Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Repititious Prayer

One of the complaints that I see hurled at Catholics by Protestants, is our use of formal prayer. Some Protestants believe that prayer should always be spontaneous and any kind of formal prayer is to be avoided. These Protestants will use scripture to back up the claim:

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.(Matt 6:7).

Side note: Admittedly so, I used to even hurl this over at Catholics as proof as they were going against scripture. Instead, like so many of the fallacies that I had accepted as truth, the Catholic Church has proven to be right in this area as well.

Jesus was not speaking against repetitious, but rather speaking against vain prayer. How do I know? Using the same infallible Word of God, we have many instances where the same prayer is repeated to God over and over again.

And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.(Matt 26:44).

And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, LORD God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.(Rev 4:8)

In both of the verses mentioned above, we see that the Holy Spirit is telling us that there is absolutely nothing wrong with repetitious prayer. Jesus, our Lord and Savior, repeated the prayer that he had said earlier in the Garden of Gethsemane. Also, we see in Revelation that there are beasts that never cease to say Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. If the Holy Spirit had a problem with repetitious prayer, He would have never let these verses enter sacred scripture.

Therefore we should be proud of all the prayers that we use to bring us into closer union with God - repetitious or otherwise (Thess. 5:17).


Belteshazzar Mouse said...

In Matthew 6:7, Jesus is probably talking about pagans that babble long lists of names in order to please the right god for the right things. This is meaningless prayer, since there is no content.

Our prayer should have content and intent. There are many more places in the Bible where good men plead with God successfully (Sodom and Gomorrah,Prayer of Jabez, the Psalms) because they have intent, not just words. The Holy Spirit makes our intent perfect before the Lord.

While I agree in principle to this post, many Catholics abuse rote prayers to avoid opening their heart. While I believe the rosary can be a beautiful prayer, it is often abused as something to occupy the mind, rather than a substitute for the Psalms for those that could not read.

I think this is one area that many Catholics could learn to open their hearts to our Protestant brothers and sisters to learn about a different kind of prayer. We can also learn from other traditions that allow time for God to speak to our hearts (although there is a long standing Judeo-Christian history in Centering Prayer).

pb said...

I would think that Protestants would do better to open their hearts to the wealth of Catholic types of prayer. While rote prayer in any tradition can lead to abuse, emotion based prayer can do the same. Protestants, specifically Evangelicals, can, in my opinion base so much of their experience of God on how they feel; the emotions and energy they gained from the experience.

While I don't deny their experience, having had them myself, I believe the history of the Church, especially in regards to the lives of the saints, show that rote and disciplined prayer, regardless of emotion, bring the believer in to a much deeper relationship with Christ.

John of the Cross, Therese of Avila, and Bernard of Clairvaux are examples.

Carlus Henry said...


That is a great observation. In my opinion, I think that we (Protestants and Catholics) have much to gain in learning more about each others practices, and ways that bring us closer to Christ.