Prayers of intercession with me are kind of hit or miss. Sometimes I’m really in the zone to pray for others, but sometimes I have no motivation, and have to force myself to get into it. I’ve tried various prayer cards & charts over the past couple years, trying to find ways to simplify, streamline, and assist my intercessory habits. I’m glad it’s been a useful idea for some people. But for me, it’s never quite worked out, so I’ve had to seek other strategies. And now I’ve finally found one: Anglican prayer beads.
Like the Rosary, you say prayers assigned to each category of bead, starting at the cross and going around the circle. Unlike the Rosary, though, there is no monolithic authorized set of prayers that must be said with Anglican prayer beads; there are a number of suggestions (I’d say a number ‘traditions,’ but Anglican prayer beads seem to have been invented only in the past 30 years or so).
In this freedom, I set out to find a way to turn what’s normally prayers of contemplative adoration into contemplative intercession! The prayer I chose for the ‘weeks’ (groups of seven little beads) is a version of the Agnus Dei:
Jesus, Lamb of God, have mercy on us.
Jesus, bearer of our sins, have mercy on us.
Jesus, redeemer of the world, grant us peace.
For those not familiar with this prayer, it’s based on John the Baptist’s proclamation in John 1:29 & 36.
Anyway, what I’ve done is replace “us” with whoever I’m praying for. At first, it sounds kind of arbitrary and impersonal. It sounds like a lame formula, turning a pre-written prayer into a fill-in-the-blank prayer… what was I thinking? But after giving it a try for a little while, it’s actually turned out a lot better than I thought. The repetition is simple enough to keep me going without having to read from a page all the time, but the depth of the words are enough to allow my mind to consider different areas of prayer for the same person.
Jesus, Lamb of God… As the Lamb who was slain, Jesus’ sacrifice is what enables us to have a loving relationship with God at all. Jesus’ death on our behalf is also the greatest communication of love that God has ever made to us. As I pray this for someone, it points me to topics of relationship and care for that person. Many basic or obvious intercessions often come to mind at this point – thinking about what’s going on their life and such.
Jesus, bearer of our sins... Jesus isn’t just a lover, he addressed our biggest problem in life: sin. And it’s not all in the past – we’re still sinning today, and he’s still bearing with us. His suffering is over, but we’re still sharing in it. This part of the prayer points me toward acknowledging the sins of the person, and handing them over to God. If the person is someone who annoys me, this can be tricky because I’m tempted to think of the things that I don’t like, rather than the things that God doesn’t like. If the person is not a Christian, it’s a prayer that they’ll somehow trust in Christ to address their sins.
Jesus, redeemer of the world, grant us peace… In the end, all things will be made new, and Jesus will accomplish this at his return, putting death to an end and restoring peace between God and creation, and among & within all creation. So this little prayer for redemption and peace extends beyond the present life (although includes it!) to encompass all of one’s salvation. Again, if the person is not a Christian, it’s a plea for their salvation – their peace with God. And if it’s one of those people that I’m tempted to ‘pray against’ in the previous line, this part sets me straight: praying for the peace of your enemies is the best step towards loving them!
This form of intercession is useful not just in praying for individuals, but for groups as well, such as churches. I’ve prayed for a 10-person house church, for the Roman Catholic Church, and local & global churches in between using the same method; the same prayer takes on different tones with different people and groups.
So, since the small beads come in groups of seven, I arranged the recipients of my intercessions into groups of seven – one Agnus Dei per person per bead. Anglican prayer beads has four weeks (groups of seven), so that’s four groups of seven people that I can pray for in a single round. If I wanted to get more focused, I could repeat the same seven people four times, or whatever other division one might imagine, but in general it’s turned out to be a pretty good pattern and discipline.
I share this not to brag about my awesome prayer life – it’s very much a work in progress! But for the first time in my private prayer life, I feel like I’m on to something, so I feel the urge to share it, in case someone else has had similar struggles and is open to trying something different. And it’s really one of those things that you have to try for a while before you know if it’s for you or not… you can’t really guess ahead of time, or decide right away. Like all good disciplines, it takes practice to appreciate and to benefit from.