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I Don’t Pray…How Can I Make a Prayer Shawl?

September 17th, 2013

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Blogger and author Kathryn Vercillo joins us for the third installment of her series on prayer shawl crafting. Click here to read her previous blog posts.

Image of Serene Comfort Shawl | Prayer Shawl Crafting | Lion Brand NotebookI don’t consider myself someone who prays. My spiritual path has been varied and complicated and it’s been a long journey to the point of even being able to comfortably say that I have a spiritual path so it’s still another leap to be okay with saying I pray. Nevertheless, I do believe in the value of setting an intention and asking for help, strength, hope … and so I am comfortable making prayer shawls.

Suggested Prayer Shawl Practices for People Who Don’t Pray

There is no right or wrong way to craft a prayer shawl. Whatever you feel comfortable with is enough. It can be as simple as setting the intention to heal the recipient at the start of the project.

Here are some additional options:

  • Repeat a short phrase in your mind as you work. An example: “I wish you strength.”
  • Pause at the end of each row or round to think positive thoughts about the prayer shawl recipient.
  • Stitch with love. Intentionally focus on love and compassion as you craft.
  • When the project is complete, take a moment to say an affirmation or blessing. You may also want to include a sentiment card with the gift.

[Pattern pictured: Crochet Serene Comfort Shawl]

Which prayers, affirmations or thoughts do you use when crafting for others? Share in the comments below!

  • Niki

    When I’m making the shawls with 3 knit, 3 purls, I repeat “Father, Son, Holy Spirit” with set of 3, or “Strength, Mercy, Grace.” I like the idea of pausing at the end of each row to envision healing for the recipient.

    • Ruth

      I say Father, Son, Holy Spirit have mercy on us

  • Juli Williams

    I know a few people who make “healing” shawls instead of “prayer” shawls. The important part is the creating of the shawl with focussed intentions of healing or comfort.

    • CrochetBlogger

      Thanks for the response. I love the idea of making “healing” shawls or as BJ Strickland also commented here “hugs”.

  • BJ Strickland

    I was making “hugs” long before “prayer shawls” became popular. I don’t make a big deal out of it. I simply tell the person I’m giving the wrap to that it represents hugs of love and support from me and all those who care about them.

  • Pat Meyer

    I make prayer shawls for people in need, and for people experiencing a dramatic change in their lives — first time parent or grandparent, empty nester, new marriage, etc.. I believe that any pattern that the recipient will enjoy using, or I will enjoy making can be a prayer shawl. The intent of the prayer shawl, and the making of it is what makes it a prayer shawl, not the specific pattern.

  • quiltnewbe2011 .

    I pray for their, strength, their healing, their peace with where they are in this season of their lives, and I intentionally create each stitch with love. I visualize that person whole and healthy.

  • Victoria Kelly

    I’m not a religious person, but when my mother began chemo therapy for a tumor I found myself looking into prayer shawls to make for her. At present I’m knitting her a shawl with the idea that every time she wraps it around herself she can think of it as a hug from me, and I’m concentrating on her and her healing as I execute the stitches. Since my mother lives in the US and I live in Europe, hugs between us are hard to come by!

  • jgaff

    I work on prayer shawls in different circumstances, so depending on where I am the meditation and prayers may be less structured. No matter where I am, I try to spend at least a few moments reflecting on the purpose of the shawl, to comfort and heal. If I know who will receive the shawl I think of them using it and feeling my concern for them.

  • gustylynn

    I was a recipient of a prayer/healing shawl when I had abdominal surgery. I can’t tell you how comforting the shawl is when you are not yourself and in a recovery mode – it is soft and cuddly and each stitch reminds you of the thoughts an prayers friends and strangers have put out for you! Many times I would sit in the chair by the bay window, wrapped in the shawl and gently slide into a healing sleep. It was the best gift !

  • knitting grandma

    I am excited about my latest project – knitting a tallit (prayer shawl) for my granddaughter. I am working in all silk and using an Estonian Lace pattern. I also intend to make one for myself so that at her Bat Mitzvah, we can pray together. I could also consider this as a “healing shawl, as she was named for our son, her uncle, who was killed in an accident 8 years ago. Hopefully, I will be alive to share this moment in her life with her!
    knitting grandma

  • Karen

    I pray that they will feel God’s loving arms around them and his peace when they use the shawl.

  • leigh

    I made an alphabetical list of qualities-awesome, beautiful, caring, etc. that I would repeat mentally while crocheting the shawl.

  • Shawl Mary

    I have been making “Prayer Shawls” for several years now. I place my hands on the yarn and needles and ask a blessing before I start. While I am knitting ( alas, I don’t crochet, quilt, etc.) I keep in mind the recipient- if I have a specific person in mind- otherwise I just offer my thought and prayers.

    Then when I finish- I ask a final blessing. Often, I bring it to morning service and those attending also ask a blessing. I feel blessed to be able to participate in this “Ministry”.

  • Juneone

    i have a simple prayer or positive thought i think often during the crocheting or knitting: May you be happy, may you be well. I know this positive thinking benefits my mind and i have confidence the intention benefits others also.

  • Barbara

    I knitted prayer shawls for several years. When I moved to AZ. a new friend of mine helped get a group started in our church. What an evangelistic out reach ministry this is. We meet twice a month, say prayers, have a prayer shawl blessing in church twice a year, but we knit with a positive energy and a healing strength from God as he enfolds his arms around the recipient to comfort them. The rewards are too numerous to mention as God guides our hands to make a shawl to comfort many.

  • Kaff

    I often make prayer shawls, “Bankies” and “Cuddle Rugs” for members of my family. To begin, I take a hair from my head and wind it around the yarn so that some part of me goes on to help keep the recipient warm. I listen to music or watch serene DVDs about beautiful gardens, scenic drives, birds etc while I work. And every so often I stop to wish blessings upon the recipient. My current project is a crochet Cuddle Rug for the 6th birthday of great-grandson Kadan who loves lots of colour. The centre motif is a red heard surrounded by blue so that he knows Grandma’s love is always with him.

  • Simone Jester

    As another person who doesn’t pray, thank you for this! :)

  • Doridoodle

    When the person receives the shawl, they are expecting that healing prayers have been said. So, if someone who doesn’t pray makes one, someone who is a Christian can say some prayers for the person who receives the shawl before it is given out.

    • Prayingforyou

      Why only a Christian? Surely prayers from other religions are just as effective! It is the love and positive thoughts that counts not which God you pray to. I belong to a group of women who make blankets, quilts and afghans for children in hospitals and some of us are not Christian. I am sure our work brings the same amount of comfort to the recipient as those made by the other ladies.

      • Fran.

        I have prayed in Hebrew, repeated Buddist mantras, the Navaho Walk in Beauty prayer and Christan prayers depending on whom is getting the shawl. It’s a wonderous thing to open our hearts to other religions and their prayers. I believe God hears all prayers.

      • Doridoodle

        Creating prayer shawls are a Judeo-Christian thing that has now been adopted by other religions or by people with no religion. I understand that this article is geared toward people who do not pray, but would like to help others. I am making this suggestion because the people receiving the shawls may be assuming that they were prayed over by a Christian, since that is how it started.

        • Mare Robinson

          Perhaps the term “prayer shawl” was a Judeo-Christian term, but the practice of making healing gifts for friends, loved ones and strangers is an ancient practice. I do not think this all started with any particular religious group or view. I do think it all started with LOVE. Everything i make in my little etsy shop, (www.moonandstarsstudio.etsy.com) and for brick and mortar stores or loved ones, i make using prayer and loving intentions. Then i charge the piece with Reiki and Healing vibrations. It is my hope that the Love and healing energies go out and heal the people who have these things in their presence, and that the healing energies go out to heal the whole world.

  • Elizabeth Aul Bunch

    When I make a baby blanket I focus on thoughts of warmth, safety, and love. I feel like any project can carry a blessing, whether it is a hat, blanket or beach tote. One never crafts with ill intent. Blessed Be.

    • MoragShadow

      Exactly. Denomination or religion doesn’t need to factor in.

      Blessed Be to you as well…

  • ALovcy

    I crocheted a shawl for a friend who was having cancer surgery. I took it around the office and asked all of our friends and co-workers to touch it and say a prayer for my friend. Even our office curmudgeon touched it an sent positive thoughts to her. She loved it and wore it after the surgery because it was soft and covered her chest so that she didn’t have to answer silly questions. This was 3 years ago and she has the shawl at the office and will snuggle in it when the A/C gets too cold or she just needs some comfort. Since then, I’ve done 8 more for co-workers and had them all “prayed” over.

  • Donna

    I was attracted to the Prayer Shawl ministry because of the emphasis of praying for the person you are making the shawl for. I feel that I’m not only making something for a person, but that God hears my prayers for the person, which has a direct impact on the receiver of my gift. After making the shawl we bring our shawls to our prayer shawl group and everyone puts their hand on the shawl and prays a special blessing on the person receiving it as well as the ones who made the shawls. We pray that the receiver will feel God’s loving arms wrapped around them and will comfort them, give them peace, healing, and strength for whatever they are going through. This is very meaningful to all of us and the recipient is always so touched by this meaningful gift.

  • Dru

    I would ask those of you who say you do not pray to consider trying it. It’s not hard — it’s talking to God and listening for Him. It benefits the giver as much if not more than the receiver.
    Blessings.

  • Arlene Van S. Fretz

    Projecting positive thoughts is soul-depth wonderful, however, prayer may also be listening. “Be Still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) reminds me to let go and trust God; first to help the person who will receive the shawl (a hug of worldwide compassion) and secondly that I may be a vessel for kindness and mercy in a fragile world.

  • Linda

    Thank you, Kathryn and to each of the individuals who have left messages and/or thoughts. Although I have made shawls for friends and loved ones, I have never called them prayer shawls. I crochet each one with love and loving thoughts of and for the individual who will be receiving it. Hopefully, it will not only provide warmth, but they will know that they are loved by someone willing to give their time, energy, and love to them.

  • Arlene

    My sister made many afghans to give as gifts till her arthritis would not allow it any longer. She gave me her last half-done one to finish and told me to do whatever I wanted when it was done. Just before I finished, we learned that the third sister was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I knew that afghan was meant to be a hug from her two sisters. It arrived from the two of us on her doorstep the day she finished her first chemo session. Sometimes the hand of God plays an unusual role. The yarn was a rose pink and white.

  • LobstahMom

    As I knit any project, I carry forward something I learned when I first began to quilt (way back in 1977) – every stitch is a prayer or positive thought fof the person you are making this for. There is no way you can knit a blanket for a baby, a hat for a chemo patient, or a pair of socks for a loved one without thinking of them. And hopefully you are thinking of them with love or fondness. Why would you create with a negative mind set? (I even think positive thoughts when knitting pet beds for our fur children).

  • prayershawlvolunteer

    I have been knitting prayer shawls for 5 years and also began a program at the hospital where I volunteer. I can tell you that the smile and acceptance of a shawl by someone who is ill is one of the most healthful aspects of wellness. It truly is a gift from God as knitters are the messengers.

  • Elizabeth Bell

    I am a complete secular humanist/existentialist. I don’t believe that hopes, thoughts, wishes, blessings, or prayers have any effect on anything. But I have always enjoyed little daydreams of how the recipient of my work might use it, and get joy and comfort from it. The act of doing something repetitious with your hands, something that’s done using body memory, helps center your thoughts, much as meditation is meant to do. So I get comforted and soothed in the act of making something that is meant to comfort and soothe somebody else. I think that qualifies.

    • Lisa Herrera Jarose

      Absolutely it does!

  • lowesteinrachel

    Puttin changed his point of view in hours. Perhaps he is between a rock and a hard place.
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    know how… read this article http://scrbe.us/yj

  • Nonna

    Prayer is talking to a Friend – God who hears every prayer.

  • Esmerelda

    Everything I make is with someone in mind…from the tiny little stuffed bear I made for a niece to the big green blanket I made for my son. Always at the front of my work is the picture I have in my head and heart of the recipient wrapped in my love. It’s what keeps the crochet hook flying and the yarn rolling. So I guess, all my projects are “prayer shawls”.

  • kpmomma

    I loved the article, the comments, not so much. Reading a bunch of comments about the power of prayer after reading an article intended for those of us who don’t pray is more than a little annoying. I like the idea of setting an intention or repeating a mantra while you work and I was hoping the comments would provide some specific examples. Instead all I heard was, “Try it, you might like it!” Not what I was hoping for. Bummer.

    • Elizabeth Aul Bunch

      I would just say to follow your heart. If you are intending it for a specific person, then think of what you want to convey to them. If it isn’t for someone specific, then keep general good will in mind and you can’t go wrong.

      • kpmomma

        Thank you!! I’ve been thinking about it and I think I’ve figured out what I want to do. My daughter’s piano teacher recently lost her 31 year old daughter in a car accident and so I think I’ll make her a Comfort Shawl. I bought the yarn today and I can’t wait to get started. :)

    • MimiB

      I agree with you. I’m not a praying person and I don’t believe thoughts or wishes magically heal in and of themselves. This article was aimed at people such as us who are looking for some guidance in how to help and comfort loved ones in need. I believe our actions, careful words, helpful deeds and a general spiritual generosity do comfort and convey our appreciation and concern for an ailing person. So, I suggest we pull out our needles and hooks and make our shawls and caps with thoughts of love for those dear to us who are undergoing difficulties, be it illness, bereavement or heartache. I made a soft shawl for a friend who had recently lost her husband. When I gave it to her, I asked her to just think of it as a hug from a friend.

    • MimiB

      I agree with you. I’m not a praying person and I don’t believe thoughts or wishes magically heal in and of themselves. This article was aimed at people such as us who are looking for some guidance in how to help and comfort loved ones in need. I believe our actions, careful words, helpful deeds and a general spiritual generosity do comfort and convey our appreciation and concern for an ailing person. So, I suggest we pull out our needles and hooks and make our shawls and caps with thoughts of love for those dear to us who are undergoing difficulties, be it illness, bereavement or heartache. I made a soft shawl for a friend who had recently lost her husband. When I gave it to her, I asked her to just think of it as a hug from a friend.

      • kpmomma

        Thank you for your response. As stated above I was online looking for a way to comfort a dear friend who’s just experienced a major tragedy. I think a Comfort Shawl will be just the thing for her. I bought the yarn today and can’t wait to get started!! :)

  • Miriam Olsen

    I knitted a shawl for the secretary at our high school. She had recently lost her daughter in a terrible car accident and had lost her other 2 daughters in accidents during the previous 3 years. I didnt necessarily prayas I was knitting it but I kept positive thoughts and warm wishes for peace and healing while working on it. If I started feeling negative either I would put it aside for awhile or turn my thoughts back to the positive.
    I did this intentionally because I remembered knitting a beautiful dress during a very difficult time in my life but when it was finished I couldn’t bring myself to wear it. I eventually frogged the entire thing because of the negative feelings the piece seemed to eminate from it!

  • Tim’s Mom

    6 Years ago I lost my youngest son (age 31)and was given a prayer/healing shawl by his friends.( All of his friend were in SCA. Theyare an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe.) The shawl has been a real blessing to me as it symbolizes the LOVE they had for my son and how his passing hurt me and that they cared about helping me (Who many had never met) deal with losing me son. I use it many morning and feel there caring and strenghth.

    • Knitter5

      Thank you for sharing your touching story. May your shawl continue to bring you comfort. My sympathies go out to you for the loss of your son.

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