Francisco-fact: What is a prayer shawl, what does it do, and how do I get one?

Prayer Shawls are religious and spiritual aids that Christians have borrowed from Jews, which like their purpose in Judaism, help the user to focus more fully on the spiritual task at hand. Many of you have seen pictures, videos, and in-person uses of prayer shawls by Jews. Some of the most common are of Jews praying at the West Wall in Jerusalem. For the Jews, the shawl is white, fringed, and laid across the shoulders. It symbolizes the embrace of God for the person who is praying.

Being created and tactile often means that when dealing with things of the spirit, humans need physical objects to focus their spiritual essence. In Judaism the prayer shawl is one of those tactile supports in a person’s address to God. In the Episcopal Church, specifically, and in Christianity, more generally, these accessories include, but are not limited to, prayer beads (like the Rosary—Anglicans have prayer beads with different prayers than Roman Catholic beads used for the Rosary), icons, and prayer shawls. For at least the past two years you may remember seeing the altar with a white bag on it. In the bags were specially crafted prayer shawls for delivery to parishioners. Their presence on the altar was a way to bless them in our Eucharistic gathering for use by someone in the congregation—people who are sick, mourning, having a newborn, and newly born.

Each of these prayer shawls was lovingly created by one of St. Francis’ parishioners. Some of the ways these shawls are connected to prayer throughout is being knitted while worshipping, being prayed over at the Eucharist, saying prayers while knitting, and including symbols of the faith within the patterns. There are many ways to enhance one’s own spiritual practices either by creating or using a prayer shawl.

This is a wonderful gift to our parish from faithful parishioners creating the shawls as acts of kindness and care. Odiorne Beebe is the coordinator and promoter of this ministry and has both contributed and distributed many shawls. If you would like to know more about creating these spiritual gifts, let us know at or call us at (703) 759-2082 and we will connect you with Odiorne. Additionally, if you know of someone who could use a shawl or you would like to have one yourself for your own prayer needs around ill health or personal challenges, please let us know at the above contact number so we can pray for you, and pray over your prayer shawl for restoration and support.

Published by fr.david

Rector of St. Francis Church. Adopted son of the Old Dominion--Hampden-Sydney loving, Red Sox supporting, Burkean.

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