Be Still: An Advent Litany for Prayer Beads

Two weeks from now we will celebrate the beginning of Advent. I’m posting this early to give folks time to prepare and (gather their prayer beads). 

I had the pleasure of writing the Advent Litany for the current issue of The Upper Room. This was thrilling for a number of reasons: the first time I wrote a Prayer Workshop for The Upper Room I talked about prayer beads (January/February 2013 edition). That Workshop was a bit like “the shot heard ’round the world:” overnight we were deluged with thousands of emails, phone calls, letters, blog comments, etc. from people – Protestants – who were excited about the prospect of using beads in prayer. The fun has not stopped; we continue to be blessed by your stories, profound testimonies, and photos. Thanks to the beads, you are feeling – really feeling – God’s deep love for you. It doesn’t get much better than that. I jumped at the chance to write another Workshop and reconnect with UR readers.

Cover for The Upper Room Nov/Dec 2014 issue

I was also thrilled because, like many of you, Advent is my favorite liturgical season, and I loved the idea of crafting a litany that could be used both with Advent candles and prayer beads. I hoped to encourage people to use their prayer beads as they lit the Advent candles and prayed through the litany.

Because of space issues, The Upper Room includes the instructions for using the candles but not the prayer beads, so we decided that I should post them here. With permission from The Upper Room staff I have reprinted the Advent Litany below, along with some instructions for how to use the prayers with beads.

I will write more about each devotion once Advent arrives. In the meantime, make sure you have your copy of The Upper Room and your prayer beads!

Advent Worship Litanies 2014

During Advent we are invited to open ourselves to God’s loving Spirit. One of the best ways to do this is by being still. While our world maintains a hectic pace at this time of year, we have an opportunity to quiet our bodies, minds, and spirits, helping us to prepare for God’s glorious gift of love on Christmas day.

Note: There are many ways to be still, including the use of prayer beads. If you have a set of prayer beads, I encourage you to use them with this Advent Litany. The words to Say can be used with the cruciform beads, while you can use your week beads to Consider how the litany applies to your life. (Alternative directions: Use each bead to consider how the litany applies to your life.)


Light one purple candle.

Read: Psalm 37:1-7, Mark 4:35-39

Reflect: It is a challenge to be still in this day and time. We have many demands on our time. This is particularly true during the season of Advent. It is no wonder we feel distracted, depleted, and even disconnected from God. Yet Advent is the perfect opportunity to be still and listen for that still, small voice that is God, calling us to prepare for the coming of our Savior.

Say: In this season of Advent we will seek opportunities to be still and listen to God.

Consider: How, when, and where can you be still and listen to God this Advent?

Pray: Creator God, in the midst of our noisy lives, help us to listen for your voice so that we may hear your words of love for us. Amen.


Light two purple candles.

Read: Psalm 51:1-10, James 5:13-18

Reflect: One reason we find it difficult to be still is that we fear the silence. In the quiet we hear our pain and sin, and that of the world. It is important to take time in Advent to recognize this pain. That is how we understand how sin has devastated our world and how much we need a Savior.

Say: In this season of Advent we will be still and see the pain of the world and confess our need for salvation.

Consider: What pain and sin do you need to share with God? What suffering in the world do you want to lift up to God?

Pray: Merciful God, we confess that we live in darkness, surrounded by sin and death. Hear our cries, O Lord, and save us. Amen.


Light three purple candles (or two purple and one pink).

Read: Psalm 27, Romans 15:7-13

Reflect: As we sit in stillness with our sin and suffering, something marvelous happens: we begin to recognize that we are not alone. We hear God’s words of love and assurance and realize God has been present with us all along, even in the darkness. Our hope is renewed.

Say: In this season of Advent we will trust that God is with us even in the darkness. We will place our hope in God’s abundant grace.

Consider: Where do you see signs of God’s presence in the midst of the darkness? How do you nurture hope in your life?

Pray: Sustainer God, help us to place our hope in you and your deep love for us. Amen.


Light four purple candles (or three purple and one pink)

Read: Isaiah 43:1-4a, John 3:9-16

Reflect: The more time we spend being still the more we experience God’s deep love for us. Where previously we were too busy to notice, now we see signs of God’s presence everywhere. We understand that God is preparing us to receive God’s most profound expression of love in Jesus Christ.

Say: The time is near when we will see God’s greatest expression of love for us. We await the coming of God’s Son.

Consider: How do you experience God’s love for you and the world? How can you share this with the world?

Pray: Loving God, help us to prepare for the birth of your son who is the full measure of your love for us. Amen.


Light all four colored candles and the white candle.

Read: Psalm 46:10, Luke 2:8-20

Reflect: Hallelujah! Jesus is born! We come to the stable to greet him, gazing at his holy face. We recognize him as God’s perfect expression of love for us. He is Emmanuel – God with us. We can be still and know that he is God.

Say: Christ is born! God is with us! Thanks be to God!

Consider: How can you celebrate the birth of our Savior? How can you take time to know the God who loves you so graciously?

Pray: Gracious God, in stillness you entered the world as a tiny baby so that we might experience your love. We we praise you and thank you. Help us to continue to find opportunities to be still and feel the peace of your gentle love and abiding presence. And guide us to share this gift with the world. Amen.

4 Responses to Be Still: An Advent Litany for Prayer Beads

  1. Our church is planning on using the Advent litany, but there seems to be an error with the Matthew scripture for week one.