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Prayer Beads
Since the earliest of
times, people have
used pebbles or a
string of beads on a
cord, to keep track of
prayers offered to God.
Some form of prayer beads are to be
found in nearly all major religious
traditions in the world.
The word bead comes from the
Anglo-Saxon word, ‘bede’ and it
means ‘prayer.’
The function of prayer beads in
Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and
Roman Catholicism is the same.
They are used to count devotions.
Judaism does not use prayer
beads however, because they
believe that one must address God
Prayer beads originated with the
Hindu faith, as far back as 8BCE.
Hindu prayer beads are called mala
and have 108 beads. The names of
Hindu Gods and prayers are
repeated on them.
Buddhism evolved in India around
500 BCE. It actually started as a
branch of Hinduism and when
Hindu’s converted to Buddhism,
they brought the use of prayer
beads with them. Buddhist prayer
beads are also called mala and
have 108 beads. They are used
for the recitation of mantras.
Muslim explorers and traders most
likely brought the Buddhist prayer
bead tradition to Islam and
Muslims call them Tasbih Beads.
They have 99 beads and are used
for reciting the 99 names of Allah
from the Qur’an.
No one really knows the origin of
the Christian prayer beads. Some
believe the Muslims or possibly the
Buddhist gave the beads to the
church fathers as they traveled the
trade routes about a thousand
years ago.
In the Roman Catholic tradition,
prayer beads are called Rosary
Beads and are made up of five sets
of ten beads, with a crucifix on the
end. Roman Catholics recite the Hail
Mary, the Our Father and the Glory
Be to the Father with these beads.
After the Reformation, prayer beads
were discouraged in the Protestant
tradition. John Calvin believed that
prayer and theology should be
understood and analysed rather than
memorised and repeated.
Today however, Rosary, Mala and
Tashib Beads are important
practices in Roman Catholicism,
Buddhism and Islam.
 Where did the practice of
using prayer beads
What are they used for in
each tradition?
Why are they not used in
the Protestant tradition?