One form of contemplative prayer can involve the use of prayer beads to serve as a guide. For me, prayer is more of a form of meditation and whether or not you believe prayer as a mechanism to bring about divine action is not so important.
The following are steps using the Anglican Rosary to serve as a guide and center my prayer life.
1. Plan and practice: Memorize prayers and get to know your set of prayer beads by running through it a couple times. Some prayer bead sets are textured; others have different sizes for the Invitatory bead, The Cruciform beads and the Weeks. The kind of beads you have are your preference. The important thing is finding the set that is easiest for you to use.
2. Time and location: Find a sacred or quiet space to go through the prayers at a comfortable pace uninterrupted.
3. Begin in silence: Sit down, either in a chair or perhaps in the lotus position. Take a deep breath and focus on your breathing. The prayers will begin naturally, and flow from you the same way your breath exhales. Do not rush, but allow for your breathing to control the speed in which you pray, allowing for the silence to run its course naturally.
4. Opening: Speak an opening acclamation at the cross, opening yourself up to what you will be focusing on. Beginning with “In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit” is preferred among many Anglicans, but this is about your experience. Find an opening phrase, poem, or other inspiring words, such as this quote from Martin Luther King Jr: “We are all caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever effects one directly effects all indirectly.”
5. Invitatory Bead: The assigned prayer for this bead can vary from prayer to prayer, but often one chooses a common prayer like the Lord’s prayer, or perhaps the confession of sins. The important thing is choosing a prayer that helps you focus on a particular matter throughout the circle. This need not always falls within your faith tradition, or even come from a faith tradition. Song lyrics can serve as a beautiful opening acclamation.
6. The Cruciform Beads: There four Cruciform Beads that are typically assigned the same same prayer as you move throughout the circle.
7. The Weeks: The seven Week Beads between the four Cruciform Beads are commonly assigned a phrase to be repeated until you get to the next Cruciform Bead.
8. Returning to the Invitatory bead: You can repeat the same assigned prayer to this bead or choose a different one. Whether you chose the Lord’s prayer, the Confession of Sin, a song lyric, or something else, you can choose to repeat it or select a different phrase.
9. Closing: Whatever you decide to close with, end your time with silence, focusing on your breath. Beginning and ending in silence gives you the opportunity to reflect, meditate and contemplate what action you ought to take or perhaps be inspired to do a different or new work.