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Transcript: Prayer Beads for United Methodists

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(Locator: Nashville, Tenn.)

Kristen Vincent, Prayer Bead Artisan: “Take a short verse from Scripture or a hymn.”

Kristin Vincent teaches people to pray with beads.

Kristen Vincent, Prayer Bead Artisan: “They might start with the cross and just say, ‘Gracious God.’ And then with each bead, they’re lifting up a different way in which they want to praise God.”

Kristen Vincent to group: “And that’s when you begin to hear God’s voice.”

The idea may surprise some Protestants who associate prayer beads with other religious traditions. That’s why the artist, and her United Methodist pastor husband, have written books about the practice.

Kristen Vincent: “We’ve grown up bead-less, basically. This is what I do fulltime because the response has been so tremendous. And there is still so much work to be done because the majority of the Protestant church doesn’t even know that we have a prayer tool, that we have prayer beads.”

The roots run deep into the Old Testament, where God told the Israelites to take comfort in something they could hold.

Kristen Vincent: “God comes to them in Numbers, Chapter 15, and says, ‘Take the fringe on your garments and hold onto it, and remember that I am the Lord your God.” And I think that that’s God’s way of saying, ‘Take a common ordinary everyday object.’ And indeed throughout the history of the early church Christians were taking pebbles or rope or beads and using that to help them focus in prayer.”

Vincent makes and sells strands and kits in various colors and styles that cover prayer intentions from breast cancer, to the Earth and Creation. This is a tool that can help people of all ages find focus.

Kristen Vincent: “Prayer is vague to all of us, but it’s particularly vague to children. And so, the prayer beads offer kind of a concrete tool to help them better understand how to talk to God. And they’ll pick out different colors, the color that represents their mom or their dog or their best friend. And then when they get to that bead, they will hold that and say, ‘This is for my mom’ and they’ll pray for their mom.”

Vincent volunteers with soldiers, showing them how to use prayer beads to alleviate symptoms of PTSD and heal their relationship with God. Churches may make prayer strands for shut-ins, to take on mission trips, or as a church fundraiser.

Kristen Vincent: “We’ve heard of churches where all of the staff members have prayer beads. At a certain time, they will all stop wherever they are in their various places, and take their prayer beads and pray for the congregation.”

Prayer beads can be ornate or as simple as beads strung by children on pipe cleaners. Smaller strands called chaplets are pocket-sized, for taking God on the go.

Kristen Vincent:  “Just holding them in your hand is a way of understanding that God is as close to you as the beads are in your hand. My hope overall is that people will understand that God is with them at every moment of every day, and that God always loves them deeply.”