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Caitlin Kennell Kim
Mary
Fr. Rick Malloy, SJ
General Questions
Fr. Tom Ryan, CSP
Ecumenical, Interfaith
Neela Kale
Culture, Moral Theology
Ann Naffziger, M.A., M.Div.
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Mike Hayes
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Our readers asked:

Should we Pray in Repetitions?

Ann Naffziger Answers:

Q: Can you help me understand why in Mathew 6:5-15 it states do not pray in repetitions as the heathens do? But yet it appears that the rosary is said in repetitions? And each week seems to be repetitive prayers in the Catholic church (such as the Lord’s prayer)?

I’m unsure which biblical translation you are reading from that refers to praying in repetitions. A couple of good renderings of the Greek in Mt 6:7 are “Do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do” or “do not babble like the pagans.” Simple, direct language will do when it comes to prayer – one need not compose a treatise to address God.

Jesus’ teaching in this section is not a criticism of public prayer, which is sometimes called for and appropriate. Neither is it a criticism of using some of the same prayers repeatedly, as he himself surely did since he was a practicing Jew. In fact, in teaching the Lord’s Prayer in 6:9-13, the assumption is that if Jesus would have expected his listeners to repeat it frequently. Instead, Jesus’ criticism in this section is of those who make an ostentatious display of prayer that is meant to be private.

 
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The Author : Ann Naffziger
Ann Naffziger is a scripture instructor and spiritual director in the San Francisco Bay area. She has has written articles on spirituality and theology for various national magazines and edited several books on the Hebrew Scriptures.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • gooder1

    All prayer must come from the heart. If you just mumble your prayers in a rote way, their effectiveness is either diminished or lost. If praying the Rosary, meditate on the mysteries; don’t think about what you are going to have for dinner.

  • http://batman-news.com James

    Ok, Can you answer his question now or refer to an elder who can. The response you gave was one of deflection by talking about other scriptures. The question is valid, Mathew 6:5-15 does state do not pray in repetitions as the heathens do. Please explain why people pray in repetition? Our God can her us the first time, by saying it multiple times does not give one an edge up.

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