Updated: May 29, 2019
I have created a prayer guide called “My Day in Beads”. If you are my newsletter subscriber, you might have received a discovery version of the guide. After collecting feedback and experiencing the material more fully, I have made some changes to the first draft and am pleased to present Peace Beads ebook for you to purchase!
Here is some of the backstory about the prayer practice introduced with Peace Beads and tips for using it.
Ignatian Daily Examen Prayer
The Examen Prayer was first introduced by St. Ignatius of Loyola as part of his Spiritual Exercises. Today Christians around the world still practice this ancient prayer. St. Ignatius considered the Examen as a gift from God and practiced it twice a day – at noon and before going to sleep.
There are countless different versions and adaptations of the Daily Examen prayer, which is also known as “Examen of the Consciousness”. The focus, however, in all of them is to examine our day in the light of God’s loving presence in it and our responses to His guidance for us. It is like playing, “I Spy with My Little Eye… God” or imagining watching your day played back to you like a film and watching it together with God.
This is a version of the five-step Daily Examen that St. Ignatius practiced.
1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.
Why Prayer Beads?
Prayer beads have been used as prayer tools across world religions. People across centuries and world know that there is something mystical and profound about allowing not only our rational, reasoning part to engage in prayer, but also our creative, tactile and feeling being. Hands can express something that words would struggle to. Body and feelings tell more than our mind dares to think, let alone speak of! A simple act of drawing, painting, stringing or holding a bead helps us to notice our body when we pray. When we become present to our physical bodies, we open a new door for becoming present to all the realities of our life – realities where God dwells with us. Educator and scientist Maria Montessori observed,
"The human hand allows the mind to reveal itself."
"What the hand does the mind remembers."
Be Creative, Experiment, and Play!
Be creative with the prayers and your use of beads. Use materials and mediums that you enjoy and that connect the best with your life and its prayer rhythms. I like to draw and paint, so I often sketch “beads” in my prayer journal. I have also made a jar full of different colors and sizes of beads that I use every now and then to “renew my bead set”, which I wear around my neck at times or tie to my bag. During the day I sometimes reach for the Trust Bead that is hanging on my chest and silently surrender my worry or anxiety to God. I also typically pray with the beads in the morning although they are presented as an evening prayer. I am simply more alert and awake then!
You can create your own prayers and add beads, too. Some might want to add “breath bead” or “silence bead” in between each bead for the sake of grounding and returning of attention to God. Lovely examples of other uses of prayer beads are Martin Lönnebo’s “Pearls of Life: For the Personal Spiritual Journey“ as well as Kristen E. Vincent’s “A Bead and a Prayer: A Beginner's Guide to Protestant Prayer Beads”. The technique is not the point. The point rather is that they draw you into prayer and remind you of God’s loving presence with you in all of life. Even though I created the material for contemplative prayer, which values simplicity and reflection, you can use this only as a starting point and allow the practice to take you to new ways of praying.
Praying with Children
If you pray with the beads with children, which I highly recommend, you might want to start your time by hiding them and letting the children find them like they would on a treasure hunt. Children may collect them into baskets and play with them as though they are eggs or put them in a purse and treat them as precious pearls or coins. Some children might imagine them being little people and draw faces on them (this might happen naturally as you talk about emotions connected to them). They may want to put the beads “in bed” under a blanket after they have prayed. Let the children be children and pray with their beads as they wish. Young children enjoy simply stringing large beads (mind the choking hazard!) and make a really long chain of beads. For each bead they may name a thing or person they are thankful for (Joy Bead).
You can also create lesson plans around each bead or use the beads as shared language about different aspects of our life experiences and emotions. Here is an example. When a child whose parent has been taken to a hospital walks into your classroom looking somber and is silent, gather all the children and invite them to grab their beads. Ask them to find the Grief Bead and say, “Today we will talk about the Grief Bead for a moment.” Then, share the news with the child’s permission and invite each child to pray with their Grief Bead. If praying with the beads has been a daily or a weekly routine to them, the children will know what this means — that it’s an invitation to be with God in their sadness.
If you are a teacher or children’s worship leader, I encourage you to use the beads as part of your weekly routine for a period of time, as they are a wonderful way to invite children to reflect their experiences and help them to grow in their awareness of God in their lives. A set of beads can also be part of your classroom’s or home’s peace corner for children to visit independently after the resource has been introduced to them by a teacher or parent. However, when using small beads (as included in the Peace Bead Kit) an adult supervision is needed for safety reasons.
Can’t Find Beads?
If you cannot find beads, some alternatives are: plastic HAMA or Pony beads, dry penne or macaroni pasta, wool, pompoms, clay, plastic tube or straws that can be cut into shorter pieces, etc.
In my Peace Beads book I also offer step by step craft guides for making your own prayer beads with low to zero waste materials. The experience of beauty is an important part of many of our spirituality, and my hope is that both the book and the process of handcrafting your unique beads will draw you to prayer, reflection, and play in new surprising ways.
The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola. Translated by Thomas Corbishley
Busy Lives and Restless Souls: How Prayer Can Help You Find the Missing Peace in Your Life by Becky Eldredge
Ignatian Spirituality A thorough prayer resource for Examen Prayer
Pearls of Life: For the Personal Spiritual Journey by Martin Lönnebo
A Bead and a Prayer: A Beginner's Guide to Protestant Prayer Beads by Kristen E. Vincent’s
My previous blog post on Prayer Beads
Read more about the book-making and praying hands - project here.