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In another thread the idea of praying the same prayer is getting slammed pretty hard. I thought we could take a look at it more fully here.

The verse that gets shared most often on this is Matthew 6:7. Just before Christ gives us the Lord's Prayer.

1. Does your church ever repeat prayers? If so which ones?
2. So is repeating a prayer sinful?
3. If so, when does it become sinful? On the second time? After the tenth?
4. What did Jesus mean in Matthew 6:7?
5. Does the Lord's Prayer count as a repetitious prayer if it's prayed weekly? Daily? Hourly?
6. And what do we make of the Revelation 4:8 passage where "day and night they never cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"?
7. Does the heart matter during the prayer? For example, could one repeat the Lord's Prayer authentically and genuinely, from the heart without falling into the way you understand vain repetitions?
8. What other criteria do you have about holy vs. sinful prayer?

Tags: devotion, holiness, prayer, repetition, sin, vain

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Vain repititions...Here's the definition of vain from dictionary.com

Vain–adjective,-er, -est.
1.excessively proud of or concerned about one's own appearance, qualities, achievements, etc.; conceited: a vain dandy.
2.proceeding from or showing personal vanity: vain remarks.
3.ineffectual or unsuccessful; futile: a vain effort.
4.without real significance, value, or importance; baseless or worthless: vain pageantry; vain display.
5.Archaic. senseless or foolish.

So once again it all depends upon interpretation. Catholics believe, in light of the verse from Revelation, that Jesus is telling us to avoid conceited repititions, as in, prayers that do more to glorify man than God by their arrogance. So we try and be humble in our prayers. One of the most often repeated (sometimes hundreds of times) prayers is, "Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner" and it is gnerally done in private, so it's certainly not boasting.

Some Protestants I suppose, though I would need the Protestants to come and confirm this, believe that he means inneffectual repititions and that repeating prayer is ineffectual. Now IF this is what Protestants are claiming it doesn't really make sense as an interpretation in light of the verse from Revelation, so I'm curious to hear about how exactly Protestants interpret that verse.
Does the Lord's Prayer count as a repetitious prayer...?

As normally and routinely delivered, yes.

I do not pray "The Lord's Prayer," as such, ever. I am distraught by people who feel a need to repeat it verbatim (or as verbatim as their preferred translation makes it). In Matt 6:9, Jesus did not say, "Pray this." He said, "Pray this way." What he offered was explicitly a template, a design for prayer, a construct and structure for prayer, not a rote set of words to be repeated without bringing in higher brain functions.

It is rare that I actually prefer NIV over other translations, but I do like how this is rendered in NIV:

"This, then, is how you should pray"

Notice that it's how to pray, not what to pray. (NET: "So pray this way." ESV: "Pray then like this." NASB: "Pray, then, in this way.") Notice the construct of consequence, "so" or "then": It's in reference to the bad examples preceding, that Jesus has to teach them how. Once one realizes it's a question of how, then one can look over the offered template in order to pick out its relevant structural members: Honor for God, humility before him, making requests known (cf. Phil 4:6), and so on.

As for the relative vileness of repetitious prayers, I must say that the most horrifyingly dead congregation I have ever witnessed was at my brother-in-law's very Catholic wedding. The utter lack of either intellectual engagement or emotional content in the totally scripted "priest says X, people say Y" nonsense was so offensive that I nearly walked out. Completely flat, inflectionless, monotone...dead. They were acting a part, and badly so. These people had been trained from a very young age about the set of words to say, and in response to what. And so they repeated them, by rote: " A memorizing process using routine or repetition, often without full attention or comprehension."

I find no example in the NT in which believers are instructed to pray in unison, repeating a practiced set of words.
Seraphim said:
What is a novena? They are a traditional Catholic method of prayer. They are a series of prayers that are recited for 9 days straight or 9 hours straight. A novena is offered as a sacrifice...

One can try to dress it up as sacrifice, but anything done repetitiously for 9 days seems to me to fall under any reasonable definition of "they think that by their many words they will be heard" (v.7). Bear in mind the immediately following verse: "your Father knows what you need before you ask him." I think that tells us pretty clearly that God doesn't need 9 days of repetition, and he has on more than one occasion told people to stop bringing him sacrifices, e.g. Isaiah 1:11. Also see Ps 40:6; Prov 21:3.
Interesting distinction. So the Adoration part of the old A.C.T.S. pneumonic is off the mark? Where do you draw support for such a distinction between prayer and worship?

Jande said:
I'll just comment on -

6. And what do we make of the Revelation 4:8 passage where "day and night they never cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"?

This is not a prayer, it is worship. They are not asking for a thing; they are glorifying God.

Apples and oranges.
Does the heart matter during the prayer? For example, could one repeat the Lord's Prayer authentically and genuinely, from the heart without falling into the way you understand vain repetitions?
What does the vain part of the Matthew 6:7 phrase mean?

Other English translations replace vain with empty, meaningless, babble, ramble, etc.

βατταλογήσητε is literally to stammer or stutter.
What Karl said.
With this understanding I wonder if Jesus isn't prophesying a time when, his followers would replace the vocal filler, "um" with His name during prayer. As in, "Lord, please help, Lord God, me, Jesus, do well, Jesus, Lord, in my test, Lord God, today, Jesus." </sarcasm>

Ryan said:
What does the vain part of the Matthew 6:7 phrase mean? Other English translations replace vain with empty, meaningless, babble, ramble, etc.

βατταλογήσητε is literally to stammer or stutter.
Some more Scriptures on repeating words in prayer:
Ps 136 - repeats "For His steadfast love endures forever"
Dan 3:35-66 - repeats "Bless the Lord"
Mt 26:44 - Jesus using the same words in prayer (thanks DanielH)
Lk 18:13 - Tax collector beating his breast, "God be merciful to me, a sinner."
Rev 4:8 - repeats "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty." (just keeping a good list together)
The order of the questions is all wrong. Priority isn't on my situation, but on Scripture and then how my situation aligns with that. I'm going to change the order in position of importance.

4. What did Jesus mean in Matthew 6:7?
The stacking of words in the effort of being heard by God. It's not so much the focus on the repetition or if it's vain (or not) but the end goal. Complete this amount of prayers and this will happen. That's what the Gentile Pagans do as they stand and repeat a sound or stack their words or utter Things so that the gods would hear. A good example is Elijah's counter-pagans. It's ultimately magical in its expression. Other Scripture that is important to this is Eccl 5:1; Isa 1:15; and if you want to go outside of Scripture Sir 7:14). Our Lord says this is the manner to pray but the Didache (8:3) prescribes praying this prayer three times a day.

9. What about passages like: Ps 136 (repeats "For His steadfast love endures forever"); Dan 3:35-66 (repeats "Bless the Lord"); Mt 26:44 (Jesus using the same words in prayer); Lk 18:13 (Tax collector beating his breast, "God be merciful to me, a sinner.") and Rev 4:8 ? (I'll also add Luke 11:8, Daniel 9:19 and 2 Corinthians 12:8)
In each of those prayers the intent is different so the questioner is ignoring the context in support of repeating when that has little to do with what Jesus was talking about. In 2 Corinthians 12:8 Paul asks three times not because 3 is a magical number but because it was a prayer that came up three times and finally the Lord said "No. My grace is sufficient." Paul then stops asking. Daniel 9:19 Daniel prays variations of forgiveness with the hope that the Lord is merciful but not with the intent that repeating "Lord Listen" 2times will result in the Lord listening. In Luke 11:8, the Lord shows that even if you knock on your friend's door at night persistently that the friend will answer so you should ask the Lord. But it's not a magic formula. Christ prayed his prayer (Mt 26:44) three times and the answer was "No. I won't let my cup pass from you. Yes. My will will be done." That's not in the text but in the subsequent events. Luke 18:3 is a matter of contrition and repetition. Rev 4:8 will be dealt with below.


5. Does the Lord's Prayer count as a repetitious prayer if it's prayed weekly? Daily? Hourly?
It does count as an empty prayer if one ignores that the prayer was a template, not a prayer to be repeated ever day/hour/week and with the expectation that doing so fulfills some sort of requirement that results in a favorable response by God.

6. And what do we make of the Revelation 4:8 passage where "day and night they never cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"?
It’s highly dangerous to look at an event that may or may not be figurative, most likely is occurring in the heavenly places with some beings not even being human, and say that this is the template for our prayers. Even so, the context is not people repeating (which is the constant mistake in this thread) but the goal of repeating. Do they expect God to answer favorably? Well, no. They’re pointing out something he is and stating as such.

7. Does the heart matter during the prayer? For example, could one repeat the Lord's Prayer authentically and genuinely, from the heart without falling into the way you understand vain repetitions?
Maybe. But the matter isn’t repetition but the magical formula: pray X, Y Times and then Q.

2. So is repeating a prayer sinful?
It depends. Most definitely (in the context of these passages) if what you’re doing with the prayer is seeking a favorable response via the repetition or fulfilling some sort of obligation. It’s not a formula nor an obligation that must be met. So it does depend. But if the focus is merely on saying a similar prayer more than once because the prayer occurs from the overflowing heart (note the discussion on Scripture above) then no.

3. If so, when does it become sinful? On the second time? After the tenth?
Note the discussion above. This is still focusing on the number instead of the context.

1a. Does your church ever repeat prayers?
Depends on what you mean by that.

1b. If so which ones?
"Thank you, Lord for X" We don't repeat it in succession though or to expect results or even as an obligation. And it's also in context of whatever it is that's before us. Thank you Lord for this meeting. Thank you Lord for this meal. Thank you Lord for sending your Son. Etc.

8. What other criteria do you have about holy vs. sinful prayer?
The outline that is stipulated in Scripture. Not praying selfishly. Not praying for our wants. Praying without doubting. Asking according to the Lord’s will. Without ceasing. Always giving thanks. For others. For leaders. For enemies. For wisdom. Etc.
I'd like to point out that the Lord's Prayer appears to be based on the Eighteen Benedictions which is certainly repetitious. The whole idea of prayer is based on you communicating with God on His terms but in your own words.

Some people never take the training wheels off their bicycles. I think they like to repeat standard prayers.
On that note, can one, make the prayers of someone else their own? For instance, when you're praying in a group, can you echo the prayers of someone else in your heart (i.e. while they're praying aloud)?

What about in a church service?

What about praying the prayers of other Christians that they've written down?

Can I pray, "God be merciful to me, a sinner" every day? Or do I need to change the words every day, keeping track to ensure I never repeat, and thus invalidate the prayer?

Michael Ballai said:
I'd like to point out that the Lord's Prayer appears to be based on the Eighteen Benedictions which is certainly repetitious. The whole idea of prayer is based on you communicating with God on His terms but in your own words.

Some people never take the training wheels off their bicycles. I think they like to repeat standard prayers.

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