Tuesday, January 08, 2008

More My Speed

When I became Orthodox the "Prayer Rope" was a cool new "Orthodox badge". I asked my spiritual father about owning one and he said sure... keep it in your pocket in public. I was sorely disappointed but obeyed. After a few years of seeing people with prayer ropes used as jewelry, bracelets, necklaces, and ropes as long as jumper cables dragging on the floor as someone conspicuously whispers "O,Ljshskshmshymeashnnr" over and over during the Liturgy, I got the message. Its tough to wear one or use one in public both piously and unvaingloriously... (at least for me. Forgive my presumption in projecting MY impiety and my desire for attention on those whom I've judged over the years.)

That said, after 8 years I now wear three prayer ropes on my wrist and I'm sure I'll be judged according to the judgement with which I judge (sigh). Anyway, one was a gift from a dear friend from Mount Athos, a hundred tiny knots. The second was a gift too, a beautifully irregularly spaced twenty knot rope tied by the most innocent guileless young lady I know who had just begun tying prayer ropes and prayed for me while making it. But after ten years of trying to pray the Jesus Prayer, I have another gift. I finally own a prayer rope that actually represents the truth of my prayer life. It is my goal to truly use it once a day and actually say the Prayer without distraction, thoughts or an impure motive. Of course if I ever accomplish that, I suppose I couldn't tell about it could I? Dang.

14 comments:

teri anna said...

that is so perfect, i could cry. truly.

Anonymous said...

Now you're talking. That's more my speed, too. If I had one, it would go with my Fisher-Price Step-Stool of Divine Ascent (which, by the way, I've barely even taken out of the box).

s-p said...

LOL! I'm holding out for the "Escalator of Divine Ascent".

Nicodemus said...

I have wrestled with these same thoughts - I then asked mysyelf, "What is the prayer rope for anyway? Isn't it an aid to help me concentrate on the Jesus Prayer?" So, I still don't have a prayer rope, but my wife was vacuuming my daughter's room and accidentally ripped a string of beads from her beaded curtains, I now use that as my 'private' prayer rope!

s-p said...

Nice, Nicodemus. The "tradition" of the prayer rope is beautiful, however like a lot of things "religious" some of them are manufactured as Orthodox commodities, much like some liturgical supplies. And the thorn of pride always grows on the rose of anything we attach our faith to, the trick is to not get stuck. We don't always know where a prayer rope was actually made or by whom, so it is nice to get one made by someone you know actually tied it with prayer. But in the end in pure pragmatics, a pebble in my pocket would work as well as a one knot prayer rope. :)

Grace said...

s-p:
All right, I admit it. I've never totally understood what the prayer rope is all about. I've heard people say that it helps them with the Jesus prayer, or that it keeps them from fiddling during services.

In my lamentable Jesus prayer attempts, I've found the prayer rope is more of a hindrance. And it doesn't keep me from fiddling during church -- it just gives me something "beyond reproach" to fiddle with. Both of these experiences are strictly subjective, but I worry about people that want to treat things like these as the end, rather than the means to the end.

DvntWriter said...

Hi, I'm new to your blog, and have enjoyed the thoughtfulness with which you discuss your various topics.

I started wearing my prayer rope wrapped around my wrist when I was in college. It wasn't to draw attention (but if someone asked about it I was *more* than happy to tell), but to serve as a..."faith reminder." Taking a test and freaking out? Check the rope, say a quick prayer, and trust God. Sitting in the cafeteria with friends about to make a biting/judgmental remark about someone's dress attire, behavior, etc.? Check the rope, and check the comment.

I gotta say, it worked pretty well to have a constant visual reminder. And then it stretched out and no longer fits...*sigh* :-)

s-p said...

Hi Grace and Dvnt,
While I don't use my "bracelets" to pray with because they are too tight to take on and off easily, they are like "post its", a reminder that I should pray, I'm being prayed for and I need to pray. Since I constantly use my hands in my work, its harder to ignore them on my wrist right there than it is my own thoughts which often accuse me of being a slacker in prayer. :)

mamajuliana said...

Is there another one? I need one~
so true!

Maxim said...

The Escalator of Divine Ascent? Isn't that what they have at those Protestant Mega-Churches?

s-p said...

Yup, all the malls have them. :)

Papa Symeon said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this post and with equal pleasure the associated comments.

Mr. Robinson, if you really do have a single knot prayer rope, I assure you it is the only prayer rope you may need. This goes to answer the question, "What is the purpose of the prayer rope?"

Frankly it is a monastic tool that has become a commodity for both monastic self-support and the plethora of Orthodox retailers. As for its purpose? It is a counting tool. A minimally distracting devise used during the course of one's engagement in The Prayer of the Heart. A monk is given a 'prayer rule' which he/she must diligently and obediently observe. Such 'rule of prayer' will include the recitation of the "Jesus Prayer". The more advanced monastic --such as those of Optima-- would be known to recite at least 300 times. Hence the prayer rope. As prayer is the Sword of the Holy Spirit, the prayer rope is the monk's metaphoric sword of salvation.

Forgive me for my verbosity!
Fr Symeon
the unworthy monk

s-p said...

Dear Fr. Symeon, Thank you for your kind comments. Yes, I really do have a single knot prayer rope made for me by a very pious young girl who prays for the recipients while she makes her ropes (she also made me a 19 knot rope...she tied until she ran out of string), so neither is a "commodity".
Yes, they are in themselves convicting regarding what a slacker I am in prayer in a way that a rope bought out of a basket at St. Anthony's made in Greece by God knows who, is not.

The Poor Blogger said...

I'm looking forward to the day Orthodoxy becomes cool, like Kabbalah Judaism, and Madonna and Brittany Spears start wearing them as fashion accessories.