Through the history of the Christian Church, the faithful have developed, and have been inspired by various kinds of devotions to God.
Fasting, pilgrimages, bible study, silence, bodily mortification, prayer vigils, and many other practices, are kinds of devotion practiced in the history of the Church. No devotion, however, has been as influential to Christians as praying with beads or knots.
Beginning with the earliest desert monastics, the practice of praying with knots or beads on a string spread through the Church with great devotion, mainly centered around the repeated use of the Jesus Prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."
The point, of course, is not to have a repeated "mantra" to deaden the mind, but rather, to fill ones lips and, ultimately, heart with the name of Christ, and His glorious salvation of the world.
The Eastern Church has maintained the practice of the "prayer rope," and the Jesus Prayer. The West, however, developed a devotion all its own: the Holy Rosary.
The Rosary, unlike the Prayer Rope, is both a Christological and a Marian devotion. While most people who are familiar with the Rosary know that it centers on the recitation of the "Hail, Mary," what is less known to those who have never prayed it, the Rosary centers on the "mysteries."
These mysteries are reflections upon 15 events in the life of Christ and the Mother of God.
When we pray, for example, the Sorrowful Mysteries, we are meant to focus on the agony of Christ in the garden, the scourging of Christ, the crowning with thorns, Christ carrying His cross, and finally, His crucifixion and death.
Many Orthodox Christians criticize the mysteries of the Rosary because they claim that to meditate on the Mysteries encourages the use of imagination in prayer. However, the intent is much more to focus theologically and devotionally upon what these events mean for us and for our salvation, as well as what they tell us about God, and His love for the world.
So much more than simply creating mental pictures, the Rosary encourages us to contemplate the mysteries of the incarnation, the life, death, resurrection, and ascension, as well as the eschatological life of the believer, while asking the Mother of God to "pray for us, now and at the hour of our death."
In other words, while praying the Rosary, we bring to mind the life of Christ, and ask His Mother to pray that these truths will be branded on our minds and hearts.
A truly Orthodox devotion for the Christian who loves the Lord, His Mother, and desires to have the work of Christ always on our hearts, minds, and lips.