Prayer ropes are circular prayer belts made of a supple material and tied round the waist to hold either a candle or small sacramental cloth. Prayer rags differ from regular prayer straps in that they are usually wider than they are tall. They are worn around the waist with the prayer rags tied diagonally across the body from ankle to hip, and sometimes wrapped around the arms. The material used is usually wool or some other such soft, pliable material such as silk. Some people prefer to have them studded with holystones.
The knots used in prayer ropes form an intricate dance, or pattern, which moves around the wearer as he or she prays. The knots interlock each other in a beautiful display of interweaving. Prayer rope not only helps us concentrate on our prayers, but it also has a powerful meditative component. This helps us relax and deal with life’s little challenges.
One of the most common prayers associated with prayer ropes is an homage to the Virgin Mary. We remember her by name in the Christian liturgy and use the same sort of pattern for our prayers. The supple quality of prayer rags makes them ideal for use at the ceremony itself – as well as during any private meditation needed before receiving the Eucharist at mass. Mary’s face is also painted on many of these beautiful prayer ropes. The numerous knots that make up a typical prayer rag serve not only as visual aids to praying but also as a reminder to Mary that she is always at the service of Christians all over the world.