Friday, May 11, 2012

How to Use a Prayer Rope

Greetings All,

I've been hearing people ask how to use a prayer rope. What prayers are to be said? What am I actually supposed to do with the rope? How does it compare to a rosary? Etc., etc., etc. The answer to that is both simple and complex. It's simple in that, although the Jesus Prayer is the most commonly used prayer, one can typically pray whatever short prayer best helps you focus your attention on God; to stand before God with your mind in your heart, as St. Theophan says. But therein also lies the complexity. The early monastics used a wide variety of prayers. "O God, come to my assistance; Lord, make haste to help me," was a very common prayer back in the day. It was quite some time before the Jesus Prayer in the form we have it now came to be, and still more time before it gained the widespread popularity it enjoys today. Fr. Lev Gillet points this out in his wonderful little book The Jesus Prayer, and then goes on to encourage Eastern Christians to recapture that Patristic spontaneity and diversity of usage.

So, I suppose the best answer would be that typically one would pray the Jesus Prayer on a prayer rope/chotki/komboskini. That, however, does not exclude the use of other prayers on the prayer rope as well. To use a personal example, whenever I am at a crossroads and find myself trying to discern God's will for me, I pray, "Incline my heart according to your will, O Lord." In times of temptation the above mentioned brief passage from the Psalms is a wonderful little "arrow" that we can shoot up to God.

In the next few posts I'll be posting some simple prayer rules from the saints that are models we ought to adopt as beginners in prayer.


  1. Glad to discover that using other short prayers is part of the venerable prayer rope tradition. I wasn't sure. I often use verses from the psalms (e.g., Create a new heart in me, O God) or other forms of Jesus-prayer (Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me) or even just the "Publican's Prayer" from Luke.

    1. The Jesus Prayer has only become the standard prayer for the prayer rope after centuries of development. The early Church Fathers talk about using various short ejaculatory prayers as a means of quickly bringing oneself into God's presence. Such prayers they referred to as arrows shooting straight up to the heart of God.