Simple and Powerful:

How to Pray the Rosary

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:

  1. Introductory Prayers
  2. The Decades
  3. 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.

Introductory Prayers

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 1: While holding the crucifix, make the Sign of the Cross and pray the Apostles’ Creed (a brief summary of the core beliefs of our faith).

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.

The Decades

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.

Closing Prayers

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 8: Pray the Hail, Holy Queen (a prayer asking for Mary’s help) and the Rosary Prayer (a prayer of hope that our lives will be changed by the rosary).

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

  • Apostles’ Creed

  • Our Father

  • Hail Mary

  • Glory Be

  • Fatima Prayer

  • Hail, Holy Queen

  • Rosary Prayer

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.

Experience Each Mystery Like Never Before

Dive deeper into each mystery with Matthew Kelly’s personal reflections. Save 30% on Rediscover the Rosary when you use coupon code ROSARY30 at checkout.