Prayer Pebbles & Praying Stones

I recently called at St Mary’s Conistone, one of those pretty little churches of the Yorkshire Dales. It was all very typical, till I espied a bowl of water next to a tray of pebbles. Evidently, these had been provided that worshippers may pray with them. A laminated information card offered a rationale. The stones, it told us, had been gathered from nearby hillsides and riverbeds and remind us of ‘our deep connection to the earth’. This sounds a tad pre-Christian to me. To be fair, it goes on to explain that Christ is the Cornerstone, and that through Him our prayers are heard. Yet each Sunday, the pebbles in the water- representing prayers made to God- are placed on the church’s altar, while a special ‘pebble pool prayer’ is said over them.

Sometimes it’s hard to pray; symbols may be helpful. Yet I’m somewhat uncomfortable with this. I’d expect pebble bowls and stones laid on altars to characterise pagan shrines rather than Christian churches. I've not seen this kind of thing before, but my companion said he’d seen such items used at the Keswick Convention of all places. I performed a quick internet search; sure enough, such usage is now rather common. The website of the parish churches of Spalding urges worshippers to hold a stone and asks

Does it say anything to you about God or yourself?

The Annunciation Trust suggests 

You could carry a stone in your pocket or bag, and when you touch it remember to pray. Pray for whatever is on your mind at that time - and remember to thank God for his love. Is there something you want to ask God to forgive you for? Hold the stone and pray about this thing, ask God to forgive you and allow the stone to drop gently into the water. Feel the weight of your sin washed away. Thank God for the insights you have received from holding your stone 

The Bible says little of prayer stones and pebbles. The closest one will find to a reference is the prohibition of stone-carved idols:

Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 26:1  

The pebbles of Conistone are not quite idols, but their usage in worship is questionable. Yes, prayer is hard, but invoking stones is not the answer. Simply follow the command of the Lord Jesus Himself who said in Matthew 6:

But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.


In other words, pray as a child speaking to a father; it may be simple and plain, but if it’s sincere, it’s good enough for God. He makes no invitation to plop stones in water or feel them in one’s pocket. Why must we make it so complicated? If you wish to know more of God and yourself, read the Bible, for it’s God’s message to you. My advice is throw away your prayer pebbles, or put them to good use in the base of a plant pot, improving its drainage. Both you and the plant will be far better off.