Prayer beads have been shown to have physical, metaphysical and psychological effects on their owners. When the beads are fingered in an automatic manner, they allow the user to keep track of how many prayers have been said with a minimal amount of conscious effort, which in turn allows greater attention to be paid to the prayers themselves.
There are three widely accepted uses for Prayer beads:
- Repetition of the same devotion a set (usually large) number of times. This is the earliest form of prayer beads (the Japa Mala) and the earliest Christian form (the prayer rope). This is also the type in use by the Bahá'í Faith.
- Repetition of several different prayers in some pattern, possibly interspersed with or accompanied by meditations.
- Meditation on a series of spiritual themes, as in e.g. Catholicism or Islam.
Prayer beads can be made with almost any substance; gold, silver, wood, seeds, glass, clay, ivory, crystals or gem stones.