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Vain & Repetitious Prayer

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I'm sure that we have all encountered this argument several times in talking to non-Catholics. The Protestant interpretation of Mt 6:7 is that all repetitious prayer is vain and that it should not be done. However, if you read Mt 6:7 carefully you will see that the emphasis is but on "vain" rather than on "repetition". Repetitious prayer is found all throughout the Bible, and if repetitions are so horrible why would the Bible, itself, have repetitious prayers within it? The simple answer is that repetitious prayer is not wrong but rather prayer in vain is wrong. God knows what is in the hearts of men and He is the judge if a prayer is said in vain or not but it is wrong to interpret Mt 6:7 as meaning all repetitions are wrong.

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

First, the phrase does not say "vain and repetitious prayers" which it is often taken as saying. The emphasis in this verse is on the word "vain" not on "repetitions"

Vain meaning:
1. Not yielding the desired outcome; fruitless: a vain attempt.
2. Lacking substance or worth: vain talk.
3. Excessively proud of one's appearance or accomplishments; conceited.
4. Archaic. Foolish.

in vain

1. To no avail; without success: Our labor was in vain.
2. In an irreverent or disrespectful manner: took the Lord's name in vain.


A vain prayer is one that is empty of feeling, love, and it is said just to be saying it. The prayer is not said so that it may be heard but rather just to be said. Now this type of prayer would be wrong.

[b]Examples from the Book of Psalms[/b]

Psalm 136 is more repetitious than any Catholic prayer, at the end of each line it ends with the same wording, and it’s the word of God. This is yet more proof that repetitious prayer itself isn’t wrong but vain repetition. Not all repetitious prayer is vain!

Psalm 136

[i]1 Praise the LORD, who is so good; God's love endures forever;
2 Praise the God of gods; God's love endures forever;
3 Praise the Lord of lords; God's love endures forever;
4 Who alone has done great wonders, God's love endures forever;
5 Who skillfully made the heavens, God's love endures forever;
6 Who spread the earth upon the waters, God's love endures forever;
7 Who made the great lights, God's love endures forever;
8 The sun to rule the day, God's love endures forever;
9 The moon and stars to rule the night, God's love endures forever;
10 Who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, God's love endures forever;
11 And led Israel from their midst, God's love endures forever;
12 With mighty hand and outstretched arm, God's love endures forever;
13 Who split in two the Red Sea, God's love endures forever;
14 And led Israel through, God's love endures forever;
15 But swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea, God's love endures forever;
16 Who led the people through the desert, God's love endures forever;
17 Who struck down great kings, God's love endures forever;
18 Slew powerful kings, God's love endures forever;
19 Sihon, king of the Amorites, God's love endures forever;
20 Og, king of Bashan, God's love endures forever;
21 And made their lands a heritage, God's love endures forever;
22 A heritage for Israel, God's servant, God's love endures forever.
23 The LORD remembered us in our misery, God's love endures forever;
24 Freed us from our foes, God's love endures forever;
25 And gives food to all flesh, God's love endures forever.
26 Praise the God of heaven, God's love endures forever. [/i]

Psalms 150

[i]1 ¶ Praise ye the Lord in his holy places: praise ye him in the firmament of his power.
2 Praise ye him for his mighty acts: praise ye him according to the multitude of his greatness.
3 Praise him with the sound of trumpet: praise him with psaltery and harp.
4 Praise him with timbrel and choir: praise him with strings and organs.
5 Praise him on high sounding cymbals: praise him on cymbals of joy:
6 (150-5) let every spirit praise the Lord. Alleluia.
Psalm also speaks out about when prayers are either heard or ignored, and it does not say that repetitious prayers are ignored[/i]

Psalm 66 :18-20

[i]Had I cherished evil in my heart
the Lord would not have heard.
But God did hear
and listened to my voice in prayer
Blessed be God, who did not refuse me the kindness I sought in prayer.[/i]

God never refuses to hear a prayer that is filled with love for Him. This verse does not say He does not listen to repetitious prayer but that He does not listen to prayers from those whose heart is filled with evil (sin).

[b]Jesus speaks in the Gospels about Praying. [/b]

Luke 18: 1-18 Christ speaks out clearly on the tenacity that is required when praying.

Lk 18:1 [i]" Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary."[/i]

If one were to continue to pray always without becoming weary would this not be a repetitious prayer? In fact it would be, because you would be continuously asking for the same request. It would be, for example, when all Christians pray for the end of abortion. Most of us pray for this daily, is this not repetition? But in fact it is not in "vain" that this repetitive plea is said. This once again shows that in Mt. 6:7 the emphasis on praying is put rather on "vain" than on "repetition".

Luke 11: 5-8
[i]5 And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
6 for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,'
7 and he says in reply from within, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.'
8 I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. [/i]

In Lk 11:5-8 Christ teaches us the persistence that is needed with praying. Similar to Lk 18: 1-18, persistence in praying for a certain request is yet again repetitious. We all pray for our families and friend everyday continuously asking God to watch over them, bless them, and take care of them. This to is simply repetitious prayer, but these prayers come from the heart and are not said in "vain" thus again supporting the fact that Mt. 6:7 is speaking of "vain" prayers rather than "repetitions".

Mt 21:22 [i]"Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith you will receive."[/i]

Repetition of words does not render the faith behind the words themselves

Matt. 26:44 [i]He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again.[/i]

Jesus Christ, himself, practiced repetitious prayer, yet not "vain repetitions" there is a very large difference.

[b]Examples in various books of the Bible[/b]

Rev. 4:8 - [i]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." [/i]

They said "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come." continuously before the throne of God, and God did not speak out against this repetition.

1 Thes 5:17 simply tells us [i]" Pray without ceasing "[/i] Is it possible for us to pray unceasingly without once being repetitious ?

Dan. 3:35-66 repeatedly says " bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. "

[b]Examples of when prayers are not heard [/b]

The evidence that shows any prayers being refused is in

Ps 66:18 (sin)
[i]Had I cherished evil in my heart
the Lord would not have heard. [/i]

Jas 4:3 ( bad motives )
[i]You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passion.[/i]

Jas 1:5-8 ( Doubt )
[i]But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgeingly, and he will be given it. But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.[/i]

Prv. 28:9 ( Disobedience )
[i]When one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.[/i]

Prv. 21:13 ( Inhumanity)
[i]He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will himself also call and not be heard.[/i]

Lk 18: 11-14 ( Pride )

[i]The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself 'O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity - greedy, dishonest, adulterous- or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.' But the tax collecter stood at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breat and prayed 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.' I tell you the latter went home justified, not the former, for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted. [/i]

These examples are the only occurrences of the refusal of prayers that could be found within the Bible. You will notice that never does it say repetitious prayers will not be heard. For as long as we are filled with the love of God within our hearts and we do not act in a way that would render our prayers, our prayers will always be heard.

Hopefully this post made some sense and made simple proof that repetitious prayers are not wrong to say.

God Bless & Mary Protect,
Jennie Catherine

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that's awesome about when prayers are not heard. i had not read that before. good stuff! i'm gonna go back thru ur recent tracts and see what i can add to the reference section ;)

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[quote name='MorphRC' date='Aug 14 2004, 11:53 PM'] Good Stuff Angelies. Check Paltalk Now LOL :D [/quote]
lol thanks Morph

and thanks Phatcatholic ^_^

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[quote name='MorphRC' date='Aug 14 2004, 11:55 PM'] Yw. Phat doesnt get a yw. [/quote]
i'm confused.....

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[quote name='StColette' date='Aug 15 2004, 04:14 PM'] lol I asked him about it too, he doesn't even know what he was meaning lol [/quote]
lol. re-read boneheads

lol j/k

well not really

im just covering myself

yeh im joking

yes I am.


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[quote name='MorphRC' date='Aug 15 2004, 03:41 AM'] Shes good at this stuff. Wait to see her Mariam stuff :) [/quote]
You flatter me way toooooo much -_-

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