ByzCatholic, Jesus

The Prayer Rope – Prayer without Ceasing

A prayer rope, which can also be called Chotki or Komboskini, is a Byzantine prayer tool which dates back to the fourth century. St. Pachomius the Great (born in the 3rd Century) started the prayer rope as a way to keep track of prayers and prostrations. The most popular prayers that the prayer rope is used for is the Jesus Prayer and a prayer to the Theotokos that goes “O most holy Theotokos, save us.” There are several more ways to pray with prayer ropes. St. Pachomis’ prayer rule for the prayer rope can be found here.

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Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner

The Tradition of St. Anthony’s Knots

Tradition is that the knot used to make a prayer rope began after St. Anthony would tie knots for his prayer rope, then a demon would undo them as he slept. Then one day an angel came to St. Anthony and taught him how to tie a knot with seven crosses. The demon could not touch the crosses and therefore could no longer untie the knots or approach St. Anthony.

Making a Prayer Rope

We don’t know a lot about the original prayer ropes made by St. Pachomius. However, consensus is that he probably made his with leather. Wool is now the most traditional material to use because it comes from sheep, and symbolizes that we come from Christ’s flock. Prayer ropes come in several sizes, including 33, 50, and 100 knots. Thirty-three is for Christ’s age at his crucifixion, but once prayed three times plus one prayer makes it still easy to count to 100.

Sometimes we have beads on our prayer ropes. Red beads represent the blood of Christ, purple Christ’s kingship, and blue as His divinity. White represents Christ’s holiness, and black our sinfulness. Not all prayer ropes use beads, and do not use all the colours if they do.

When a prayer rope is new, the knots are tight and close together. This can make it difficult to keep track of individual knots. Some people “stretch” their prayer rope by pinching parallel knots and gently pulling them apart. Others allow their prayer rope to stretch on its own through repeated use.

The Byzantine Life

Thank you for checking out this week’s article. If you haven’t already, you can read our article about how to develop a relationship with a saint. Or our article on praying with icons. Other prayers to say on your prayer rope can be found in this article.

Do you use a prayer rope? If so let me know in the comments, including what colour it is, and if it has any beads. The BadgerDad has several, but my favourite is a green one. He also got me a green prayer bracelet which I love.

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  1. Jeff Majewski, OFS says:

    I have a 50 and 100 knot chotki. After each 10 knots is a large knot. They are black wool. I also use a leather lestovka, of Russian origin.

  2. Mark says:

    I have made two prayer ropes (33 and 50 knot) and the complexity of those knots is amazing! Praying the Jesus Prayer with my prayer rope has for some time now been a regular part of my devotional life, even as a Benedictine monk. Thank you for this post. 🙂

    1. Kyleshka says:

      Great to hear! Ora et Labora!

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