Lestovki (prayer rope)


Vinyl or Leather

The Lestovka or Ladder is a type of prayer rope, used in Russia before the arrival of the Greek knotted prayer rope in the 18th century. It is still used today by pious Old Ritualist Orthodox Christians.

Commonly made of leather, it is sometimes made of other materials, such as cloth or even beads.

The Lestovka has four lapostki (leaves or flaps), symbolizing the four Evangelists. The stitching around the leaves symbolizes the teaching of the Gospel. Sealed between the leaves are seven movable pieces, as tokens of the seven Great Mysteries of the Church. Where the Lestovka is joined together there are three steps at each end, and on the Lestovka itself are three more steps, for a total of nine, which stands for the nine orders of angels, and for the nine months during which the most pure Mother of God carried in her womb the Infant Who is before all ages. The empty space after the juncture represents the earth. Then there are twelve counters (babochki, rungs, steps, beads or loops), signafying the twelve Apostles who walked on the earth with the Lord. Then there are thirty-nine counters for the thirty-nine weeks and two days in which the Theotokos carried Christ in her womb. The next thirty-three counters represent the thirty-three years the Lord walked the earth. And the seventeen counters symbolize the seventeen prophets who prophesied concerning Christ.

Like other Prayer Ropes, any repeated prayer can be said, however the most often used is The Jesus Prayer. 

When it is not possible to attend the Divine Services, it is a common pious practice to replace them with prayer on the Lestovka. When doing this the three large counters at either end are used with the prayer God be merciful..., and the remaining one hundred counters are used for the repetition of the Jesus Prayer (with bows and/or prostrations). In practical usage, the twelve or forty repetitions are used for Lord, have mercy, wile the seventeen counters are used to count the bows of the Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian.

A table of prayers to replace various services, as well as how to say God be merciful... and the Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian can be found in The Old Orthodox Prayer Book. And materials on The Jesus Prayer can be ordered from Books and Leaflets & Booklets sections on this site.