This morning during my prayer time I used, for the first time, a chotki or prayer beads. Unlike a western rosary, the chotki originated in the eastern churches, and is typically used in a manner similar to mala beads or other prayer ropes from various spiritual traditions: unlike the rather complicated rosary, where different beads represent different prayers or meditations, each bead on the chotki simply stands for another repetition of the eastern Christian “prayer of the heart,” also known as the Jesus prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.
My chotki comes from Abbey Press. It consists of 100 wooden beads. Fran and I usually devote 20 minutes to our prayer time in the morning, and I figured I’d have no problem reciting the Jesus prayer 100 times. I was wrong. When our twenty minutes were up, I had barely made it 3/4 of the way through the beads. I wish I could say this is because I am such a master at praying slowly and attentively. But alas, it has just as much to do with how scattered my mind is. Still, it was a lovely way to anchor my prayer in the gentle rhythm of the words that contemplatives have been repeating for hundreds of years. The chotki served almost like a thread I could hold onto as I wended my way through the labyrinth of my easily distracted mind. Needless to say, this may have been my first time praying with the chotki, but it won’t be my last.