The idea is usually threefold. Put very simply:
1. Each bead, or knot, reminds you to pray for something.
2. Your hands and mind are kept busy by touching the beads, so your mind can encounter God directly.
3. The physical action of taking up the beads and going through them one by one makes you take time out to pray.
The picture above is of a modern example of prayer beads, the 'Pearls of Life'. These were invented by a Swedish bishop (Martin Lonnebo) in 1995.
The exercise this week is to first make your own prayer bracelet, and then to wear it and use it.
So first, you will need a stock of beads (or buttons would do), and a piece of string, wool, or elastic.
The diagram shows the original 'Pearls of Life' layout: you can copy this, or you could make a simpler version of your own. The suggested sizes and colours given here will help you remember what the beads each represent, but you could choose whatever you like, or whatever is available easily.
2. Find 6 plain beads - here, they are long and wooden. These are used to create space between the special beads, and are called the beads of Silence, or peace.
3. The third bead represents you! Try to find a small pearl-like bead, or another one that you feel represents you better.
4. A large white bead comes next in this pattern: this one represents Baptism, becoming and being a member of the Church.
5. After a Silence spacer, comes a big sandy-coloured, maybe rough-textured, bead. This is the Desert bead, and represents the rough and bleak parts of your life.
6. After another Silence spacer, a big blue bead: this is called the Carefree bead. It might remind you of the sky, or the sea. This one represents being happy and relaxed, and trusting God.
7. Another Silence spacer, and then two big red beads. These represent God's love for us; and God's (Jesus's) death for us.
8. Then come three (or more) small Mystery beads. They might be pearls, or silver, or whatever you like. These are for your most important things or people to pray for and about. You could choose one for each thing or person, or each one can hold a whole group of concerns. For example one could stand for your family, one for friends, one for issues that you are worrying about.
9.The big black bead is the Night bead, for death and darkness.
10. Another Silence spacer, and then a final big white bead for Resurrection.
So, make your bracelet following this pattern, and then either wear it as a constant reminder of prayer, or just pick it up and use it.
There aren't particular set prayers to use, but if you want more reflection on the different beads you could try clicking on the different beads on the Pearls of Life website.
Just touch the first bead with your fingers: hold it between finger and thumb. Think about what it means to you, today, for a bit. Then move on to the next one. Remember what it represents: think about it for a few seconds, or a few minutes. And so on, all round the bracelet.