Wearing A Prayer Rope

prayer rope

My new prayer rope came in the mail last week.

It’s a simple black bracelet made of a wool strand. Along its circumference are 33 knots, representing the age of Christ at his crucifixion.  A small silver cross joining the ends bears a tiny image of the Theotokos.

A prayer rope is a prayer aid to Orthodox Christians, allowing the wearer to keep track of repetitions of the Jesus Prayer or a prayer to the Theotokos.

I had planned on buying one for months, but never seemed able to go through with it. I’m sure some part of it was the vanity of wanting one that looked right on my wrist. I’m not sure if I was more afraid someone would notice it, or that no one would.

Prior to last Sunday’s Liturgy, I asked our priest to bless the rope, which he was gracious to do. He took the bracelet and kept it for the duration of the service.

As I stood during the Liturgy I thought about the rope, perhaps sitting on the Holy Table during the numerous blessings and prayers we offered. I wondered what exactly I expected a blessing of the rope to do. Treating blessings like magic spells is not the Orthodox position, and I try constantly to rid myself of these attitudes.

I also thought about the fact that I would be wearing it on my wrist at work in the coming week. Would this single me out? Would wearing this religious jewelry make me look hypocritical when my language or my actions didn’t line up with my store-bought piety?

Over the course of the service a calm grew within me. Of course I would wear the prayer rope. If someone asked me about it, I would tell them.

Nobody asked me about it.

Perhaps the blessing was not to make the rope some amulet, but to grant me the grace to wear it appropriately. I pray it is a daily reminder of who I am supposed to be, on the outside as well as the inside.

I am an absolute novice in using a prayer rope, so any advice I give would be useless. I am trying to use it as a way of increasing my prayers, both in quantity and in depth. It’s also a constant physical reminder that God is “everywhere present and fillest all things.”

I’d like to ask my Orthodox brothers and sisters: do you wear or own a prayer rope? How do you use it? For my Protestant friends; do you have a similar item that you use in prayer?

Never ask for anything but for His infinite mercy and this is enough for your salvation.   – St. John Chrysostom

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