Beads and Buttons

Praying with beads

Prayer beads are found in most religions and cultures across the world. The beads are normally fingered one at a time, in an automatic manner, to help the user keep track of the number of prayers said with the least amount of conscious effort. This allows the devotee to pay maximum attention to the prayers without distraction.

The rhythm of knitting or crochet can have the same effect of releasing the mind.

Prayer Beads in Judaism

Judaism generally considers the use of prayer beads as a Pagan tradition. However, the Jewish prayer shawl known as the “Tallit” has a specific number of knots relating to the command Moses makes in Numbers 15:37-41 where he tells people to look at the Tallit and remember God’s commandments.

Jewish prayer shawl
Beads and buttons - Desert Fathers

Desert fathers

The use of knotted prayer ropes in Christianity goes back to the desert fathers in the 3rd and 4th Centuries AD. These are still used in the Eastern Orthodox churches today. There are YouTube clips on how to tie the knots but it is a many stage process that I failed to master.

The Rosary

The Rosary

Catholics have a strong tradition of praying with the Rosary, using the Apostles creed, Lord’s prayer and five decades of ‘Mary beads’ interspersed with larger beads for pondering the biblical mysteries of joy, light, sorrow and glory. Their use dates back to the 12th century.

Protestant Prayer Beads

Protestant prayer beads

These were developed by the Rev Lynn Bauman in the mid 1980s and consist of 4 sets of 7 beads, called ‘weeks’, interspersed by 4 larger ‘cruciform’ beads and the invitatory, above the cross. The 33 beads represent the life of Christ.



My interest developed when I purchased this chaplet from the book shop of the Anglican Benedictine nuns at Whitby. It’s a kind of mini rosary, akin to the bracelets of a single ‘decade’ or ‘week’ worn by both protestants and catholics.

My first crochet chaplet

I realised it could be reproduced in knitting or crochet so had a go – with this result. I’ve made lots since, each different. Sometimes I just use a large bead at the bottom instead of the cross.

First Chaplet

Create your own tradition

This is an old one used by a friend to pray round the circle for each family member. When her daughter adopted, she put an extra bead in the centre. She uses the tail beads to represent the Trinity.

Create Your Own

Beads, buttons and symbolism

Prayers can be arranged into lines to correspond with the number of beads around the circle – in each case here, ten beads / lines. Note that I have used beads in the first and bobbles in the second.

blue buttons

The Lords Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and glory are yours.
Now and forever.

red buttons

Some further examples

Like More Information?