In 2005, John Longworth, a seminarian at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and his wife, Sara, developed a Lutheran Rosary with prayers from Luther’s Small Catechism.
The Lutheran Rosary is comprised of 7 meditations:
• Meditation on the Cross
• Meditation on the Commandments
• Meditation on the Creed
• Meditation on the Lord’s Prayer
• Meditation on Baptism
• Meditation on Confession
• Meditation of the Sacrament of the Altar
Each of the meditations include short suggested prayers from Scripture and/or Luther’s Small Catechism. Depending on the time of day, the Longworths have included Luther’s Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer at the beginning of the prayers during the Meditation on the Cross.
For Lutherans who question the use of a rosary as a tool for prayer, it is interesting to note that even Martin Luther prayed the Catholic rosary. In her book Praying with Beads, Nan Doerr explains that Luther shortened the Ave Maria to, “Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou and the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” As Martin Luther was a Catholic Augustinian monk, this is probably no surprise. It was not Luther’s intent to leave the Catholic Church. In fact, he did not leave but was excommunicated.
Though the Longworths configuration of beads and prayers is referred to as a Lutheran Rosary or Lutheran Prayer Beads, the prayers and meditations would be appropriate for any Christian, even Catholics.
Since when do Lutherans have prayer beads?
The Lutheran Rosary was published on the ELCA website as a prayer tool during the season of Lent. The bead set has one bead for each day during lent, and a large bead that marks each Sunday of Lent.
In 2005, John Longworth, a seminarian at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), and his wife, Sara Longworth developed a set of prayers to use with the Lutheran Rosary during the rest of the year. The series of prayers focus on the main themes of the Small Catechism. John introduced this concept to his fellow classmates during a Christian Education course with great interest. Eventually seminarians and local Lutherans were requesting sets of pre-made beads and the booklet for teaching and personal prayer purposes.
Didn’t the Reformation get rid of all the relics and penitential objects?
Yes. However, prayer beads are not either of these things. There is nothing particularly blessed or holy about these beads. They are a material aid to praying, nothing more and nothing less. The same quality of prayer can be achieved by praying out of the Small Catechism itself, or in reciting prayers alone. However, just as the Reformers retained crucifixes, stained glass, altars, fonts and the sacramental elements to involve the senses in worship, the beads provide a way to involve the physical body in the act of praying. It is the work of Christ, the graciousness of God and our trust in God’s promises that brings us to eternal life, not the objects. Even so, everyday people like pastors, teachers and parents and everyday things, like water, bread and wine, can be a means of grace to build our trust in Jesus Christ.
Ok, so why the Small Catechism?
As is noted above, the structure for the beads was intended as a devotional for Lent. The seven part structure and the seven large beads correspond to days of Lent and Sundays in Lent. The Small Catechism is built around seven sections, the Commandments, Creed, Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, Confession, Holy Communion and Daily Prayer. The beads offered a convenient structure to meditate on these themes year round. Secondly, the catechism isn’t just for confirmands, new members and parents of the newly baptized. It was meant as a teaching tool for all the members of Christian families. Martin Luther advised that members of a household re-read the catechism until they knew it by heart and could then move into the Large Catechism to further their learning. Finally, the core of Christian experience is the life of the church, the place where the gospel is proclaimed and the sacraments administered. The Small Catechism is grounded in the language and acts of community worship that bind us together as Brothers and Sisters.
www.lutheranprayerbeads.com Printed with permission