The Jesus prayer is widely used in the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches. There is a nice explanation of this wonderful prayer here: http://www.tlig.org/rosaryorth.html
The picture I have posted I took of two chotkis out of three that I purchased from Holy Mount Athos. They come in many different shapes and sizes and colours too. They come in 33 knot, 50, 100, 300, right up to 500, knots. The ones you see in the picture are 50 knot.
There are several colours they come in also as follows:
Black symbolises the mourning of sins
Red symbolises martyrdom
Blue symbolises the Mother of God,
Purple symbolises repentance
And white, Gold or silver symbolises the resurrection
The prayer used can be the short form or the long form, it doesn’t matter and is taken from scriptures and the parable of the Pharisee and the publican which can be found in Luke: 18: 9-14
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
The apostles prayed this prayer and it has been passed down ever since. The short form is usually Jesus have mercy on me/ Jesus have mercy on me a sinner or the long form being Lord Jesus Christ Son Of God have mercy on me the sinner.
St.Gregory of Sinai advises us to whisper the prayer in a quiet place where possible when beginning. He said that whispering calms the soul and so it does.
This prayer was prayed for a long time without any counting aid such as a chotki. Some monks used to count by throwing pebbles in a bucket in order to count how many times they said the prayer but seeing as it was meant to be a ceaseless prayer to be prayed everywhere and at all times, this practice just wasn’t pragmatic. St.Anthony the great therefore is said to be the first to have developed the chotki or prayer rope using leather. He made some knots but overnight in his sleep the devil came and undid the knots. When Anthony awoke to see this he decided to make tighter knots In the shape of little crosses. The new knots were sturdy and strong but what really kept the devil away was the sign of the Cross that they had been devised with.
Soon after this the monks used these prayer ropes a lot and to this day a monk will always be seen with one. It was very much a monastic practice but down through the centuries lay people began to pray this prayer also.
So I would invite you to consider praying this prayer and investigating further. It is such a simple prayer that even my 2 year old son is capable of praying. The way to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is through simplicity of heart and simple words and I hope you find much peace in this prayer.
Next week I hope to do one on the Holy Rosary of Our Lady