praying. Prayer ropes are not a piece of jewelry, but a tool for
continual prayer. Even the monks and nuns in monasteries pray while making
dear brothers and sisters, let us pray to our Lord Jesus Christ for the
salvation of our souls and the souls of our relatives, that He may grant, as in
this life, the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we may be worthy of His heavenly
Kingdom. The Lord is always with us, and He teaches us that the Kingdom of God
is in our hearts. That is why unceasing prayer is needed in our lives, for
through prayer we come closer to God and the recognition of His abundant love.
Indeed, it is very difficult to gain
any Christian virtues without the grace of God, and the grace is gained only
through sincere prayer. Therefore, the prayer is the Queen of all
Virtues, that ascends us to God, and connects us to other people.