I know that seems strange to say. After all, I’m the woman who is passionate about them. I’ve collected them for almost 25 years. I’ve built a living out of writing and teaching and speaking about prayer beads. I love praying with them and think they make a great prayer tool. I also think an afternoon at the craft table designing new sets is exceedingly well-spent.
Still, I don’t care if you use them.
Here’s why: It’s none of my business how you pray.
Whether you use prayer beads or not; whether you stand or sit or kneel; whether you pray out loud or silently, in a group or by yourself, using Scripture or a daily devotional or your own words; whether you look at icons, hold onto a cross, or walk through the woods; whether you are one-and-done or like to repeat your prayers, it does not matter. It is all prayer. And it is not any of my business. Prayer is about you and your relationship with God. It has nothing to do with me.
Unfortunately, not everyone feels this way. Many of my fellow Christians think that how anyone prays is indeed their/our business. They would even go so far as to judge how a person prays, declaring certain practices as wrong or un-Christian. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt; I’m sure they think they are being helpful, believing as they do that there is a right way and a wrong way to God. But I think they are doing a lot of harm.
In his timely blog post, “The Uniqueness of the Sin of Religious Judgmentalism (the Original Sin),” Benjamin Corey writes about Greg Boyd’s book Repenting of Religion. Boyd’s premise is that the original sin was the desire to judge as God judges (hence, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil). As Corey explains, the problem with judging is that we can never operate “with the same quantity of facts that God operates with, and therefore have no business trying to do his job for him. When we do, we simply make more of a mess of everything – becoming people who close doors instead of people who build bridges.” He’s so right. We have no idea what’s going on with a person at a given time in space. We don’t know all the experiences, thoughts, issues, needs, and motivations she/he is dealing with. We don’t know what her/his soul needs or what their authentic imago dei is seeking. That’s true of people we hardly know as well as those we know deeply. Only God knows that person at the authentic level. Who are we to judge whether how a person prays is “right” or not? So how you pray is none of my business. Nor is it the real issue. In the end, the real issue – and the bigger reason I don’t care whether you use prayer beads – is this:
What matters most is whether you are able to connect with God in a meaningful way.
Prayer is relationship with God. It is your time to talk with God, share with God, be with God, listen to God. It is your time to praise and thank God or weep and gripe to (or even about) God. It is your time to learn who God is and who you are in relationship to God. It is your time to see God’s image within you. Prayer is a place where you will find God’s deep, steadfast, all-encompassing, unconditional love for you.
Possibly, that hasn’t been your experience. Your prayer life may seem unfulfilling, dull, rote. You may not even have much of a prayer life at all. I totally get it. As I’ve said before, I spent much of my life feeling uncomfortable with prayer, avoiding it as much as possible. Hopefully, you will reach a point and a place where you will find your own prayer rhythm and opportunities for communion with the Divine.
In the meantime, “pray as you can, not as you can’t,” as Dom John Chapman wrote. If that means using prayer beads, great. If it doesn’t, great. Either way, I will pray that you experience a meaningful, fulfilling, and deeply loving connection with God.
Because that’s what I care about.