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Friday, January 28, 2011

Doesn't the Bible condemn vain repetition?

Doesn't the Bible condemn vain repetition (Matt 6:7)?  Why then do Catholics pray such repetitive prayers like the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet?

"And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking."--Matt 6:7

To be sure, if we pray the Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet (et al) in a superficial and mechanical manner, we may indeed be in violation of Jesus' command against "vain repetition." However, the emphasis on Jesus' prohibition is on the "vain" part, not the "repetition" part. "Vain" meaning:  without purpose or intention or by being disengaged from the meditative aspects of the prayer.

"Jesus...was not condemning repetitive prayer. Rather, he was criticizing the Gentiles’ practice of reciting endless formulations and divine names in order to say the words that would force the gods to answer their petitions. Magical formulas were not the way to get God to answer prayers. Jesus challenged us to approach our heavenly Father not the way the pagans do their deities but rather in confident trust that "your Father knows what you need before you ask him." Indeed, he knows what we need better than we do and is providing for those needs even before we realize them ourselves (Matt. 6:25–34). source.

Interestingly, Scripture is FULL of prayers of repetition:
-check out Daniel chapter 3, from v. 57 onwards:  "Bless the Lord, praise and exalt Him above all for ever" is repeated, and repeated.  And repeated.

-in Psalm 136, "For His mercy endures forever" is repeated, and repeated.  And repeated.

Matt 20:31, Jesus grants the request of the blind men, who offer repetitive prayers for mercy. 

Mark 11:9, the inspired author writes that "Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out (that is, repeating): "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

Finally, Scripture tells us that in heaven all prayers and worship will be offered, repetitively, before the Eternal Throne of God:
  -The four living creatures, each of them with six wings, were covered with eyes inside and out. Day and night they do not stop exclaiming: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come."-Rev. 4:8

Thus, we see that it is not repetition that is condemned, but praying without intention. To use a metaphor from my parish deacon, vainly repeating prayers is like getting in a rowboat but not rowing anywhere.  However, he states that even if we do say these prayers in a vain or "ineffective" manner, we are still "in the boat" so to speak, so it's still a good thing that we're praying them!

The Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet and all the other magnificent prayers of the Church are treasures which bring to mind the heart and soul of the Gospel.  As Pope John Paul II so beautifully
stated: To recite the Rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ.


  1. Thank you this helped me answer a question by someone. It is important to know and learn our faith so when the opportunity arises we can help answer questions so others will know the fullness and completeness of Catholicism. To know it is the One and only Church by Christ.

  2. Praying to Mary is idolatry. It is vain praying to her. Saying the same prayer over hundreds of times to her is vain repetition. No where in the bible does it say to pray to her. Jesus said to pray to His Father in Jesus name. Not to Mary.

    1. The Bible isn't against repetition, Mary. Please see Psalm 136.

    2. Prayer means "to talk"/"to reach". We pray to Mary this prayer:

      "Holy Mary, Mother of God, PRAY FOR US SINNERS, now and at the hour of hour death. Amen."

      See that? We ask the "Woman", to pray for us (everyone, Catholic or not), the salvation of our souls to "her Seed", which is Jesus Himself.

      To whom are we praying for salvation?

      In both the engagement and the ending of our prayer (the Rosary, or any other prayer), we profess... "In the name of the Father, AND of the Son, AND of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

      We also pray:

      O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who need MOST OF YOUR MERCY.

      Whose mercy was it? Jesus', not Mary's. We only ask the Mother Mary help in the prayer.

      Some points to know about the Rosary:

      * We pray the "Lord's Prayer" or commonly known as the "Our Father" in each decade as the case and model of the prayer. We also believe in the spiritual warfare, we believe that the soul is potential to sin at any moment, that is why we pray "and lead us not into temptation, but DELIVER US FROM EVIL" why can be found in the Lord's Prayer.

      * We recite the "Hail Mary" which came from the holy scriptures itself. We exclaim with great emphasis that Jesus and Mary are so blessed; "BLESSED are you amongst women, and BLESSED is the fruit (Jesus) of thy womb."

      Genesis 3:15 - I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."

      John 19:26 - When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, "Woman, here is your son,"

      Luke 1:48 - “For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.”

      We speak by detail, how Mary, the Mother of Jesus Himself, is blessed because of the Lord Jesus.

      * We have prayers, like the rosary, that we recite, place by place, time by time, people by people. We pray as how the church is one, we speak in one voice.

  3. Praying to Mary is idolatry. It is vain praying to her. Jesus said to pray to His Father in Jesus name. No where in the Bible does it say to pray to Mary.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Mary. but you are very mistaken. Idolatry is treating an object as God. No Catholic ought to treat Mary as God. She is a creature, not the Creator. And that is part of Catholic teaching.

      Praying to Mary is nothing more than a heavenly prayer chain--asking for her intercession. Just like you do in your church's prayer chains.

    2. And no where in the Bible does it say that we cannot ask Mary for her prayers. In fact, the Bible is full of examples of people asking others to pray for them.

      So, unless you never want to ask another person to pray for you, you ought not have any problem asking Mary to pray for you while she is in heaven, so very close to her Son.

  4. The difference is a protestant doesnt ask someone who has died to make intercession...trying to communicate with the deceased is called necromancy...strictly forbidden in the New and Hebrew Scriptures

    1. Thanks for your comments, david. And what you say is very Catholic--we are not to communicate with the deceased.

      However, asking for our loved ones to pray for us is not necromancy.

    2. Also, please check out Revelation 5:8. This is a beautiful example of those in heaven responding to our prayers of petition. Those in heaven hear our prayers and offer them to God, in "golden bowls full of incense".