Contemporary practice of the ancient tradition of prayer and meditation using prayer beads

monk-for-nathan.jpgFrom the beginning of the Church prayer has been a central part of Christian living and Church life. St Luke wrote that the newly baptized devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers(Acts 2:42). St Paul encourages us to pray without ceasing_to _give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you(1 Th 5:17-18).

For centuries people of all faith traditions have used some form of prayer counter to count the number of prayers offered to God. It is commonly held that Hindu prayer beads pre-date Christianity by nine centuries. Second century hermit Abbot Paul is said to have prayed in the manner of old and beyond memory by praying 300 ’Our Fathers’ whilst moving pebbles from one pile to another. St Augustine declared that praying the ’Our Father’ pardoned sins. By the 8th century penitents were instructed to recite the required number of prayers and wear the prayer string as a sign of penitence. St Dominic is credited with the widespread use of the Rosary among Christians after he established the ‘Militia of Jesus Christ’ whom he encouraged to pray the Rosary for the conversion of sinners and those who had left the faith. During the 15thcentury Rosaries began to be mass produced and became popular amongst devout and pious Christians. In 1495 Pope Alexander encouraged all the faithful to recite the Rosary and in 1569 Pope Pius V established the fifteen mysteries currently used in the recitation of the ‘Catholic’ or ‘Dominican’ Rosary. In 2002 Pope John Paul II declared October 2002—October 2003 as the year of the Rosary, reaffirming the place of the Rosary in the contemplative prayer life of the Church. He also established the ‘Mysteries of the Light’ which was added to those previously established by Pius V.

The use of prayer beads, or Rosaries, has not been common to Anglican prayer life. Many objections have been raised on apparent ‘Marian’ nature of the Catholic Rosary. However, there is a growing interest in the tradition of using prayer beads as an aid to contemplative prayer.

Anglican Prayer Beads (Rosary) arose out of a contemplative prayer group lead by Rev. Lynn Bauman from the Episcopal church in the United States. Since its inception in the 1980’s it has grown in popularity among those seeking to enrich their prayer life.

As there is no set ‘formulae’ for the Anglican Rosary people can develop prayers for use with the Rosary that reflect their own spiritual journey. The Rosary then becomes simply a tool to aid in prayer life. It becomes a way to deepen one’s prayer life by encouraging not only the mind but the body to participate in prayer. The prayers keep the mind focused and the passing of beads through the fingers keeps the body engaged in prayer also.

The Anglican Rosary

Rosary Description

The Anglican Rosary is made up of a Cross and a total of 33 beads; 1 Invitatory Bead, 4 Cruciform Beads and 4 groups of 7 Week Beads. The design is rich in symbolism reminding the user of key tenets of Christian faith and tradition. The total number of beads is 33, the number of years of Christ’s life on earth, reminding us that Jesus is the source of our faith. The Cross recalls the saving grace of God; that God acts in our lives to bring us into the Kingdom of God. The Invitatory bead calls us to prayer; to pray without ceasing. The four Cruciform beads form the shape of a cross, again reminding us of the centrality of Christ in our lives. They also refer to the four points of the compass, the four elements, and the four seasons of the year. Thus we recall our connection with God, the earth, creation and Jesus’ great commission to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. The seven Week beads represent the seven days of creation, the days of the week, the seasons of the liturgical year and the seven sacraments of the church. Again we recall our connection with God, the creator of all that is. We are also reminded that prayer is the centre Christian life; in our daily prayers and in the liturgy and sacraments of the church. The circular nature of the Rosary formed by the Cruciform and Week beads remind us of the sense of completeness or wholeness that one gains from a deep relationship with God which is achieved through our personal prayer life, and through our communal prayer life with the church.

How to Pray Using the Rosary

There are no set ‘formulae’ of prayers for the Anglican Rosary. You can begin using your Rosary with the examples included in this pamphlet. Or you can write your own using the guide below. The Rosary can be said either on its own individually, or as part of a group meditation.


Begin with the Cross prayer, followed by the Invitatory prayer and the first Cruciform prayer. Then going counter-clockwise begin the first of the Week prayers. Work around the Rosary alternating between Cruciform prayers and Week prayers. After the last set of Week prayers move out to the Invitatory prayer and finish with the Cross prayer.

As a group

Select a scriptural (or other) reading and divide it into four readings, and allocate readers. Start with a reflective hymn or chant. Begin on the Cross (as above). After the 1st Cruciform read the first part of the passage. Pause for time of reflection on the passage either in silence or with music (or a combination). Then recite the Week bead prayers. Continue working around the Rosary in this manner. Finish either in silence or with music.

Personalising Your Rosary

Once you become familiar with using the Rosary as a tool for prayer and meditation you might like to write your own prayer ‘formula’’.

    Select an overall theme you wish to reflect in your prayers. E.g. morning prayer, healing, peace, scriptural meditation. 

    Gather material which reflect your theme from the Bible, prayer books, poems, hymns, chants, sayings, or write your own. Be creative.

    Write brief prayers for each group of beads and the cross.

    The Cross might be a statement of faith or acclamation.

    The Invitatory might be a general invitation to prayer.

    The Cruciforms might broadly reflect the chosen theme.

    The Weeks might specifically reflect the overall theme.

You might like to use the same prayer for each type of bead (invitatory, cruciform, week) or use a different prayer on each type of bead (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th cruciform for example). You may also like to use of combination of written prayers and meditative chants such as those of the Taize community.

Examples of Prayers For Use With the Anglican Rosary

The Angelus

The Cross

Glory be to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and shall be forever. Amen.

The Invitatory Bead

We beseech you O Lord to pour your grace into our hearts, that as we have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ by the message of an angel, so by His cross and passion we may be brought to the glory of His resurrection. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Cruciform Beads

    1. The angel of the Lord brought tidings to Mary; and she conceived by the Holy Spirit.
    2. Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.
    3. The word was made flesh and dwelt among us.
    4. Pray for us O Holy mother of God that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

The Week Beads

Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us now and at the our of our death.

An Evening Prayer

The Cross

O God make speed to save us. O Lord make haste to help us.

The Invitatory Bead

As our evening prayer rises before you, O God, so may your mercy come down upon us to cleanse our hearts and set us free to sing your praise, now and forever. Amen.

The Cruciform Beads

Let my prayer rise before you as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

The Week Beads

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.

The Invitatory Bead

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore. Amen.

The Cross

Let us bless the Lord, thanks be to God.

A Franciscan Prayer

The Cross

In the name of the creator, redeemer and sanctifier of life. Amen.

The Invitatory Bead

We adore you most holy Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all your Churches throughout the whole world, and we bless you because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

The Cruciform Beads

Most high and glorious God, enlighten the darkness of our hearts and give us true faith, a certain hope and a prefect love. Give us a sense of the Divine and a knowledge of yourself, so that we may do everything in fulfillment of your holy will.

The Week Beads

My God, my all.

The Invitatory Bead

May our blessed Lady pray for us. May St Francis, St Clare and St Elizabeth pray for us. May all the saints of God pray for us. May the angels of God befriend us and watch around us to protect us. May the Lord Jesus give us his blessing of peace. Amen.

The Cross

In the name of the creator, redeemer and sanctifier of life. Amen

This page was prepared using notes from workshops on Prayer Beads run by Br Nathan-James. For more information on the Anglican Rosary or workshops on Prayer Beads, please contact Br Nathan-James.

© Society of St Francis