WV: Prayer Cloths

When I was a kid, my Ma would sew these little pieces of tattered cloth into the hem of a pair of pants or on the back collar of a shirt. She called them Prayer Cloths. It happened so often that I never questioned what they were or why she was doing it, I just accepted it.

Reading about them now, I find that most articles note that they are a “sacramental” which means “items blessed to manifest the respect due to the Sacraments and so to excite pious thoughts and to increase devotion to God.” Catholics look at holy water as a sacramental because it reminds them of their baptism. Pentecostal theologian Mark Pearson states that the Bible speaks of sacramentals, sometimes referred to as points of contact, such as blessed prayer cloths (Acts 19:11-19:12) and holy oil (James 5:14).

(Acts 19:11-19:12)

11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

Doing genealogy, you sometimes find clues in the first pages of a family Bible. Some scribbles of who married whom and which person died on what date. I was going back to a Bible that I knew had family information and as I opened the Good Book and flipped the pages, one of these cloths fell out. I picked it up, ran it between my fingers and smiled.

These cloths represented the worries, hopes, and faith of my Mother and the prayers she said, hoping to heal a wound, ease an ache, clear a mind. She then took the time to sew them into my clothing as a young kid, in hopes that by the cloth touching the nape of my neck or the ankle as my steps were taken – her prayers then traveled with me, hoping and praying to keep me safe.

Monday was the tenth anniversary of the passing of my Ma. These small attentions to the details of the life she gave me have stuck with me in immeasurable ways.


    1. When I happened to find one, the memories of them came back. I remember my Grandma being at a revival where they passed them out.

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