Listening for God can sound like an intimidating concept. Listening for God with your body sounds even more intimidating to some. Yet pausing to listen for God does not have to be hard or overwhelming. This little sentence of truth washes over me now after years of expectations. Expectations of how I should approach quiet time with God. Expectations of what it should or should not look like to worship my Creator. Expectations of the outcome after having spent time with God. Maybe those were expectations I placed on myself, maybe they were expectations others placed on me, I’m not certain. However, I am certain that today I celebrate in releasing all expectations and simply find joy in pausing to listen for God with the gift of my whole self in new and creative ways.
On my spiritual formation journey, author (and now friend) Kristen Vincent’s work with prayer beads has shaped me and my listening. Over the years, I have offered workshops and retreats inviting others to create their own prayer beads to draw nearer to God using her book, A Bead and a Prayer. There is something special about this anchor of sorts in my hand. A set of beads which I enjoyed crafting with the intention of drawing me nearer to God. Prayer beads help me slow down in my own body when I hold them or wear them. They also invite me to pause and pray when I see them with my eyes on my nightstand. The simple act of seeing or holding a set of beads encourages me to breathe in the presence of God. Our bodies are remarkable and a simple reminder to be present in our own selves, drawing us nearer to our Creator.
My work invites others to use their very own body to draw nearer to God and listen. After attending one of Kristen’s workshops, I was so inspired by Kristen’s journey and her invitation to pray with beads that I created this prayer for me and for you. Allow this prayer to invite you to pray not only with your beads, but also with your body on the journey of listening to God.
Holy Listening with Prayer Beads
by Whitney R. Simpson
Cross: Creator God,
Invitatory Bead: give me ears
Resurrection Bead: to listen for you with the gift of my whole self – breath, body, and spirit.
1st Cruciform Bead: With each breath I am reminded you give me life.
Week Beads, Set 1: (Praise God for each breath and how it allows you to…)
2nd Cruciform Bead: Forgive me when I do not love my body as you intend.
Week Beads, Set 2: (Confess to God the ways in which you do not love your physical self as God intends…)
3rd Cruciform Bead: Holy Spirit, you are within me, for this I give thanks.
Week Beads, Set 3: (Give thanks for the Spirit within and the ways in which you recognize this…)
4th Cruciform Bead: Maker, I give thanks for the gift of the whole self and your dwelling within.
Week Beads, Set 4: (Praise God for noticing the connection of ways in which your breath, body, and spirit allow you to listen for God…)
Resurrection Bead: Giving thanks to the Creator,
Invitatory Bead: I receive the holy in what you may have me hear today.
Meditation: Thank you for the gift of listening for you God with my breath, body, and spirit.
Are you interested in creating your own prayer beads using Kristen's model to practice this prayer? Join me on Saturday, November 17th from 10 AM until Noon for a time of mindful crafting and prayer at Bloom Yoga Studio in Lebanon, TN. Click here to register.
This prayer and post originally appeared on Kristen's blog in March of 2017.
Kristen Vincent and her work with prayer beads has impacted my own healing journey. I have shared her book and prayer bead model at retreats and workshops over the years with many of you.
It’s an honor for me to now be working alongside Kristen as an author with the Upper Room Books family of authors. Kristen is also a fellow yogini. She shared the following reflection with me and I’m so honored to share it with you in celebration of the release of her newest book and deepest sharing, Beads of Healing: Prayer, Trauma, and Spiritual Wholeness.
Guest Post by Kristen Vincent
Our yoga instructor asked us to do Pigeon Pose last week. As my class members and I leaned into this stretch, she said something interesting: “I often find stretches to be the hardest part of my practice. There is all this sensation in my body in the areas I’m stretching, and it’s hard to just be with those feelings. But sensation is just that: sensation. You don’t have to judge it. It doesn’t have to be good or bad. And if you can stay with it, sit with it, the stretch gets easier."
She's right. Pain is, by nature, uncomfortable. We do whatever we can to avoid it, whether easing up in a stretch or staying busy when a distressing memory arises. As a trauma survivor, I know this firsthand. I spent years trying to avoid painful feelings and memories. Problem is, by avoiding the pain I was allowing it to continue. I realized I was stuck in a place of fear, always trying to stay one step ahead of the pain.
It wasn’t until I took the time to be still that I learned to be present with my pain. In that space I recognized that God was there, too; indeed, God had always been present - even during the painful events - helping me to cope. Now, in the stillness, God was offering to take that pain and transform it. The more I spoke my truth and described my feelings, the more I saw God guiding me towards a place of trust, gratitude, and wholeness.
It is natural for us to want to avoid pain. But when pain takes the form of memories and feelings from past events, and we avoid that pain because we judge it as being too scary or too hard to deal with, then we get stuck. Lucky for us, God is always present, always ready to help us bear the pain and move through it to a place of deep, healing love. Thanks be to God.
To tell you the truth, I've always loved beads! But in the last few years, my appreciation has grown as I began using them in my prayer life. A couple of years ago, I discovered a little book called A Bead and A Prayer by Kristen Vincent (click here to read my post on discovering protestant prayer beads). That is where I learned that the modern English word “bead” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon “bede,” meaning “prayer.” And just like that, my love for beads grew exponentially!
Today, I am sharing just a few tips I learned from Kristen and her husband Max (you can click here to see their site and dive in a little deeper). I had a chance to connect with them both at SoulFeast this summer at Lake Junaluska in North Carolina. I really enjoyed meeting the faces behind their work and hearing how others use prayer beads in their life during their workshop.
One thing you should remember, prayer beads are simply a tool for more focused prayer. There is nothing special about the beads, although they can quickly become special as you spend time in prayer with your set.
Also, there is not a right or wrong way to pray with beads. Some people pray for a person with each bead and others say specific prayers to accompany the beads. Some read scripture and then reflect with beads in hand or pray as it relates to the passage with each bead. For me, I most enjoy simply holding the beads as I read or pray - as an anchor - to remind myself that my intention during that time is to be with God.
Finally, whether or not you have a set of prayer beads at home, you can explore praying with beads! Pick up a simple beaded bracelet or keychain (a starting/ stopping bead is helpful if you don't have a set of prayer beads but not required if you're simply holding the beads), you may be surprised with what you have around the house. And, if you're feeling crafty, or curious, Kristen has instructions and a great model for praying with beads on her site (click here to learn how to make your own prayer beads). And yes, there is also an online store where you can discover beads already made or kits to assemble on your own!
I hope you'll plan to spend time this week exploring beads and see how they may impact your quiet time. My prayer beads are either on my nightstand or near my chair where I pray and write. And as today's passage reminds me, while I may often struggle being present, sometimes all I need is a simple reminder to do what is right.
My prayer beads remind me to slow down and talk with God.
If you've stumbled here for the first time, welcome! On Mondays through this Fall, I'm posting a short list of scriptures for weekly reflection as well as a different way to pray each week. Pray one scripture or pray them all, this is simply an invitation to journey deeper as we explore God's peace together through a variety of prayer styles. Click here to find out more and join us on the journey.
Whitney R. Simpson
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Whitney R. Simpson,
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC