Note: this post is the beginning of a new guest blog series. Periodically, I will invite people to share their expertise, background, and ideas, all of which relate to prayer or prayer beads. Today’s guest is Hanna Schock, who I first introduced you to two weeks ago.
I’m so pleased to write a guest blog post for my friend Kristen. Like so many of you, her work on prayer beads has been a blessing that has enriched my prayers. Likewise, I am very grateful for her encouragement of me and my work. In her July 28th post, Kristen highlighted my daily blog Picture Book Theology (PBT) where I’m offering a picture book a day for a year to demonstrate that there is an enormous collection of evocative, spiritual material to be found in children’s picture books.
On my PBT blog, I explain how facets of your spiritual journey (everything from prayers to questions and personal stories) can be connected to picture books. I’m not recommending you read these books just because they are nostalgic or fun, though they often do evoke some delightful memories. More importantly, this kind of personal connecting encourages strong, broad, and deep learning, the kind of learning that sticks with you because it is especially meaningful and accessible.
Another reason I am so enthusiastic about picture books is that each year young children’s literature is getting richer, cleverer, more socially provocative, and more beautiful. While exploring this treasure trove, most of which can be found for free in your local library, you will be amazed at the personal significance you can glean from a young children’s picture book.
As Kristen encourages your use of prayer beads for personal spiritual formation, I’d like to encourage your prayer endeavors as well but through reading a picture book called “Knots on a Counting Rope.” This particular picture book has within it a rope which is knotted each time the boy hears the story of his remarkable birth, his mystical connection to his horse, and the way in which together they rapidly ride the trails despite the boy’s blindness.
This ritualized use of knots reminded me of what Kristen taught regarding the ways in which the Desert Fathers and Mothers used knotted ropes to facilitate their recitation of the Psalms in early Christianity. Like the boy in this picture book, the monks and nuns remembered who they were with each knot and Psalm. Both the boy and our religious ancestors were engaged in a grounding ritual, a legacy which they received from their forebears to remind them of their origin and orient them to their future.
Be inspired by this picture book! Hold each of your prayer beads while contemplating particular milestones in your life that have been definitive, both heartbreaking and celebratory. A prayer of thanksgiving can be linked to the next bead where you reflect on how you are thankful for each milestone, even the most difficult. After praying with your beads, you may want to list the milestones in your journal while considering how these experiences still ground you and orient you to your future.
May you be blessed with your use of prayer beads and picture books for a richer, more meaningful spiritual life.