In my pocket I carry a very small circle of yarn. It has been tied into knots all the way around. I can't tell where the beginning or end is, except that in the midst of the knots is a tiny wooden carving. And if you look closely, you can see the carving is a cross. I'm describing a prayer rope. There are prayer ropes with many more knots, or some with beads that many people call "prayer beads," "worry beads" or a rosary.
And by now, many of you are shocked and dismayed. "These are the tools of the superstitious, not Christians!" (I can hear it now, because it is exactly what I used to believe.) But I am going to ask you to hang with me for a moment. Because I am learning to use my prayer rope. I have been on and off now for a few years.
I don't use my prayer rope to count my prayers, but to keep me attentive to them. In Part 2 of this series, I introduced the use of centering prayers. Each time I begin the prayer again, I move to a new knot, again, not to count, but to notice that I am starting over. Because when you pray a prayer for an hour or so, or even for several minutes, it is easy to begin to drift in your thoughts. (Remember the introduction to this series--"Avoiding prayer for all we're worth." Here I admitted that I have trouble focusing for more than a few minutes. Thus, the tools are what I use to remedy this.) And so the feel of the knots brings my attention back if it has wondered during the previous prayer. And, each time I come around to the cross, I take a moment to pray a brief "Glory to you, Lord, glory to you."
My prayer rope helps me get in sync with my praying, but you probably don't have one. So here's a tool to see if this can help. (Not as good as the rope, but a start.) Touch your thumb to your pointer finger and say your first prayer. Then, move to your middle finger, your ring finger and little finger. You have completed a ssequence of prayers. Now start over.
Next time, I'll share a few more prayers I use for centering. In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you about these things.