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A String and a Prayer

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Beads have been instruments of prayer in Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, and Buddhism, and cultures as diverse as the African Masai and Native American Yaqui.

This article appeared in the Fall 2002 issue of Spirituality & Health. One month after September 11, 2001, Eleanor met a young man who, on his first day as an intern with an ambulance crew, was assigned to the site of the plane crash at the Pentagon. Instead of saving people, he spent the day putting bodies into body bags. Afterward, he was distracted and unable to concentrate, and he came to her prayer bead class because he didn’t know what else to do. He discovered that focusing on putting the string through the beads put his mind to rest for the first time in a month. He allowed himself to sink in to the beads and string, offering his distraction to the Divine. Having something to hold on to helped to bring him into the present, away from the horror of past. We know a woman who converted to Catholicism but had never been exposed to the rosary. She was introduced to prayer beads after a car accident. Her family’s car was hit head-on, and when she regained consciousness, her husband was gasping for breath and her five children were covered with blood. She found herself reciting the “Our Father …

Eleanor Wiley is a former speech pathologist and gerontologist who began making jewelry' seven years ago. She teaches workshops on making prayer beads as a spiritual practice all over the world. Maggie Oman Shannon is a spiritual director and coach and the author of Prayers for Heating and The Way We Pray. This article is adapted from their book A String and a Prayer: How to Make and Use Prayer Beads, published September 2002 by Red Wheel. Used by permission.


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