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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 directly. 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. Questions Where did the practice of using prayer beads originate? What are they used for in each tradition? Why are they not used in the Protestant tradition?