Over the last year I've written a few times about my use of Anglican prayer beads. Many of you have written me about how, because of those posts, you've begun to use prayer beads and that they have been a great help to you and your prayer life. To receive notes like those is extremely touching.
In some of those posts about prayer beads a few of you, my Orthodox readers, have pointed me to the use of prayer ropes in the Orthodox tradition. Following your lead, and curious as always, I began investigating Orthodox prayers ropes.
Basically, prayer ropes work like prayer beads with knots working like the beads. For the Orthodox the knots on a rope are generally used to count the number of Jesus Prayers: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner."
The most common lengths of Orthodox prayer ropes are 100-knot or 150-knot ropes, though you can get ropes of 33 or 50 knots up to 300 or 500 knots. Similar to how the smaller week beads are separated by larger Cruciform beads on a string of Anglican prayer beads, the knots on a prayer rope are also separated by beads at regular intervals (usually at 25-knot intervals in the longer ropes).
The ends of an Orthodox prayer rope can differ. The Greek style ends with a knotted cross. The Russian style ends with a cross and tassel.
The traditional material and look of an Orthodox prayer rope is black wool, though ropes can be made from other materials and in other colors.
Finally, the knots of an Orthodox prayer rope are complicated, with many crossings and very symbolic. For an online tutorial in tying the knots see here.
Prayer ropes are carried in your pocket, but they can also be worn on the wrist.
Intrigued by the suggestions of Orthodox readers, last year I ordered a 100-knot, black wool, Greek-style prayer rope from St. Paisius Monastery.
I began to wear the rope on my wrist as a prayer reminder and as a prayer aid (taking it off and using it to pray 100 Jesus Prayers). But just to make sure that this would be okay (I didn't want to be offensive to the Orthodox, a non-Orthodox wearing an Orthodox prayer rope) I emailed our local Orthodox priest, Fr. LeMasters. He gave me the green light stating that, from his perspective, anything that promotes prayerfulness is very much encouraged.
As so I wear an Orthodox prayer rope on my wrist. Most people just think it's a bracelet of sorts. No one knows (well, until now) that it's a prayer rope. There aren't many Orthodox in West Texas.
But when I travel out of state I've had an Orthodox person notice, every one in awhile, the prayer rope. Last time I was buying something at a store and the young man who was the cashier remarked, "I like your prayer rope. Are you Orthodox?" I explained, as I do, that I'm not, but that I owe a great deal to Orthodox theology and the prayer ropes of the Orthodox have been a great blessing to me spiritually.
And maybe, now, for you as well.