Prayer beads may come and go as a fashion accessory, but prayer beads can be a useful and meaningful part of Christian spirituality. This is true for Protestants as well as Catholics, and for those who prefer extemporaneous and spontaneous prayers as opposed to memorized prayers.
The website Karen's Prayer Beads offers instructions for re-purposing and modifying a traditional Rosary for a variety of prayer styles and for making a number of other types of prayer beads.
The idea of prayer beads has intrigued me for a while. I never liked the idea of the traditional Rosary--probably because I was raised as a Protestant. I can see how using the traditional practice of the Rosary might be meaningful for some, but as of right now I don't feel ready to try it. I do like the idea, however, of a Joys and Concerns Rosary, a type of Rosary designed by a Unitarian Universalist minister:
The bracelet has four sections of seven beads each, separated by four larger beads (like the Anglican Rosary). The first section is green, the second is yellow, the third is blue, and the fourth is red. You could also use rainbow colors, as in Jim Casebolt's sermon. The four large beads can be black or white or gray or some other contrasting color.
On the first large bead (before the green section) ask God to be with you on your journey, or enter a time of reflection in some other way.
On the seven green beads, enter the sacred space by naming seven things that seem holy or magical to you. These can be places or relationships or works of art or music or anything else that has a numinous feeling for you. When you reach the next large bead, sit in silence for a while and listen for the voice of God within you.
On the seven yellow beads, name your joys, count your blessings, offer up thanksgiving for the good things in your life. Think of seven things you are thankful for, or joyous about. Again pause and listen on the next large bead.
On the seven blue beads, name your concerns, think of seven things that you are worried or remorseful about, things that you want to do better in your life. Pause and listen on the next large bead.
On the seven red beads, share your love. Send your love and good wishes and prayers out to seven people or categories of people, ask for a blessing on them. Pause and listen on the large bead, and come out of the prayer time.
Praying is to the spirit as exercise is to the body: It needs to be done regularly in order to keep in good shape and prepare for times of stress. Prayer beads are a useful aid in starting and maintaining a regular prayer practice--kind of like a treadmill for your spiritual walk. I have decided to create one of these Joys and Concerns bracelet, using beads and elastic cord I have lying around my home from jewelry making projects. Just as you don't have to join an expensive gym and hire a personal trainer to begin a physical fitness regimen, you don't need to go to a retreat center to begin a spiritual fitness regimen. All you need is willingness and openness.