Early in my prayer journey, a friend gave me a set of prayer beads. Hers were on an elastic band and she wears them like a bracelet.

I took a set of pale green beads but for a while I didn’t use them. Frankly, I wasn’t entirely sure how to use them. Its not like I grew up praying with a rosary or anything else in hand. I was going to have to wing it.

The first thing that I did was re-string the beads. I now have a longer set of green, onyx and brass that I can wear as a necklace or looped around my wrist. When I sit down to pray, just how I use these beads varies from one time to another.

Today, I needed a break from the worries running around in my head. I needed to focus on all that is Right and Good. I had to turn my gaze to God. At each green bead, I repeated the phrase “Holy God, You are the Creator of All.” Then for the black beads, I ran through bits and pieces of His Creation, naming one thing per bead.

For one set of beads I focused on large and mighty things – mountains, oceans, rivers, etc.

For another I focused on tiny things – the feather’s on a humming bird, the leaves on the new sprouts of mint in the garden, etc.

As I worked my way through the beads, I covered sounds (ocean waves, running water, wind in the leaves, etc.), scents (roses, a field in the sun, etc.) and even places I’ve been (Bandolier Canyon, the Davis Mountains, etc.).

For the last several sets of beads, I focused on simply breathing, slow and deep. I listened. No, I didn’t hear anything in particular but I hadn’t asked anything. I was just grateful for the quiet.

Not that this is always how I use my beads. Sometimes, I run through the Prayer of St. Francis, reciting a line of his prayer for one bead and then thinking of an application here and now for the next bead. Sometimes I pray for the families that I know who are in need. Each family gets a set of beads, with a specific request per bead.

The thing that I’ve come to realize is that the beads aren’t a grading system. There isn’t a single right way to pray with them. They simply help me to focus and slow down so that I spend some necessary time with the God who is more than I can wrap my mind around.