Prayer rope

Simple black Eastern Orthodox prayer rope without tassel

A prayer rope (Greek: κομποσκοίνι - komboskini; Russian: чётки - chotki (most common term) or вервица - vervitsa (literal translation); Arabic: مسبحة‎, translit. misbaḥa; Romanian: metanii / metanier; Serbian: бројаница / brojanica - broyanitsa; Bulgarian: броеница - broyenitsa; Coptic: ⲙⲉⲕⲩⲧⲁⲣⲓⲁ - mequetaria/mequtaria) is a loop made up of complex woven knots formed in a cross pattern, usually out of wool or silk. Prayer ropes are part of the practice of Eastern Orthodox and Eastern-Catholic monks and nuns[1] and is employed by monastics (and sometimes by others) to count the number of times one has prayed the Jesus Prayer or, occasionally, other prayers. The typical prayer rope has thirty three knots, representing the thirty three years of Christ's life.[2] Oriental Orthodoxy also uses the prayer rope, where it is known by its Coptic name.


Eastern Orthodox prayer rope with 50 knots and 5 wooden beads

Historically, the prayer rope would typically have 100 knots, although prayer ropes with 150, 50, or 33 knots can also be found in use today. There are even small, 10-knot prayer ropes intended to be worn on the finger. Hermits in their cells may have prayer ropes with as many as 300 or 500 knots in them.

Characteristically, the knots of a prayer rope are diamond knots (ABoK #787).

There is typically a knotted cross where the prayer rope is joined together to form a loop, and a few beads at certain intervals between the knots (usually every 10 or 25 knots) for ease in counting. Longer prayer ropes frequently have a tassel at the end of the cross; its purpose is to dry the tears shed due to heartfelt compunction for one's sins.[3] The tassel can also be said to represent the glory of the Heavenly Kingdom, which one can only enter through the Cross. Additionally, the tassel represents an inherited tradition of prayer. The symbol of tassels as tradition coming from Old Testament commandments to Jews to wear tassels on their garments to keep in mind the received laws.[4]

The prayer rope is commonly made out of wool, symbolizing the flock of Christ;[3] though in modern times other materials are used also. The traditional color of the rope is black (symbolizing mourning for one's sins),[3] with either black or colored beads. The beads (if they are colored) and at least a portion of the tassel are traditionally red, symbolizing the blood of Christ and the blood of the martyrs. In recent times, however, prayer ropes have been made in a wide variety of colors.

Though prayer ropes are often tied by monastics, non-monastics are permitted to tie them also. In proper practice, the person tying a prayer rope should be of true faith and pious life and should be praying the Jesus Prayer the whole time.

According to Orthodox Serbs, the 33 knotted prayer rope should be worn on the left hand, and when praying, held with the thumb and forefinger of the right hand. The 33 knots symbolize the age of Jesus Christ when he was crucified.[5]

Among the Oriental Orthodox, the prayer rope is composed of 41, 64, or 100 beads and is primarily used to recite the Kyrie Eleison prayer as well as others such as the Lord's Prayer and the Magnificat. In regards to the first two numbers, the former represents the number lashes inflicted on Jesus (39 according to Jewish custom), the lance wound, and the crown of thorns, while the latter represents Mary's age upon her Assumption respectively.

Other Languages
brezhoneg: Tchotki
čeština: Čotky
Deutsch: Komboskini
Ελληνικά: Κομποσκοίνι
français: Tchotki
한국어: 기도 매듭
norsk: Komboskini
polski: Czotki
português: Chotki
русский: Вервица
slovenčina: Čotky
тыва дыл: Эреге
українська: Вервиця
Tiếng Việt: Dây cầu nguyện