Thursday, August 16, 2012


When we go to churches, we can see people, especially the elderly, holding novena booklets or rosaries. They are kneeling and with moving lips, eyes on the altar, they utter their repetitious prayers. Catholics pray novenas, the Rosary and other prayers having repetitious words or phrases in them. But in the following passage, Jesus was mentioning about repetition:

Matthew 6:7 (NASB)  “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.”

But the question here should be: What was in Jesus’ mind when He said this? Clearly, He was not referring to repetition itself but to “meaningless” repetition of prayer. Meaningless or vain prayers are empty, simply repeating words, no faith in it.

Notice also that He mentioned praying “as the Gentiles”. In those times, these people were pagans who had false religious rituals and practices. This meant that Jesus was referring to a deeper and interior piety involved in praying.

Jesus strongly opposed vain worship or devotion as seen in

Matthew 15:7-9 (NASB)   You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. ’But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”

Jesus Himself prayed repetitious prayer when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Matthew 26:44 (NASB)   And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more.

There were also other passages in the Bible that prove the repetition of the same prayer like in Psalm 136 where the phrase “for His steadfast love endures forever” is repeated in the whole Psalm, for twenty-six times.


Revelation 4:8 (NASB)   And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.” 


Praying with repetitious words was not prohibited by Jesus. Sr. Ines in her book mentioned that the more a person repeats saying words or doing a kind of thing, the more it becomes a part of his system. She said that she had a patient who was 98 years old. When she was young she was always praying the Rosary. Even when she was in her second childhood, she still prays the Rosary. 


If we pray in all sincerity and faith, with pure heart and good intention, then there is nothing wrong with that. If we pray each word, as if it is our own, and put much love for God in it, then our prayer may be repetitious, but it is not in vain. 


“Repeated prayers are not necessarily mechanical. A pianist like Paderewski may play the same concerto over and over again and always play it with a perfect interpretation; an actor like Forbes Robertson may play the part of Hamlet night after night for months, and always reveal some new meaning in his lines.” – Bertrand L. Conway

- The One-Minute Apologist by Dave Armstrong 
- Going by the Bible and History by Sr. Ines Atendido Tan, FMM
- Biblical Evidence for Catholicism by Dave Armstrong
- Catechism of the Catholic Church 2708

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