Lutheran, prayer, Rosary

Frank Answers About the Lutheran Rosary

What are your thoughts on Lutherans praying a “Lutheran” Rosary?  Where can one obtain Lutheran Rosary beads?

I don’t see a problem with Lutherans praying the Catholic Rosary, especially as it was received at the time of the Reformation.  It is a totally Scripture-based meditative prayer.  It begins with the Apostles’ Creed, which is the basic Christian statement of faith and it uses the Our Father, which introduces each mystery, and the Hail Mary (Ave Maria), which is the angel’s words announcing Christ’s birth and Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary in the Gospel of Luke, and each section concludes with the Gloria Patri (Glory be the Father).  After the Council of Trent Pope Pius V added the second part of the Hail Mary—“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” That petition could be omitted by Lutherans who don’t pray to Mary or the saints, as well as the Salve Regina and other more modern Marian prayers Catholics have added at the end. However, the Rosary comes out of Marian piety and to totally eliminate that would be to vitiate the devotion.

For readers unfamiliar with this practice, the Mysteries of the Rosary center on the events of Christ’s life. There are four sets of Mysteries: Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and––added by Pope John Paul II in 2002––the Luminous. These aspects of the life of Christ serve as subjects for meditation.

The Five Joyful Mysteries are traditionally prayed on the Mondays, Saturdays, and Sundays of Advent:

  1. The Annunciation
  2. The Visitation
  3. The Nativity
  4. The Presentation in the Temple
  5. The Finding in the Temple

The Five Sorrowful Mysteries are traditionally prayed on the Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays of Lent:

  1. The Agony in the Garden
  2. The Scourging at the Pillar
  3. The Crowning with Thorns
  4. The Carrying of the Cross
  5. The Crucifixion and Death

The Five Glorious Mysteries are traditionally prayed on the Wednesday and Sundays outside of Lent and Advent:

  1. The Resurrection
  2. The Ascension
  3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit
  4. The Assumption
  5. The Coronation of Mary

The Five Luminous Mysteries are traditionally prayed on Thursdays:

  1. The Baptism of Christ in the Jordan
  2. The Wedding Feast at Cana
  3. Jesus’ Proclamation of the Coming of the Kingdom of God
  4. The Transfiguration
  5. The Institution of the Eucharist

Here’s how the Rosary is typically prayed. Begin on the short strand:

  • The sign of the cross made with the crucifix on the forehead;
  • Verses “O Lord, open my lips; O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me” (from Psalm 51), still on the Crucifix;
  • The Apostles’ Creed, still on the Crucifix;
  • The Lord’s Prayer at the first large bead;
  • The Hail Mary on each of the next three beads (for the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity; and
  • The Glory be to the Father on the next large bead.

Praying the decades then follows, repeating this cycle for each mystery:

  • Announce the mystery;
  • The Lord’s Prayer on the large bead;
  • The Hail Mary on each of the ten adjacent small beads;
  • The Glory Be on the next large bead.

To conclude:

  • The Salve Regina;
  • The prayer “O God, whose only begotten Son…”;
  • Any further intentions; and
  • The sign of the cross.

The Rosary falls into the category of paraliturgical devotions. “Paraliturgical” means that it is a form of prayer used alongside the official liturgy of the church. It emerged in the late Middle Ages as a kind of lay breviary. Its repetitions are meant to lead one into restful and contemplative prayer related to each Mystery. The Rosary can be said privately or with a group. Since Vatican II Catholics have been discouraged from praying the Rosary during Mass. Instead they are to participate in the celebration of the Mass. But they could pray the Rosary before or after the Mass.

Now about a Lutheran Rosary: I had to google to find out what a Lutheran Rosary might be. The nature of paraliturgical prayer is that it is not really official, so there is no “Lutheran Rosary” in the sense of a form being authorized by a church body. But just as the use of the Catholic Rosary has been encouraged by popes and church leaders, so I remember that a couple of years ago some ELCA publication recommended the praying of a Lutheran Rosary during Lent. The form of a Lutheran Rosary I found on the internet is similar to the Catholic Rosary, but with the Pius V ending of the Hail Mary not used. Otherwise, the Hail Mary is a totally biblical text that a Lutheran should be able to say without reservation. The pre-Pius V text is: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.” This is the form of the Ave Maria that Luther knew and commended and that Zwingli included in his Service of the Word (pulpit office). The Lutheran Rosary that I saw adds the Eastern Jesus prayer—Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner. It ends with the Song of Mary, the Magnificat, and Luther’s Marian prayer based on the Magnificat, in place of the post-Reformation Catholic Marian prayers. Here’s a web site that describes how to pray a Lutheran Rosary.

How to Pray the Lutheran Rosary: 12 Steps (with Pictures)
 What kind of tradition is there in Lutheranism for praying the Rosary? I don’t know. I suspect that early Lutherans continued praying the Rosary with which they were familiar from before the Reformation. Here’s a painting of Martin Chemnitz—the “second Martin”—, an author of the Formula of Concord and the author of the massive Examination of the Council of Trent—and his rosary beads are clearly alongside his book.

Chemnitz with his rosary beads

In terms of where you can buy a Lutheran Rosary, I found several sites selling them on Here’s a picture of a Lutheran Rosary from Google Images.

Lutheran Rosary

In googling about the Rosary I found out that rosary designs are among the most popular Christian tattoos. So you could always have it with you on your body! The image below this post shows a rosary tattoo with roses, reminding us (and the guy with the tattoo) that “rosary” means a garland of roses for Holy Mary, the Mother of God. The beads hailing her as “Blessed among women” are enclosed within the prayer taught by the Fruit of her womb, Jesus, and the acclamation of glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

This is not a form of prayer I practice, although I’m not opposed to it. Those who have more information about a Lutheran Rosary—or testimony about the value of praying the Rosary—are welcome to post it in the comments.

Pastor Frank Senn


rosary tattoo


  1. Matthew Zelie

    Thanks for this article, Frank. The rosary is a beautiful way to contemplate the mysteries of our Lord’s life, death, resurrection and ascension but also to meditate on scripture, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer. The heartbeat of the rosary prayer is the Hail Mary which Luther taught that all Christian prayer should include.

    I especially love the tactile nature of rosary prayer. Luther also taught that God bestows his gifts through means (most richly in the Sacraments which are concrete things accessible to the five senses). As such, I love having prayer anchored to an object that both orients me but also calls to me, reminding me to pray.

    Like an icon, the beads are not the object of prayer but an aid to it. Even when I don’t have the rosary in hand, though, I can close my eyes and picture the beads and use those to order my prayer. Of course Catholic tradition holds that the rosary dates to 1214, being given to Saint Dominic by the Blessed Virgin Mary in a vision. Still one’s piety need not embrace Marian apparitions to find this practice beneficial.

    Churches of the Reformation and other Protestant expressions of the Church have too often thinned down an understanding of prayer to mere confession/repentance and petiton. I commend the rosary to anyone with a tactile bent looking to expand one’s understanding of the many forms prayer can take.

  2. Eugene A. Koene

    I’m in sympathy with most of what you write here, Fr. Frank, but I have this question: isn’t there an inconsistency in recommending that Lutherans drop the “Pius V” addition to the Ave, yet at the same time recommending the “Salve Regina” at the conclusion, with its, “Turn, then, most gracious advocate …” — Have to say for myself personally, I can no longer take too seriously the severe confessional strictures against invoking Mary and the saints in asking for their help and intercession — though understandable in light of mediaeval abuses and the obscuring the Gospel at that time. Not just Rome, but all the ancient churches, Eastern and Oriental, invoke the Mother of God and the saints. My personal testimony is that the Mother of my Lord has come to my aid on numerous occasions …

    • Comment by post author

      Perhaps it wasn’t clear that I was describing the typical Catholic praying of the Rosary, which includes the Salve Regina (and can also include the Fatima prayers), before I went on to discuss the Lutheran version. I will try to fix that with a bit of editing.

  3. Padre Dave Poedel

    Hey Frank! I just discovered your Q&A page here. Awesome. I’m retired now, and teaching 2 men the 2 year Deacon Formation. Lately I am preaching 3-4 times every month at different churches in the East Valley of Phoenix, or now a 2 month stint in Central Arizona.

    I miss you and the STS! God bless you, my friend.

  4. John Lekander

    I often use the rosary, commonly substituting the JESUS PRAYER instead of the Hail Mary. (Many would comment that the first part of the latter is very Lutheran.) Although there are the usual “mysteries” that are most common, even Roman Catholic authors often indicate that any Christian and Biblical mystery can be used as alternatives. The rosary or prayer rope (such as used with “Jesus Prayer”) also has the effect of helping one to “slow down.”

    • Comment by post author

      The Jesus Prayer is a great devotion, although in the Eastern Churches it is its own devotion. It seems to me that if Marian elements are eliminated, it is no longer a rosary—a garland of roses for the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. Using beads, ropes, or wheels as an aid to prayer is a practice found in several religions.

  5. Tony Cianciolo

    Please explain the Lutheran rosary mysteries. What days do you say each?

    • Comment by post author

      I see no reason why Lutherans wouldn’t follow the Roman Catholic division of the mysteries on the days of the week assigned. However, since Wednesday is traditionally a penitential day I would exchange the Sorrowful Mysteries to Wednesday and the Glorious Mysteries to Tuesday. Also the Marian elements of the Glorious Mysteries probably need to be replaced with Christ-centered mysteries. To fill out the mysteries I would add Christ’s second coming in glory and the resurrection of the dead.

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