Prayer with the help of a prayer rope is one of the oldest ways of prayer, especially practiced by Orthodox monks. According to legend, a monk wanted to weave a woolen prayer rope to count his prayers, but the devil untied his knots. At once an angel of the Lord appeared to him and taught him to weave knots that consisted of seven intertwined crosses. Such a knot is one of the most complex in the world, and the devil could not unravel such a prayer rope. Prayer ropes are made with a different number of nodes. The smallest is made up of 33 knots, while the larger ones are 50, 100 or 300 knots. Usually, they are made in black to remind us of life in constant repentance for our sins. They are made of sheep’s wool, to remind us that we are the judicious (reasonable) sheep of the Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who, Himself as the Lamb of God was sacrificed for us and delivered us from eternal death. The most common prayer that is said with the help of a prayer rope is the JESUS PRAYER, which reads: “LORD JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD, HAVE MERCY ON ME, A SINNER!” or the shorter version: “LORD JESUS CHRIST, HAVE MERCY ON ME!” The Jesus prayer is the most important prayer for every Christian. According to the teachings of the Holy Fathers, it can replace all the other prayers we read at home or together in church. The Jesus prayer is sanctified by the power of Christ’s name, so it brings divine grace and unspeakable peace into our hearts, especially when we say it more frequently and more often. In every Jesus prayer, we move the nodes of the prayer rope with our fingers. Many Orthodox Christians have become so accustomed to the Jesus prayer that they utter it in public and even when they are asleep. When a person becomes accustomed to it, it becomes uninterrupted and proceeds similarly and simultaneously with the process of breathing. In addition to the Jesus prayer, Christians regularly pray to the Most Holy Mother of God and to the saints in the following ways: “MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, SAVE ME, A SINNER”, or “SAINT (the name of the saint) PRAY FOR ME, A SINNER”. With the help of the prayer rope we can pray for our neighbors or for our people, as follows: On the first node of the prayer rope we say the words: “LORD JESUS CHRIST, HAVE MERCY ON YOUR CHILD (name or names from a list, or your nation)”, and in the other nodes we do not mention the name or names for which we pray, but only say: “LORD JESUS CHRIST, HAVE MERCY ON THE MENTIONED CHILDREN”. In the same way, we can pray for our deceased relatives and friends: “LORD JESUS CHRIST, REST THE SOULS OF YOUR REPOSED CHILDREN (names)” (this on the first knot), and so on, “LORD JESUS CHRIST, REST THE SOULS OF THE MENTIONED CHILDREN”. It is desirable to cross ourselves before we start praying. In this way, our attention is more easily drawn to the words of the prayer. The prayer with the prayer rope can be said in any place and on any occasion: on a bus, train, park, waiting room, or even in a conversation, unless actively involved. Most Christians before bedtime shade their bed with the sign of the cross and lie down with the prayer rope, praying quietly until they fall asleep. In the morning, when they get up to look at their friend, they turn to their Creator again in prayer. It is very helpful to set aside some time in the morning and evening for prayer. The Holy Apostle Paul advises us to “pray without ceasing”. Of course, when we are in company, we cannot pray in the same way as when we are alone. We can say the prayer in ourselves by following the words of the prayer with the mind. Indeed, we can pray always and everywhere, and that no one but God will know whom we are praying to. Prayer, as the Savior teaches us, should be performed in repentance, with a calm heart, modestly and quietly, “in the secret chamber of our heart”. When we pray, our attention should be focused on the words of the prayer. This is achieved by practicing, without haste, by saying the words of the prayer slowly, in order to achieve the specified number of prayers. God fulfills only that prayer, which is said with attention and humility. The necessary attention is difficult to achieve, so it is recommended that the prayer be recited at times when we are distracted. This is how the mind becomes accustomed to constant prayer. The constant prayer brings great strength and grace and is similar to the water droplets that constantly fall on a stone and makes a dent. At times when we do not use the prayer rope, we can keep it in our pocket, and if it’s small – on the hand. The Holy Elder Paisios said: “The devil trembles from the prayer rope even if it is carried in the back pocket because he knows well why it serves and how it can be used”. When we wear the prayer rope, it is not good to attract the attention of others, especially not to play with it through our fingers. It serves exclusively as a tool for prayer, not for play or an ornament. Thinking that wearing a rosary on your arm or neck in itself brings health and happiness is wrong and is a superstitious act. Christian happiness and health spring from a personal encounter and communion with God with whom we talk when we pray to Him. Using the prayer rope, let us pray to our Savior, Lord Jesus Christ, and his saints for ourselves and our loved ones, that we may receive the grace of the Holy Spirit during this short earthly life and be honored with eternal heaven. The Lord is always with us, everywhere, and constantly teaches us that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us – in our hearts. That means we should always be with Him through prayer and other holy good deeds. Prayer supported by works, fasting, giving alms, and other good deeds are pleasing to God. However, it is dangerous to pray if we do not confess our sins more often before a spiritual father or a parish priest. God does not accept every prayer, especially not the one uttered by a person whose conscience is troubled by malice and hatred of a neighbor. That is why the Lord teaches us first to reconcile with our brother and then to offer him a favorable sacrifice. In moments of helplessness, exhaustion, or illness, when a person is not able to attend the services in the church, to stand and read prayers from the prayer book, it is desirable to pray to God with his own words, because in those moments man most sincerely and with an open heart approaches God. By praying and turning the knots of the prayer rope, the man with all his mind, heart, and soul should be left to God. Let us pray for our helpless brothers and sisters on the hospital bed and for those who cannot pray. With a pure heart we can offer these prayers:
PRAYERS FOR THE HEALING OF A NEIGHBOUR
Lord Jesus Christ, our Protector, visit and heal Your servant (name) who suffers and is in a hospital bed, removing from him all pain and severe illness. Merciful Lord and Savior, You Yourself have voluntarily taken away the powerlessness of our human race, and nothing is impossible for You, for You are an all-powerful and all-loving God. Therefore, we beseech You to heal Your servant (name) as You healed the apostle Peter’s mother in law and raised the paralysed man of his bed. Lift him up from the bed so that he may Worship You and continually glorify You who are the only gentle and loving of all men. Amen.
Lord God, Father Almighty, You who humble and exalt, Who punish and heal, visit now, with Your great mercy, our brother (name) who is sick. Spread out Your hand full of healing and health, and lift him out of bed and heal his sickness. Remove from him the spirit of sickness and every pain, torment, and fever with which he is bound, and if he has committed sins and transgressions, grant him forgiveness and dismissal, for You are merciful and loving of all men. Yes, Lord God, Almighty, and Omnipotent have mercy on Your creation, by the compassion of Your Only Begotten Son with whom You are blessed, with Your Most Holy, Gentle, and Life-giving Spirit, now, always and forever. Amen.