+J.M.J+

VAIN REPETITION?


"But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do:  for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking" -Matthew 6:7

Some Evangelicals use this verse to argue against the Catholic practice of repeating prayers.  They claim that the Rosary, chaplets, litanies, etc., are all examples of "vain repetition", which Our Lord condemned.

Yet Jesus then goes on to explain what He means:  "For they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking".  He is actually denouncing the pagan idea that the repetition of certain words has some magical power, which gains the attention of a deity or moves him to act.  The Father is already aware of all our needs and wants to provide for them (vs 8); we don't have to try to get His attention!

Jesus is certainly not condemning all repetition in prayer, for He Himself repeated His prayer in Gethsemane:  "He went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words" (Mt 26:44; also Mark 14:39).  He encourages His followers "always to pray, and not to faint" (Luke 18:1), and then tells the parable of a persistent widow who continually pleaded with an unjust judge to "Avenge me of mine adversary" (Luke 18:2-8).  The widow's repetitious pleading, according to Christ, should be our model for prayer to God!

God also accepts the praises of the holy angels who "rest not day and night, saying, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come" (Apocalypse/Revelation 4:8).  Evidently, not all repetitious prayer is "vain repetition"!

Moreover, Psalm 136 is a litany, for every verse ends with the phrase "For his mercy endureth forever".  If God objects to litanies why would He have included one in the Book of Psalms?  God obviously does not disapprove of all repetitious prayer.

Some Evangelicals engage in repetitious prayer themselves.  For instance, they may repeat the phrase "Praise you, Jesus" or sing a chorus over and over again in church.  Is that "vain repetition"?  Not necessarily; not if it arises from loving devotion, like the praise of the holy angels.  And the Rosary is a prayer of loving devotion.

A.M.D.G.


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