Prayer Beads & Ropes (Pt 3) Orthodox Prayer Ropes

The Orthodox prayer rope is my favorite of all we have talked about this week. That being said, my ropes ARE NOT ORTHODOX. Let me give you the key differences:

An Orthodox Prayer Rope
  • Orthodox Prayer Ropes are usually made of wool
  • Orthodox prayer ropes usually have 33, 50, or 100 knots
  • Orthodox prayer ropes are almost always a single color
  • Orthodox prayer ropes use a special knot

The Orthodox Prayer Rope uses a special knot. There are several YouTube instructional videos on how to tie this knot. I have tried to learn from most and I finally, after spending a good chunk of three weekends trying to learn it (plus several evenings a week in between) I finally gave up. It is a VERY complicated knot. Orthodox tradition says the knot itself is so difficult to untie, the devil can’t even untie it.

All the above ropes us a crown knot. With one exception (the light blue and white which is an Anglican Rope) all are 50 knot ropes. The cross on each is made of olive wood. The knot on the actual Orthodox Rope is the one I described above. I think I successfully tied the knot five times. I never succeeded in tying two side by side.

Traditionally Orthodox Prayer Ropes have 33, 50, or 100 knots. This rope has 50. I do not know why these lengths. I chose 50 over 33 because I knew much of the time 33 would not be long enough for me. 100 of these knots would be too long.

The traditional Orthodox Prayer Rope uses a knotted cross of the same knot used in the rope itself. While a cross of crown knots is possible, it is difficult. Before I learned to tie a cross from snake knots I chose to use olive wood crosses. Because of expense I use them occasionally but mostly I use paracord crosses made with snake knots.

This is a sample of a Prayer Rope with a snake knot cross. In the Crown knot crosses I almost always use different colors or patterns on the rope. I find it much easier to see and keep track of where I am in the process using different colors or paterns.

This next rope,

This model started out as an experiment. It is a double snake knot rope. This rope requires you to tie two snake knots side by side for each knot in the string, so this rope is actually 100 knots. Obviously this rope can be used as either a 50 or 100 knot rope.

Rope with Invitation knots and 5 counting knots.

Most people (me included) have used the ropes as a necklace. Such is not how the Orthodox wear them. For them, as an aide to prayer, this is not jewelry and would be worn around the wrist to have the rope available at anytime for prayer.

Once again, there is no wrong way to use ropes or beads. If you have a plan to use them that is not my explanation, go for it. You are not wrong.

Most prayer ropes or beads begin with an invitation knot or beat. On these ropes it is the knot closes to the cross. It is also the largest knot. It can be something as simple as, “Lord Jesus Christ, I ask that you join me during this time of prayer.” Or, whatever words you wish to say.

One of the traditional uses of the Prayer Rope is for for a repetitive prayer. In my understanding, these ropes are aid in counting the number of times one says the prayer. The most traditional prayer I know is called “The Jesus Prayer.” Here are the words:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

You repeat the prayer as you make your way round each knot in the rope. The large bead on the rope (some do not have it) is just a way for you to know you are half-way around the rope. Some people only pray half way around the circle before changing their prayer. In using the rope as a counter it might look something like this:

Put your thumb on top of the knot and drag the knot into your hand is my preferred method.

I use the Jesus Prayer regularly. I do not, however always pray the prayer exactly as I wrote it above. When I was in Spiritual Director’s training and learned of prayer ropes and The Jesus Prayer, I was taught to take these things and use them in a way that works for you. If I was to pray for a friend who was suffering I might say it like this, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on John, a sinner.” I have prayed for my congregation by saying, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, help us meet our goals. Or, “help us be a light for you in this community.

I make no promises, but in my experience, when I have prayed the Jesus prayer in a focused effort for 30 days, significant things happen. I am no about to tell you what will happen for you. Like I said, I make no guarantees of what your experience will be. That is God’s job, not mine.

Two last words about Orthodox beads and ropes. There are Orthodox bead strings, they just are not my preference. They would be easier to get you started. Go to Hobby Lobby and buy some pony beads, a charm or cross, and some waxed sail twine and make a string of beads. Remember, these hold no power themselves. None of the ropes or beads we looked at this week have power. Additionally, we are not praying to the beads or ropes. They have no power and without power, we would be praying to a false God. They are just something to help you with prayer.

Notice all the black beads are the same size and there should be 33, 50, or 100 beads.

There are people I know who actually keep strings of beads or prayer ropes with as few as 7 beads or knots, 7 with a larger bead or not, and 10 with a bead or not. They keep these in their car. The larger knot helps keep count in a setting where you really can’t look. I personally do not pray with beads or ropes while driving. You have to decide if it works for you.

Thank you for joining me in this look at various Christian beads and ropes and the way some people use them.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
Permission given for non-commercial use of this post.


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