first, largest bead provides a way into this prayer journey. While touching
it, you might gently breathe in and out a few times, sing a favorite hymn,
or recite a passage of scripture that centers you and creates a space within
for the prayer that is to follow.
the four small beads at the beginning of the prayer circle, you enter into
this “journey” of prayer. With each bead you might recite the
verses of a Buddhist gatha, such as:
Breathing in, I relax body and mind.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I realize this is the only moment.
might call on the spirits of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Or you can create
your own entering prayer. I say:
my eyes, that I might see your face in everyone I encounter this day, myself
my ears, that I might hear your voice in whatever forms it takes.
my hands, that I might freely give whatever is mine to share.
my heart, that I might live and love more fully in you.
the time here to be fully intentional about this time.
first medium-size bead is for naming the sacred and the holy as you encounter
it. In traditional prayer terminology, this is praise and thanksgiving. You
can think of it as naming the places in your life where miracles abound,
a chance to “count your blessings,” or a way of beginning your
prayer centered in the awareness of the ways in which the holy is happening
in your life.
The Small Beads:
three sets of five small beads between the medium-size beads are for “breath
prayer.” Many of the world’s religious traditions encourage a
short, repetitive prayer tied to the breath. You say one line on the in-breath
and a second on the out-breath. You can use two lines from tradition or scripture—the
classic from the Christian tradition is “Jesus Christ / have mercy
on me”—or you can create your own. Once you settle on a two-part
phrase, keep saying the same thing. Part of the power of a breath prayer
is its repetition. Live with it long enough for it to become a part of you.
second medium-size bead is for giving voice to the broken, wounded, worried
places in your soul. (Traditionally, this is called a prayer of confession.)
It is the chance to take a “fearless moral inventory” and to
give voice to what lurks in the shadow. Prayer calls on us to be authentic,
whole people, and knowing where we are weak and wounded is essential.
third medium-size bead is for listening to “the voice of quiet stillness” within.
This is a chance to sit in the Mystery, gently breathing. (Depending on the
tradition, this is called meditation or contemplation.) Far too often, people
think of prayer as “talking to the sacred,” forgetting that in
any good conversation we must make room to listen as well as speak.
your prayer journey is just for your own sake, then it is ultimately hollow.
The fourth and last medium-size bead provides a place to bring the concerns
of others—family, friends, communities, the world—into your prayer.
These prayers of intercession, as they are traditionally called, are a chance
to encourage your prayer to move outward. Call to mind people and situations
you know who are in need, or sit quietly and see who (or what) comes to mind.
you said to enter into your prayer time, repeat with the four beads at the
end of the circle.
Putting It All Together:
can take the journey of this prayer practice all at one time (expect to spend
at least 30 minutes), or you can spread it out during the day (for example, Naming after
breakfast, Knowing at lunch, Listening before dinner, and Loving before
bed). Some people carry their beads with them everywhere, like “worry
beads,” and find that simply touching them—while in line at the
bank, or when waiting for a friend—brings them into a prayerful place.
practice is expanded—and a Unitarian Universalist perspective on prayer
is more fully explored—in Erik Walker Wikstrom’s Simply Pray: A Modern Spiritual Practice to Deepen Your Life (Skinner House
The images on this page are a preview of those which are included (in a higher resolution) at the end of the downloadable versions of this workshop.
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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.
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