There is a story that as a child St Clare would use small stones to help her to pray at night. She would hold a handful of stones, and each stone would represent one of her prayers. As she said each prayer, she would place the stone on her bedside table, a physical symbol of the prayer she had offered.
We decided to include praying with stones in our St Clare’s day service, and now do it every year. Below is an idea of what you need to do for this way of praying with stones.
What you need
Lots of small stones. Enough for everyone to have maybe 5 – 8 stones.
What you do
Either before or during the worship, each person present needs to get their stones. You could give them to them as they arrive, leave them on the seats or pews, or put them in a basket for people to collect a handful during the worship. How you do it will depend on numbers and layout.
At the intercessions, invite people to take all their stones in one hand. Each stone represents a prayer; a person, a place or a situation they want to pray for today.
As some music plays, invite people to take one stone at a time and hold it in their other hand, praying for the person, place or situation it represents. Then they put it down, handing it over to God. The process is repeated until their hands are empty.
Placing the stones
The most important things is that people put their stones down somewhere.
In a large group, with rows of chairs or pews, they can simply place them beside or in front of them.
In smaller groups, you might want to invite people to place their stones in a central point, on the ground, or in a container.
When everyone’s stones are placed, fade the music and conclude with a prayer:
God of creation,
as we lay these stones before you,
we offer you the prayers of our hearts.
Help us always
to trust your love,
to serve your purpose
and to praise your name,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.The Daily Office Revised (Adapted)
We sit in the round at St Clare’s, and the first time we did this, we invited people to place their stones on the ground in front of them. As people quietly prayed and placed their stones, a circle began to form. Soon people started to fill in the gaps, and when the music finished, we had a circle of stones, a circle of love and prayer. A circle that spoke of our community, and of God’s grace. It was incredibly powerful and moving.
Praying with stones is nothing new. I cannot count the ways in which I seen stones used in worship. At Greenbelt festival this year, a congregation of thousands each received a stone to take away, a symbol of God’s love revealed through creation. I have exchanged a rough stone for a smooth stone, remembering that ours is a God who heals and polishes us. I have dropped stones in water, painted them, held them and released them. Something about stones connect us to creation, to our own uniqueness, and to the faithfulness and permanence of God.
Stones can also be used in our private prayer times, as St Clare did, laying down our worries before God each night before we sleep.
A hospital chaplain recently told me how in their chapel they have a basket of stones. Visitors are invited to take a stone, and hold it for a while, praying for the person on their hearts. They are then invited to place it on the altar, remembering that they do not need to carry the burden of worry or responsibility for those they love. They can give it to God to carry.
As we lay our stones down in prayer, we can pray:
Cast your burden on the Lord,Psalm 55: 22
and he will sustain you
If it helps, we can provide the following:
Bag of Prayer Stones – a bag of approx 60 polished stones (1 kg), a beautiful blend of mixed colourful gemstones, ideal for use in worship or at prayer stations.
St Clare Prayer Stones – a velvet bag with 8 polished stones for use in personal prayer.
Cupped Hands – These beautiful hand carved fair trade hands, can work beautifully with stones as a way of placing our prayers into God’s hand, or receiving blessings from them.