Prayer Adventure Week Two: Round and Round the Rosary

I’ve always had a fascination with the rosary. Growing up very Protestant (so Protestant I didn’t really know any practicing Catholics until I went to university), they always seemed like forbidden objects. I remember wanting one as a child and being told that they weren’t for people like me.

Even when I went to university and learned that lots of traditions use the rosary as a tool for prayer, not just Catholicism, I still shied away from them. I couldn’t use any tools for prayer. I had to just… do it. Anything else would be unimaginable weakness. Of course, I didn’t think this way about anyone else. I envied friends for having a thing they could do when they didn’t know how to pray. But I couldn’t allow myself to do anything to make my own life easier.

There are many different ways to use a rosary for prayer, the most common of which is probably the Mysteries of the Rosary, where you repeat set prayers while contemplating events from the life of Jesus. However, this week I’m planning on steering clear of the Mysteries of the Rosary for two reasons: one, as someone who is not used to doing this, I don’t think I can pray and think about something else at the same time, and two, it requires saying many, many Hail Marys, and I feel weird doing that. So I am using ‘The Jesus Prayer with the Rosary’ guide that came with my rosary from St Clare’s at the Cathedral (thanks Charlotte and Naomi).

Initial Thoughts

I am excited about this! I like tactile things like fidget toys, and knitting helps me think, so I’m hoping the physicality of the rosary will be really helpful. I also really like repetition, so that might help as well. I think the main challenge initially will be that I have to read the prayers off the guide because I don’t have most of them memorised, which is not the Ideal Rosary Experience tm

Day One

So, this was not great. I thought I was going to like this! It’s tactile, it’s structured, it does not require intensive self-reflection! The prayers reminded me a bit of going to compline at university, which I always loved.

But I could not see any point to what I was doing. It felt like yelling into a wet paper bag. I have never prayed for so long while feeling exactly zero connection to anything beyond myself.


Day Two

Still not getting it. I kept getting distracted during the repetition, which made everything take longer. My brain essentially felt like it was actively trying to escape my body and think about literally anything else.


Day Three

This whole prayer experiment is starting to feel really emotionally draining, and guess what! My nightmares are back again!

That being said, I had a really good and informative chat with a colleague about the origins of the rosary, which at least has helped to explain some aspects of it to me. I think doing more research going in is going to be important in the future.

I decided to try out one of the mysteries of the rosary today, just to see if I liked that better. TLDR: I didn’t. I was genuinely a little bit scared that God might smite me for saying a Hail Mary, but I pushed on regardless. I quickly concluded I am too Protestant for the mysteries of the rosary. I had way too many theological disagreements with what I was doing, and having done research on the background of the rosary gave me even more, and I ended up bailing halfway through the first decade and having a small breakdown.


Day Four

I was too discouraged to attempt anything.


Day Five

I went back to the Jesus Prayer with the rosary today. However, the more I thought about it, the more issues I had with it as well. It felt too much like magical thinking to me. I don’t think God cares if you say the same prayer over and over. I know it works for some people, and that’s great. But I couldn’t make myself believe that God cared at all. I just feel that God was like ‘it’s great that you care, please go plant a tree or something actually helpful’.

The phrase ‘Have mercy on me’ is repeated so frequently in all of these prayers. I am not here to ask God for mercy. I don’t believe in a God that needs me to beg them to not send me to hell. Maybe that’s not how the phrase is intended to be understood, but I don’t know how else to parse it. I struggle enough to not hate myself on a daily basis. Repeating ‘have mercy on me, a sinner’ is not exactly going to help me slip into a peaceful, meditative state. It’s way too easy for me to slip into a massive spiral of self-loathing instead.

Honestly, this whole thing made me massively doubt my own faith. If this is the God that people have been praying to for millennia, maybe that’s not the God for me?

I had to quit this after day five. Several people had advised me to keep trying it and push through the discomfort, but I was about five minutes of repeating ‘have mercy on me’ away from abandoning Christianity entirely and rediscovering my teenage fascination with Wicca.



I think I need to understand why every word in a set prayer is there, and these aren’t things I grew up repeating from childhood, so I don’t get any sense of comfort or connection just from saying the words. This meant that I just ended up with way more questions than answers. For example, why are we asking Mary to pray for us at the hour of our deaths specifically? Is this tied to a belief that praying for the souls of the dead or dying will help them get into heaven? I certainly don’t agree with that. In fact, why are we asking a dead person (Mary) to pray for us? I wouldn’t ask my dead grandfather to pray for me. (He also probably wouldn’t do it, he hated being told what to do, which is probably part of why he died. He wouldn’t go to the doctor even though he knew he had heart problems). So why I am asking Jesus’s mom? Like she’s pretty cool and all, but why do I need her to pray for me? The website I looked at said that ‘just like asking people to pray for us increases our connection with God, so does asking Mary’, but I don’t think asking people to pray for us increases our connection with anything except for maybe those people. I don’t ask people to pray for me, and I don’t offer to pray for them.


Rosary Rating

Tangible connection with God: -1/10

Made me want to cry: 11/10 (did in fact make me cry)