Catholic rosaries, Orthodox prayer ropes, Buddhist mala beads and Byzantine chotki knots all share the fundamental purpose of using a string as a counting and focusing tool for praying. Dr. Alexander Roman of The Rosary Workshop discusses how Christians and non-Christians from antiquity onward have used prayer counters in both beaded and knotted forms. Orthodox and Byzantine prayer ropes are especially noted for their knots. The website It's Knot Art points out that the Orthodox knot and the sailor's knife lanyard knot look identical despite distinct differences in technical difficulty, and this knot can be used for making a prayer counter.
Design the base of your prayer counter. Determine the type of cord you will use and the number of knots you will tie into your cord. This will help you determine the amount of cord you need. If you envision the finished product at 18 inches, for example, you will start with a base length of 36 inches of cord.
Add enough cordage for the knots themselves. The knots consume part of the cord's length, and thicker cord produces larger and thicker knots. The number of knots and the thickness of the cord together determines how much you need to add to your base length.
Practice making the knots on a scrap piece of cord or ribbon. You want to make tight, evenly spaced knots on your prayer counter. If you've never made these knots before, they can be tricky at first. Practice to avoid tying kinks into your prayer thread or making warbled, uneven knots in a sacred cord on your first attempt.
Seal the ends of the cord by dabbing the ends with clear nail polish or glue to prevent fraying. You can also singe the ends with a lighter, depending on the material you've chosen. Singeing works best for synthetic or poly-blended fabrics, while gluing is most appropriate for natural fibres.
Prepare yourself and your space according to your religious tradition. This procedure is adaptable to a member of any faith, and some religions prefer that rosary or prayer rope construction be performed in a state of prayer or meditation.
Fold the cord in half and drape it over your index finger and between your middle and ring fingers. You now have half the cord hanging in front of your fingers, across your palm, and the other half hanging between your middle and ring fingers.
Make an underhand loop in the section that is between your fingers. In other words, the end of the loop goes under the top portion of the same cord that is making the loop.
Lay the loop over the section of cord that is in your palm. Be sure to keep the end of the loop under the top of the loop so that it remains "underhand" as it was in the last step. When you look into your palm, you now have a loop that is encircling a straight section of cord.
Pull up slightly on the section of cord that is encircled by the loop.
Move the length of cord that is dangling from your palm so that it is underneath the endpiece of the other section and is hanging off of your index finger. In this step, you're taking this section of cord in the opposite direction from the way it was previously hanging, making a "J" shape. In knot terminology, this curved section of cord is called a "bight."
Thread this same end over the loop and under the cord that you lifted in the middle of the loop. Looking at your hand, you will have a diamond shape in the middle of the knot, with one section of cord dangling near your thumb and the other near your pinky. Also note that you have a loop around your fingers, which is important for the next step.
Pull one of the dangling sections of cord around the outside of the loop that encircles your fingers and then up through the centre of the diamond. Repeat this sequence for the other dangling cord.
Work the knot tight and pull it off your fingers. Tighten the knot into place on the cord.
Repeat the knot-making steps until you are satisfied that your design is complete.
Close the prayer counter by making a simple overhand knot. This will be a secure closure, and it can operate as the entry knot into the meditational counter.
Finish by adding a pendant as a symbol of your faith or the object of your prayer.