Saturday, May 11, 2013

COUNTED PRAYERS: AN INTRODUCTION TO USING ROSARIES/PRAYER BEADS


Since I make rosaries as a hobby and fundraiser for school, I get a lot of questions from people about how to use them, and why anyone would want to. Pretty good questions, those, and today I want to talk a bit about rosaries in general. Over the next couple of days I'll move on to how to use them, but before we get to that, let's talk about WHY to use them.

Like any other prayer or meditation practice, some people take to using rosaries like fish to water, and others have some real aversion to the idea. And like any other prayer or meditation practice, that's ok. We'll talk about a lot of ways people pray here. Some of them will appeal to you and some will not, so don't go getting stressed out feeling like you "should" like something or use it, when it just isn't you.

There are lots of different kinds of rosaries, and some of them have specific uses. I'm going to talk today in general terms of counted prayers, or repeating the same prayer for a set number of times, and will get more specific later.

The point of repeating the same prayer is to help focus your mind. It is typical, but not necessarily always true, that we use rosaries to pray when we are repeating the same prayer over and over again. A prayer is said at each bead of the rosary, and you move your fingers from one bead to another as you pray.

There is a rhythm and flow to this method of praying that eases you into a deep state of focus, creating a space for spiritual connectedness. Ideally, when praying a rosary, it becomes less and less about the counted prayers and more about getting into that "sweet spot" that is a relaxed, contemplative, "I'm here," place. 

To get an idea about what it is like to pray this way, try this:

- Get a couple of small, shallow bowls and about 50-100 dried beans, small pebbles, or any other easily handled item (cereal, like Cheerios or Coco puffs work really well... not that I have ever used Coco Puffs as a prayer tool... *ahem*). The more you have, the longer your prayer session will be. 50 pieces will get you about 8-10 minutes, depending on how long the prayer you choose is.

- Choose a short phrase you can easily remember that also speaks to what you want to focus on. One of my favorites is called the Trisagion or "Thrice Holy" prayer: "Holy God, Holy and mighty, Holy immortal one, have mercy on us/me," or another good one for Christians is the Gloria: "Glory to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forever, amen." Or something more along the lines of "Blessings and peace be with us." It doesn't matter what you choose, as long as it is meaningful to you.

- Sit comfortably at a table and place both bowls in front of you, side by side and a bit apart. Put all of the beans/pebbles/Coco Puffs in the bowl on the left.

- Close your eyes, breathe deeply a few times while you focus on what you are praying about. Take one of your beans (or whatever) in the fingers of your right hand, say the prayer you have chosen, and keeping your eyes closed, transfer the bean to the bowl on the right.

- Repeat until all of the beans have been transferred to the right bowl.

- Breathe deeply again a few times, and open your eyes.

What was that like? Did you feel tense or relaxed? Did your mind wander or did it stay focused? Did you lose track of what you were doing or did the use of the beans/pebbles/CocoPuffs help you stay on track? Did you notice any change in your state of mind? Try it a few times and see how it goes.

Next, we'll look at different rosaries and how they are used.