For many of us, the association of beads and prayer is familiar because of prayer beads: the smooth, rounded bits of glass or stone strung together to help worshipers count prayers in different faith traditions in countries around the world.
But the derivation of the word is exactly the opposite of what you might expect. The modern word “bead” comes from gebed, an Old English word meaning “prayer.” (A modern German cognate is bitte, the word used to say “please” when asking for something.) The “beads” were the prayers themselves, not the objects used to count them.
In the earliest uses, “rosary beads” borrowed from the French word for rose garden, to suggest a “garden of prayers” counted on the beads. Over time, the meaning of the word shifted from the prayers themselves to the round, smooth objects used to count them.
So now we’ve come full circle, offering a bead as a way to say a prayer of hope, compassion and care for the thousands afflicted by the natural disaster in Nepal. We hope you will join us in building a garden of prayers for all those suffering.