Comboschini The Prayer Rope PART 1

Comboschini The Prayer Rope PART 2

  Comboschini The Prayer Rope PART 1


“Comboschini” is a Greek word for a string of   knots used for praying. In Russian it is called “chotki”

Meditations of a Monk of the Holy Mountain Athos


Ihsous_XristosLord Jesus Christ    have mercy on me

(Kyrie Iisou Hriste eleison me)




panagia anastasiasMost Holy Theotokos save us

 ( Iperagia Theotoke soson imas) 






A few years ago, with the blessings of the very  reverend Father Joseph, Abbot of the  Xiropotamos Monastery of the Holy Mountain  Athos, we reprinted, in a booklet, the most didactic article about the Prayer Rope, which had  been published in “Agioritiki Martiria”, a magazine issued by the Xiropotamos Monastery.  Due to the fact that the booklet proved very helpful and because of the pastoral needs of all the English speaking Orthodox brothers around the world, it was suggested that we should proceed  and publish this booklet in English; the text used  in this edition was taken from the English original “The Prayer Rope – Meditations of a Monk of the  Holy Mountain” – New Sarov Press, which was   made available to us by the Xiropotamos  Monastery. We, therefore, have to thank the very  reverend Father Joseph, Abbot of the Xiropotamos  Monastery, for his offer and his love.

The prayer rope is not intended to be used only  by monks, but it can also be used by laymen and,  generally, by anyone who wants to pray to God.
The prayer rope is not some kind of amulet with  magic or exorcising powers, like those given to simple-minded people by magicians or mediums, worn on wrist or around the neck. On the contrary, it is a purely Orthodox holy object used only for praying and nothing else. We use prayer rope in order to pray secretly.

At this point we have to note something very important: there are many books that refer to prayer. However, before we start following any  rule of prayer, we must necessarily ask for the  advice, the blessing and the spiritual guidance of our spiritual father, i.e. the Priest to whom we  confess our sins. That is what the  Holy Fathers  have taught us for centuries, in order to avoid  delusion and, thus,  not to lose the right Orthodox path. There are two ways we can pray using the prayer  rope:

-1-  At any time of the day when we have free time, without being seen by anyone, secretly, we hold the prayer rope with our left or right hand and move from knot to knot with our thumb whispering simultaneously or meditating upon the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me” or “Most Holy Theotokos save us”

-2- At the time of our regular  prayer, when we  pray following the rule of prayer that our spiritual father told us to follow, we hold the prayer rope with our left hand between the thumb and the  index finger and move from knot to knot. At each knot we simultaneously do two things: i) with out right hand we make the sign of the cross over  ourselves and ii) we say the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me”. When we finish with all the knots of the prayer rope, we continue  following the same procedure, for as many times as our spiritual father has told us to.

We hope that all our brothers and sisters in Christ will be helped by this little book, which is the result of the experience of an anonymous   Monk of the Holy Mountain Athos. We also hope that everyone will use the prayer rope in the way our Holy Fathers have taught us, even if one lives in a society and not in a monastery.


Meditations of a Monk

of the Holy Mountain Athos

Comboschini The Prayer Rope PART 1 Let us pause for a moment just to look at a little prayer rope, like this one made of black wool on Mountain Athos. It is a blessing from a holy  place. Like so much that we have in the Church,it   is a blessing prepared and given to us by a brother or father in Christ, a living witness to livinn tradition. It is black, the colour of mourning and sorrow,and this reminds us to be sober and serious in our lives. We are taught that repentant prayer, especially the Jesus Prayer, can bring us what the Holy Fathers call joy-creating sorrow -in Greek “Harmolipi”. We are sorry for our sins  and our weakness and failings before God, our  fellow men and ourselves; but in Christ, Who  pours out His mercy and forgiveness on all who  call upon His Name, this sorrow becomes a  source of joy and comfort. This prayer rope is  knotted from wool, that is, it has been sheared  from a sheep, a reminder that we are rational  sheep of the Good Shepherd, Christ the Lord, and  also a reminder of the Lamb of God “Who takes  away the sins of the world” [John 1.29]. And the cross likewise speaks to us of the sacrifice and  victory of life over death, of humility over pride,  of self-sacrifice over selfishness, of light over  darkness. And the tassel? Well, you can use it to  wipe the tears away  from your eyes, or, if you  have no tears, to remind you to weep because you  cannot weep.

Besides, from the Old Testament times, little  tassels have been a decoration for sacred vestments, a reminder of the sacred tradition in which we participate when we use the prayer rope.

Prayer ropes are made in keeping with a tradition whose origin is lost in antiquity. Perhaps  one of the earliest forms of an object aimed to  help people praying was simply gathering small peebles or seeds and moving them from one spot  or container to another as one said his prayer rule  or did his rule of bows or prostrations. Moreover  the story is told of a monk who decided to make simple knots in a rope, which he could use in  carrying out his daily rule of prayer. But the devil kept untying the knots he made in the rope,frustrating the poor monk’s efforts. Then an angel appeared and taught the monk a special kind of knot, like the prayer rope that we use today, that  consists of a series of interlocked crosses, and these knots the devil was unable to unravel.

Prayer ropes come in a great variety of forms  and sizes. Most prayer ropes have a cross woven  into them or attached to mark the ‘end’, and also have some kind of marker after each 10, 25 or 50 knots or beads. There are many forms of prayer ropes, some knotted of wool or silk, or other more elegant or simpler materials. Others are made of  beads or the dried flower of a plant called “Tears of the Mother of God”

 The prayer rope is one of the items given to an Orthodox Christian monk at the time of tonsure; it is given to him as his spiritual sword with which he, as a soldier of Christ, must make war against our spiritual enemy, the devil. This sword is  wielded by calling on the name of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ in a plea for mercy on me a sinner. This prayer can be said in a shorter form, such as “Lord Jesus Christ have  mercy on me”, or in a longer form, as “By the  prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos and all the  Saints, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me”.

Other short prayers: the prayer of the publican:   “God be merciful to me a sinner”, the prayer to the Mother of God: “Most Holy Theotokos save us”, or other short prayers to the Guardian Angel, to individual saints or to all the saints can also be offered with the assistance of the prayer rope. A common form of such a prayer is: “Holy  Guardian Angel – or Saint [name] – pray to  God for me”.  By changing the words of these  short prayers and saying “have mercy on us” or  “pray for us”, or by including also the name or  names of persons we want to pray for, we can also  use the prayer rope for intercessory prayers. This  also applies to those already departed this life: “Give rest O Lord to the soul of Thy servant”.
When monks and laymen carry the prayer rope  in their hands, it serves as a reminder of their  obligation to pray unceasingly, so that to keep  with the commandment of the Holy Apostle Paul  to “pray without ceasing” [Thess 5.17]. Anyone  can keep a prayer rope in a pocket or some other  discreet place where it can be easily used  unnoticed when in situations where it is better to  pray or remember prayer in secret, without  attracting the attention of others. The prayer rope  can also be placed over the head of our bed, in an  automobile, with a small cross or icon, or in other  appropriate places as a reminder of prayer and a  kind of blessing and a holy and godly presence in  our lives.

But now, let us discuss briefly the primary use for which this prayer rope was made. The whole purpose of the prayer rope is to assist us in offering our prayers before God and His Saints. In addition to serving as an external reminder and a blessing present, how can this little rope help us to pray? We can pray without a prayer rope, of course, and there are times when using the prayer rope may become a distraction for us in our  attempts to concentrate on prayer. With that in  mind, let us consider some ways in which the prayer rope can be of assistance.

There are times when our prayer is fervent and it is easy for us to pray. There are times when our thoughts are so distracted that we find it virtually impossible to concentrate on prayer. This is  especially true when we try to keep a rule of prayer each day. Some days it goes well, but other  times – if not most of the time – our efforts seem  almost to be in vain. But because we are  “creatures of habit”, as the saying goes, it is very  profitable for us to set apart a special and regular time (or times) during the day for prayer

The time in the evening before going to bed (not too late) is a good time, as it is important to end  the day with prayer.

The morning, upon awakening from sleep, is also good, so as to begin the new day with prayer.  Or a person may also find other times during the  day when he is able to be quiet and concentrate.
We are trying to establish a rule of prayer in or  lives, not an exception, so we want to find a time  when each day we can find some quiet in order to  concentrate and turn the eyes of the soul towards  God. We may want to read some prayers from a  prayer book as part of this rule, or offer prayers  and find quiet for our souls in other ways, such as
reading religious literature, reflecting over the  events of the past day – “Anaskopisis” [in the  Fatherly sense of examination, of checking up on ourselves, in order to feel remorse for our sins and become better but also recognize the beneficence of God]- and so on. But one of the most effective ways to find benefit   from a rule of prayer is to say a set number of the  Jesus Prayer regularly each day. This does not  have to be a large number, and it may take only  fifteen minutes or so, but that will be the portion  of our day that belongs to God, the little grains of  salt that will add savour to our Christian life. This  practice is now recommended by many physicians  for the sake of a person’s physical health, especially in overcoming stress. Better still, find  such a little pocket of time at various points  throughout the day and regularly fill them with  the precious treasures of prayer, a treasure no one  can steal from you, “that is laid up for you in  heaven”[Mat 6.20; also S. Cyrill Hier. “Catecheses”, 15.23: “every prayer that you make is written down in Heaven”]


Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me


We have to note, once more, regarding any  prayer rule about praying with the prayer rope or   any other rule (fasting, etc.), the first and the last  word has to be said by our spiritual father, in  order to avoid delusion, as the Holy Fathers have
taught us.

Archimandrite Iosif


Reprinted text published in  “Agioritiki Martiria”  by the Hiropotamos Monastery  of the Holy Mountain Athos.

                               Issue no 12-13, page 155-1991


First prototype edition in English:  “The Prayer Rope ΄    Meditations of a Monk of the Holy Mountain”

New Sarov Press, Blanco, Texas, 78606 – 1049    USA  

Printed with the Blessing of His Grace,  Bishop Hilarion,

Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia


New Edition   by the Church of Panagia Ahiropeetos   Thessaloniki

The booklet is distributed by The Holy Monastery  of Transfiguration of Christ Saviour Sohos   Lagadas, Thessaloniki – Greece, 0030 23950   22562