PEARLS OF LIFE
Lutheran Prayer Beads
A couple of years ago Lisa, a good friend at church, gave me a beautiful circle of beads. Lisa does fabulous bead work, so I was grateful but not surprised. What surprised me was when she said it was Lutheran Prayer Beads, also called the Pearls of Life. Well I never! Prayer beads are for Catholics, right? And Catholic rosaries sure don’t look like this!
Turns out (when I looked it up) the Pearls of Life are a set of prayer beads developed in 1995 by Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Bishop Emeritus Martin Lönnebo. The story is that he was in Greece and saw the fishermen with Kombologia beads and he was inspired to create a catechism of beads.
Skip forward to today and I am totally smitten with these prayer beads. In love.
I sputtered for a while about what to pray at each bead that was genuinely my conversation with God, but once I got the rhythm it exploded in richness.
Here’s how it works. Each bead — (hey, did you know that our English word BEAD comes from the Old English word gebed meaning prayer? Beads have been associated with prayer for a very long time). Each bead has a specific meaning.
I love the feel of the beads in my hands. I love having a tangible expression of my prayer. But as I have become familiar with the sequence, I find that I can pray this rosary as I drive, or in a waiting room, or walking, even when I’m not holding it. The sequence keeps me moving to the next prayer.
I am so very grateful to my friend Lisa for giving me a new way to pray.
WHAT DO THE BEADS REPRESENT?
Each bead has a specific meaning.
Large gold bead at the top makes us think of GOD. Then, moving counter clockwise:
Every time you come to an oblong bead, it is a time of SILENCE. A time to listen to God.
The small white bead is ME or I
Next is a larger white bead— BAPTISM
More silence, and then the brown bead that is DESERT , temptation, trial
Silence, then the blue bead of CONTENTMENT
Silence, then 2 red beads— one for LOVE RECEIVED and one for LOVE GIVEN
Then 3 small white beads which are the MYSTERIES of God
Black for DEATH or NIGHT, and then silence
White for RESURRECTION
HOW CAN I USE THESE BEADS?
ME bead: Meditate on incarnation. Meditate on the wonder of being alive. Meditate on being the person God made me to be. (Jesus as human.)
BAPTISM bead: Meditate on relationship with God. Wonder that we can even imagine God, and that God wants a relationship with us. (Jesus in relation with God)
DESERT bead: Meditate on those things which challenge us. Things that tempt us. Wonder that God is with us even in the desert. (Jesus sorting out his ministry and his vocation)
CONTENTMENT bead: Meditate on God’s good earth, on good relationships, on your wonderful life, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable— if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things”. Thanks to God! (Jesus in Bethel, his favorite place on earth, Jesus and the birds of the air and the lilies of the field)
LOVE RECIEVED bead: Meditate on all those who have loved you. Mother? Father? Siblings? Teachers? Friends? Who is praying for you in other countries – receive those prayers! Love from God. (Jesus as son, friend, student).
LOVE GIVEN bead: Meditate on all those whom you love. Mother? Father? Siblings? Spouse? Friends? Who are you sending love to in the world? (Jesus and the very core of his teaching!)
MYSTERY 1 bead: Meditate on the Trinity. Unknowable God.
MYSTERY 2 bead: Meditate on the sacraments. Unknowable relationship.
MYSTERY 3 bead: Meditate on call. Unknowable pilgrimage.
NIGHT bead: Meditate on death. Meditate on your own death. Meditate on night and the gifts of night. (Jesus passion)
RESURECTION bead: Meditate on new beginnings. Meditate on miracles. Meditate on second chances and each new day. Give God thanks! (Jesus eating on the beach with friends…)
GOD bead: Beginning and end. Alpha and Omega.
WHAT KIND OF PRAYERS CAN I PRAY?
The best part of these prayer beads is that it is so versatile! How about a one sentence prayer for each bead?
GOD- thank you!
ME- Thank you for this opportunity to live in this time and in this place!
BAPTISM- Thank you for our relationship through baptism.
DESERT- Thank you for promising to be with me in the tough times.
CONTENTMENT- Thank you for this wonderful world and that I can enjoy it.
LOVE- Thank you for all those who have loved me.
LOVE- Thank you for all those whom I love.
MYSTERY- Thank you that your ways are not our ways.
MYSTERY- Thank you that you are always surprising and always new.
MYSTERY- Thank you for being more than I can comprehend.
NIGHT- Thank you for being with me in the valley of the shadow of death.
RESURECTION- Thank you for new life and new chances and new days.
GOD, thank you!
Or how about finding a hymn that fits each bead? Or a one sentence prayer for each bead starting with help me?
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
This website is a translation from the Swedish about the Pearls of Life.
Here is a Wikipedia article on these prayer beads.
This book by Kimberly Winston, Bead One, Pray Too: A Guide to Making and Using Prayer Beads has a section on Lutheran Prayer Beads.