Why I Don’t Care If You Use Prayer Beads

I don’t care if you use prayer beads.

I know that seems strange to say. After all, I’m the woman who is passionate about them. I’ve collected them for almost 25 years. I’ve built a living out of writing and teaching and speaking about prayer beads. I love praying with them and think they make a great prayer tool. I also think an afternoon at the craft table designing new sets is exceedingly well-spent.

Still, I don’t care if you use them. Here’s why:

It’s none of my business how you pray.

Whether you use prayer beads or not; whether you stand or sit or kneel; whether you pray out loud or silently, in a group or by yourself, using Scripture or a daily devotional or your own words; whether you look at icons, hold onto a cross, or walk through the woods; whether you are one-and-done or like to repeat your prayers, it does not matter. It is all prayer. And it is not any of my business. Prayer is about you and your relationship with God. It has nothing to do with me.

Unfortunately, not everyone feels this way. Many of my fellow Christians think that how anyone prays is indeed their/our business. They would even go so far as to judge how a person prays, declaring certain practices as wrong or un-Christian. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt; I’m sure they think they are being helpful, believing as they do that there is a right way and a wrong way to God. But I think they are doing a lot of harm.

The Worship Banner at SOULfeast, 2010
The Worship Banner at SOULfeast, 2010

In his timely blog post, “The Uniqueness of the Sin of Religious Judgmentalism (the Original Sin),” Benjamin Corey writes about Greg Boyd’s book Repenting of Religion. Boyd’s premise is that the original sin was the desire to judge as God judges (hence, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil). As Corey explains, the problem with judging is that we can never operate “with the same quantity of facts that God operates with, and therefore have no business trying to do his job for him. When we do, we simply make more of a mess of everything – becoming people who close doors instead of people who build bridges.”

He’s so right. We have no idea what’s going on with a person at a given time in space. We don’t know all the experiences, thoughts, issues, needs, and motivations she/he is dealing with. We don’t know what her/his soul needs or what their authentic imago dei is seeking. That’s true of people we hardly know as well as those we know deeply. Only God knows that person at the authentic level. Who are we to judge whether how a person prays is “right” or not?

So how you pray is none of my business. Nor is it the real issue. In the end, the real issue – and the bigger reason I don’t care whether you use prayer beads – is this:

What matters most is whether you are able to connect with God in a meaningful way.

Prayer is relationship with God. It is your time to talk with God, share with God, be with God, listen to God. It is your time to praise and thank God or weep and gripe to (or even about) God. It is your time to learn who God is and who you are in relationship to God. It is your time to see God’s image within you. Prayer is a place where you will find God’s deep, steadfast, all-encompassing, unconditional love for you.

Possibly, that hasn’t been your experience. Your prayer life may seem unfulfilling, dull, rote. You may not even have much of a prayer life at all. I totally get it. As I’ve said before, I spent much of my life feeling uncomfortable with prayer, avoiding it as much as possible. Hopefully, you will reach a point and a place where you will find your own prayer rhythm and opportunities for communion with the Divine.

In the meantime, “pray as you can, not as you can’t,” as Dom John Chapman wrote. If that means using prayer beads, great. If it doesn’t, great. Either way, I will pray that you experience a meaningful, fulfilling, and deeply loving connection with God.

Because that’s what I care about.

13 Responses to Why I Don’t Care If You Use Prayer Beads

    • Thanks, Jeremy! I appreciate that. There has been some debate lately about the use of prayer beads, which is what inspired this article. Peace, Kristen

  1. Thanks so much for this email – it really hits home with me. I try really hard not to judge people, must listen, keep an open mind and love them as they are. Not always easy, but I try. I love my prayer beads, but do not always use them when I pray. I found a lovely poem in the United Methodist Hymnal that I pray every morning at the end of my devotions and it helps me say to God all that I am feeling. Thank you again for your thoughts and for your Prayer Bead ministry. God bless you.

  2. I agree with Jeremy. I live by something I heard once, “if you have no responsibility, you should have no opinion.” Take what you like and leave the rest. Write on!!

  3. Thank-you for the blog I read today (I don’t care how you pray). I really appreciate when how I practice my faith and how/when/how often I pray are accepted and affirmed. Again, thank- you. I enjoy your blog/articles.
    Joan

  4. Hi Kristen,
    I have thoroughly enjoyed your blog ever since I discovered you through the Upper Room. I read some of the comments left after you wrote the “Prayer Beads even for Protestants” blog, and frankly am amazed at the time some people spent discussing the merits of it. Truly made me wonder about the God they believe in. The God I believe in is all about our taking the time to worship and praise Him, to spend time with Him in prayer or otherwise; and I truly believe, is less concerned about the “how we do it”, than the motives we have in doing it….our hearts if you will. I’ve actually been thinking I would like to try the prayer beads as a way to deepen that spiritual connection, and to be more intentional in my prayer life…certainly have never considered any of the rhetoric I saw posted in those comments. Nor will I going forward. God wants us wholly committed to Him–however we choose to get there. I love what you are doing, and just felt like you should hear it!

    I also asked if you had the prayer beads that you had a picture of in that article…with the dove. Thought that was so nice and peaceful looking. Do you have chaplet version? Didn’t see it on your website at all. Blessings,
    Claire Sharp

    • Thanks, Claire! I appreciate your comments so much. I agree that God is much more concerned with our hearts – and our desire to connect with God – rather than how we go about it.

      And yes, I do have that design available as a chaplet. I’ll send you more info via email. Thanks for taking the time to post a comment.

      Peace,
      Kristen

  5. Thanks for this Kristen! This information is really big for me to have if I need it.
    Tuesday, my prayer bead class chose to remember John as their opening prayer experience. ( We are in Middle TN and The Upper Room is close by.) None of us had ever met John, but we knew of him!
    The most important thing that I tell my students – and I say them often – is “there is no right or wrong way to use your beads”. I trust that this message will, through your study and God’s grace give my students the Holy Spirit’s energy to thrive! I look forward to Week #3 on Tuesday next week.