Simple and Powerful:
How to Pray the Rosary
The Rosary Works
The rosary is a powerful prayer. It settles our hearts and minds. It puts things in perspective and allows us to see things as they really are. It reaches deep down into our souls and puts us at ease, creating a peace that is rare and beautiful. To put it simply: It just works.
Of course, in order for the rosary to start working in your life, you have to start praying it! The hardest part of anything is getting started. The rosary is no different. It may seem intimidating at first, but that’s where this guide comes in! Our hope is that you will be inspired to give the rosary a try and discover the power of the rosary for yourself.
The Structure of the Rosary
The rosary has 59 beads, a crucifix, and a medal, with certain prayers for each of these different pieces. The prayers of the rosary can be divided into three categories:
- Introductory Prayers
- The Decades
- Closing Prayers
With the prayers of the rosary, we ask Mary to pray for us and to guide us by the example of her son, Jesus.
The introductory prayers set the stage for the rosary. They prepare you for deeper reflection when you pray the decades.
Either before or after the introductory prayers, think of any needs or struggles in your life and bring them to Mary. She cares for you like a loving mother, and wants to take your needs to Jesus. If you are praying with a group, you can say your intentions out loud so the rest of the group can pray for them as well.
Step 2: On the first large bead, pray the Our Father (the prayer Jesus taught us), typically for the intentions of the pope.
Step 3: On the next three small beads, pray the Hail Mary (a prayer to Mary, based on words from the Bible). These Hail Marys are often prayed for an increase in faith, hope, and love.
Step 4: In the space after the third Hail Mary, pray the Glory Be (a simple expression of praise and belief in the Trinity).
One you’ve prayed these introductory prayers, you are ready to begin the first decade.
There are five decades, or groups of 10 small beads, that make up the main portion of the rosary. Between each decade is one large bead set off by itself.
You’ll find that the prayers for each decade are repeated many times. This gives you an opportunity to reflect on the words, which are deeply rooted in the Bible and Christian tradition. They are powerful and filled with meaning.
Step 5: On the next large bead, pray the Our Father.
Step 6: On each small bead in the decade, pray the Hail Mary.
Step 7: In the space after the 10th bead, pray the Glory Be and the Fatima Prayer (a prayer Mary revealed to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917).
Repeat steps 5–7 for the remaining four decades. Pray an Our Father on the large bead and a Hail Mary on each of the 10 small beads, followed by the Glory Be and the Fatima Prayer.
As you pray the decades, you can also meditate on the mysteries of the rosary and learn valuable lessons from the lives of Jesus and Mary.
The closing prayers are prayed on the medal, and they end the rosary. With these prayers we ask God and Mary to watch over us, guide us, and help us become a-better-version-of-ourselves.
Step 9: While holding the crucifix, make the Sign of the Cross.
As you practice praying the rosary, these prayers will become second nature to you. There’s a rhythm to the rosary. As you enter into that rhythm, you’ll begin to think less about the words and more about the meaning of the words.
That’s when you begin to unlock the power of the rosary.
If you are new to the rosary, take some time to familiarize yourself with the beads themselves. Practice holding the rosary in your hand and feeding the beads between your fingers. See if you can remember which prayers are prayed at each point in the rosary.
If you don’t know some of the prayers, you can find them listed below.
The Prayers of the Rosary
The prayers of the rosary are timeless. They are simple, meaningful, and they bring us peace. While people often add other prayers, these are the basic ones. If you are praying the rosary in a group, then most of the prayers are divided in two. The leader prays the first half, and the whole group responds with the second half (indicated by an asterisk: *).
Sign of the Cross
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. * I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. * Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses; as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women; and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. * Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, * as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell; lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.
Hail, Holy Queen
Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us; and, after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
Pray for us O holy mother of God, * that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray. * O God, whose only-begotten Son by his life, death and Resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life; grant, we beseech thee, that by meditating upon these mysteries of the most holy rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Mysteries of the Rosary
Another fruitful way to pray the rosary is to meditate on important events in the lives of Jesus and Mary. Twenty of these moments are captured in what we call the mysteries of the rosary. These mysteries are grouped into four sets: joyful, luminous, sorrowful, and glorious. Each set of mysteries is prayed on specific days of the week. They serve as a backdrop to the decades of the rosary and hold incredible insights worthy of reflection.
As you meditate on these events, let the words of the prayers float by. Focus less on the words and more on the mysteries. Get lost in the scene. Imagine yourself there. Each of the mysteries of the rosary can teach you a valuable lesson about life, love, and God’s dream for you.
If you are praying the rosary in a group, the leader announces the mystery before beginning each decade.
Joyful Mysteries (prayed on Mondays and Saturdays):
- 1st Decade: The Annunciation
- 2nd Decade: The Visitation
- 3rd Decade: The Birth of Jesus
- 4th Decade: The Presentation
- 5th Decade: The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple
Luminous Mysteries (prayed on Thursdays):
- 1st Decade: The Baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan
- 2nd Decade: The Wedding Feast at Cana
- 3rd Decade: The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God
- 4th Decade: The Transfiguration of Jesus
- 5th Decade: The Institution of the Eucharist
Sorrowful Mysteries (prayed on Tuesdays and Fridays):
- 1st Decade: The Agony in the Garden
- 2nd Decade: The Scourging at the Pillar
- 3rd Decade: The Crowning with Thorns
- 4th Decade: The Carrying of the Cross
- 5th Decade: The Crucifixion
Glorious Mysteries (prayed on Wednesdays and Sundays):
- 1st Decade: The Resurrection
- 2nd Decade: The Ascension
- 3rd Decade: The Descent of the Holy Spirit
- 4th Decade: The Assumption
- 5th Decade: The Crowning of Mary Queen of Heaven
When you meditate on these mysteries and establish the rosary as a spiritual habit in your life, an amazing thing happens: Jesus’ peace becomes your peace, his hope becomes your hope, and his healing becomes your healing as his life transforms your life.
A Powerful Prayer
The rosary can change your life. But, it won't happen overnight. Hardly anyone experiences unimaginable peace the first time they pray the rosary. It has to become a regular part of your prayer life. That doesn't necessarily mean you pray it every day. You might decide to pray it every Wednesday night, or every First Friday of the month. The important thing is to develop a habit of praying the rosary that works best for you.
St. Anthony Mary Claret once said, “When people love and recite the rosary they find it makes them better.” Better ways of thinking, better habits, a better sense of yourself and everything God is calling you to be—are you ready for something better? Pray the rosary.