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St Luke Serbian Orthodox Church

10660 River Road
Potomac, MD 20854

About Prayer Ropes

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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.  


Among many 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 prayer:

"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 - a sinner!"

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 servants...!"

This way 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.

Apostle 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 prayers.

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.

In the 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 prayer ropes.  

Therefore, 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.

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10660 River Road; Potomac, Maryland 20854    tel: 301.299.2704    fax: 301.576.5664    web:

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