Anglican Prayer Beads comprise four groups of seven beads called Weeks which are divided by four Cruciform beads. The Weeks remind us of the days of Creation, the temporal week, the seasons of the Church year, and the seven Sacraments. The Cruciform beads point to the Cross as the central symbol of our salvation, as well as remind us of the four seasons of the temporal year, and the four points on a compass. A Cross followed by a single Invitatory bead leads one into the circle of prayer of the Beads, similar to the Invitatory (opening psalm) of the Daily Office.
One begins the recitation of the Prayer Beads by holding the Cross and saying the prayer assigned to it, then move to the Invitatory Bead. Then enter the circle of the Beads with the first Cruciform Bead, moving through the Weeks and other Cruciforms, saying the prayers for each bead, and then exiting by way of the Invitatory Bead and Cross. It is suggested that one pray around the circle of beads three times in an unhurried pace, allowing the repetition to become a sort of lullaby of love and praise that enables the mind to rest and the heart to become quiet and still.
As this brief description shows, the symbolism of this particular prayer form is very rich and well grounded in Christian Incarnational theology. A flyer describing the symbolism and sample prayers is sent with each set of Beads ordered.
A Pater Noster cord is a straight rope of beads, not brought into a loop like a rosary or chotki (Orthodox prayer rope). It has a cross at one end and usually a tassel at the other.
The origins of prayer beads in Christianity dates back to the desert Fathers and Mothers of the third century, who counted prayers by putting pebbles from one bag into another. Later these prayers were formalized into the recitation of the 150 Psalms, the pebbles were strung together in the form of a string of beads or elaborately knotted cords and was called the Psalter.
The Pater Noster cord originated in Ireland in the 8th Century. Monks and clergy recited or chanted the Psalms as a major source of hourly worship. People living near the monasteries/abbeys realized the beauty of this devotion but unable to read or memorize the lengthy Psalms, the people were unable to adapt this form of prayer for their use.
It was suggested that the people might substitute 150 Our Fathers in place of the Psalms. At first, pebbles were carried in a pouch to count the 150 Our Fathers; later ropes with 150 or 50 (1/3 of 150) knots were used . Eventually (by the 12th century) strings with 50 small pieces of wood were used and they were called Pater Nosters or Pater Noster cords.
Directions for praying the Pater Noster cord
Holding the cross, pray The Sign of the Cross. (If part of your tradition, bless yourself with the cross).
Recite The Apostles' Creed.
Then, on the large bead by the Cross, pray the Gloria Patri.
On each small bead, pray the Pater Noster (Lord's Prayer), omitting the doxology "For Thine is the kingdom...").
End with the large bead: pray Gloria Patri (making the sign of the Cross, if desired), or any other prayer that speaks to you.
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