How to Create Traditional Native American Prayer Ties

Prayer tie

Lorie Shaull/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

For many years, Native Americans have offered prayer ties to the Great Spirit in exchange for blessings. It is an old tradition among the Lakota and Seminole peoples. Even if you are not Native American, you may study and practice this earth-centered ritual of making and using prayer ties as an intention tool for prayer or healing.

Prayer ties, sometimes called prayer flags, are not meant to be purchased, although you may be able to purchase prayer tie kits.

Traditionally, however, the making of the ties is part of the prayer and blessing ritual. Making the ties themselves is a meditative action. Your prayer or intention begins as you prepare the ties. It is easy enough to gather up the materials you need on your own without visiting a market that sells prayer tie kits. Scraps of material can be purchased at fabric or craft stores. You can also cut out the squares of fabric you need from discarded clothing such as handkerchiefs, old bedding, or tea towels.

Prayer Tie Materials

To make prayer ties, you will need a few simple materials:

  • Small bundle of string
  • Package of loose tobacco
  • Four squares of cloth

Four colors of fabric are traditionally used when making a prayer ties to represent the four directions or the four winds—east (yellow), south (red), west (black), and north (white).

Instructions

A single prayer tie is made from a square of cotton cloth no larger than five by five inches.

A pinch or two of loose tobacco is placed in the center of the square. (In Native communities, tobacco is considered a sacred herb and a gift to the spirit world. It is used as an offering of gratitude.)

Once you have placed the tobacco on the cloth, gather the four corners of the square together and secure the tobacco into a small bundle by looping or tying the string around it.

Leave approximately four inches of string on one side of the prayer tie and leave the other end untrimmed.

As you create additional prayer ties, add them to the same string, spacing the prayer ties so that they are three to four inches apart. You can add as many prayer ties as you like, but there should be no cuts made to the string except at the ends. This continuous string represents the flow of energy from the beginning to the end of your prayer. Any breaks in the string will interrupt the natural flow of your intention.

Intention Statements

Once your string of prayer ties is finished, you can make an intention statement. This is a prayer or address to the Great Spirit, God, the angels, your higher self, Mother Earth, or whichever deity or energy you are spiritually aligned with.

Examples of intention statements include:

  • Great Spirit! Hear my voice. I am [your name]. I speak with gratitude. I am one of your children. I stand here with pride and devotion for my purpose among all earth spirits. I accept your love and wisdom. I offer this blessing to you for all your goodness and knowing. My heart is beating, my blood is pulsing through my body, I am alive. I am grateful. I ask this prayer respectfully. [Speak your prayer request...]
  • Dear Mother, I call out to the four great winds. I feel your breezes against my face. I thank you for taking away those things which no longer serve me. I appreciate your precious gifts carried in on a wisp of air and delivered at my feet. I offer you this string of four prayer ties with gratitude for all your kindness and knowledge. I come to you with this request with the utmost respect and love. [Speak your prayer request...]

Secure the prayer ties to a place you consider sacred. They can easily be tied to a shrub or a tree, or they can be tacked onto an outdoor structure. Some people will take their prayer ties along with them when they participate in other spiritual rituals such as sweat lodge ceremonieslabyrinth walksmedicine wheel rituals, etc. As part of the Sundance ceremony practiced by the Lakota and other indigenous groups, prayer ties are placed on a sacred tree.