Help please

I have two questions after reading a few chapters of the Gospel of Matthew. Your help in answering them will be greatly appreciated.

  1. Jesus says that we should not babble as God knows what we need before we ask but He tells us to say the Lord’s Prayer. How come we have to say all the prayers in Church and the Hail Mary and so on.

  2. In Chapter 5. If I have broken the Laws ( I’ve done a lot wrong in my life and wish I could take it back). How can I be forgiven as He did not say I could be forgiven.

Thanks in advance.

There’s a big difference between “babble” and praying. Praying involves the heart and will, not just words mindlessly coming out of your mouth.

{QUOTE]2. In Chapter 5. If I have broken the Laws ( I’ve done a lot wrong in my life and wish I could take it back). How can I be forgiven as He did not say I could be forgiven.

Is there a particular statement in the Sermon on the Mount that you think is saying you CAN’T be forgiven. I don’t see where you’re coming from on this one.

Thanks in advance.

Babble is repeating words for words sake without any meaning or coming from the heart. Pagans in Jesus’ time did babble as prayers to their gods. Jesus was instructing us that this isn’t prayer. Then Jesus tells us how we should pray from our heart by teaching us a good prayer.

Jesus said to his apostles, “whose sins you forgive they are forgiven them.” So the apostles and those apostles following them were given the power to forgive sins in the name of Jesus. And it would be foolish for Jesus to give them that power if he had not intended for them to use it.

May God bless and keep you. May God’s face shine on you. May God be kind to you and give you peace.

Teresa of Avila had a good point to make about prayer:

As far as I can understand, the gate by which we enter this castle [of drawing closer to God] is prayer and meditation. I do not allude more to mental than to vocal prayer, because if it is prayer at all, the mind must take part in it. If a person neither considers who he is, what he is asking for, or the holy God to whom he is speaking, though his lips may utter many words, I do not call it prayer… The custom of speaking to Almighty God as casually as we speak to another person-- not caring if the words are suitable, but simply saying the first thing that comes to mind, and learned by repetition-- cannot be called prayer. God grant that no Christian may address him in this manner.

“Showing up” is an awesome first step. “Going through the motions” is a great second step. The Mass is the greatest prayer the Church has; the Rosary is the second-greatest. But those are just baby steps in the great scheme of things, and they’re terrible places to stop. Your heart and you mind have to get “plugged in” and be aware of what’s going on, whether it’s spontaneous prayer or memorized prayer. But the greatest of your spontaneous prayers will never be as great as the Mass or the Rosary-- so it’s up to you to have awareness of what it is, exactly, you’re doing when you’re in those situations, and then be actively engaged, so that you’re doing more than showing up and mumbling through the words.

For example, when you say the Confiteor, where the words go, “I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters–” do you realize what you’ve just said, and who you claim to be addressing? “–that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do–” do you ever contemplate your shortcomings and ask God for the grace to overcome them? “–through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault;” do you ever contemplate how no one can force you to do anything? that your sins are the results of your decision to sin, and how they separate yourself from God? “–therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.” Do you realize who you’re addressing, and what you’re asking them to do for you?

Do you remember one of the readings from last Sunday? One point from the homily? When you get to the point where you say, “Holy, holy, holy,” do you think about the verse that goes

Day after day and night after night they keep on saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty–the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”


And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”

and see how you’re uniting your worship with that of those in Heaven?

And so on.

You are absolutely correct in being dissatisfied. But it’s not because things like the Mass or the Hail Mary are babbling in and of themselves— it’s because we ourselves need to bring mindfulness to our prayers. Because any prayer, without mindfulness, is going to be babbling. (With, of course, the caveat that says, don’t stop doing things because you don’t think you’re doing them correctly. Keep doing them until you’re able to do them right! ;))

It’s not the case, if you’re only praying that way because it’s hard to focus. If you mean the words you are praying and know that God is hearing you, you are not babbling.

I agree with Midori… but not entirely.

The thing is, there are different ways to be fully engaged in Mass than to be laser-focused on each and every word of each and every prayer. It’s a good way to collect yourself back if your thoughts do stray, though.

(Which is good, because that kind of focus is nearly impossible to most people, and would be harmful to many because it would discourage them. Some people do very well with it, though. It just depends on who you are.)

For example, it’s perfectly okay to find yourself concentrating on just one thing that you heard, or an image of Christ that came to mind. That’s meditation and contemplation. That’s the essence of paying attention, not a distraction.

It’s perfectly okay to be the kind of person who prays mostly with your body, even. Basically, the best way to pray is the way that fits best with how your heart and brain work.

In the end, it’s all prayer, as long as you are trying to be with God and pray with the Church. If you study how the various saints prayed or thought about prayer, you will find a lot of help understanding different ways to pray.

God calls our attention to different things and teaches us different things, and God helps us to pray in different ways. Everybody who goes to the same Mass will have a somewhat different spiritual experience, and every Mass will be different even though everything stays the same. That’s perfectly Catholic.

Thank you so much for your prayer and replies. It’s helped a lot.

I have a couple of question for what Madori said.

  1. I struggle to maintain concentration in general and beat myself up in church over it. I really do try to concentrate but before I know it I’m switched off and somewhere else. They say I have ADHD and am waiting on some tests. I don’t think they will be able to treat it though as I am in my 40’s

  2. When we say I have greatly sinned in my thoughts. Does that include thoughts that I can’t stop and wish they wouldn’t enter my head. The only way I can explain it, it’s like Tourette syndrome in the brain rather than mouth.
    I did speak to a Priest about it and even gave him an example. He didn’t bat an eye lid and told me to just ignore them and not to give them time.

Will this effect me trying to get to know God as I should.

Your question can have a few angles. Since you didn’t quote the chapter and verse, the portion about babbling is in Mat 6:7. Other have answered that so I won’t attempt to answer. If your question is why we need to ask God for anything since He already knows, look at Mat 6:6. If God already knows what we are going to ask, there would be no need to go to the room to pray in secret. In fact there is no need to pray at all. But I don’t think that is what Jesus is trying to teach us. Why teach us how to pray? Praying is not asking God to do things for us every time. Sometimes, we just want to share things with God, although He already knows our thoughts. We may want to thank Him or tell Him that we love him, that we are grateful and thankful for the things he has done for us. Why repeat prayers? The same why we continuously tell your spouse that we love him/her although he/she has heard us before and knows that. That is how we show sincerity, show that we have not forgotten and so on.

  1. In Chapter 5. If I have broken the Laws ( I’ve done a lot wrong in my life and wish I could take it back). How can I be forgiven as He did not say I could be forgiven.

I am not sure which verse you are referring to but it is good practice to quote chapter/verse so that readers need not guess.

Mat 6:14-15

God has given his authority to men to forgive sins on earth. Jn 20:21-23, 2 Cor 5:18
When you go to confession, the priest in the person of Christ, can absolve your sins by saying it. “I absolve you from your sins.”

Re: pagan “babble” – A lot of pagan prayers and spells involved the use of “voces”, occult sounds or names without any meaning attached. Basically, “magic words.” This got picked up by heretical Jewish, Gnostic, and supposedly Christian occultists and sects. Archaeologists often find ancient potsherds written up with curses, or ancient “magic” signet rings, and they’ll both usually have voces written or carved on them.

I don’t know if that’s what Jesus was talking about, but obviously, that’s a really bad idea. You’re not going to make God do your will by using magic words.

People often misread Matthew in these instances. To explain:

  1. Jesus did NOT say we should “not babble” or repeat words in prayer. What Jesus says is:

“Do not babble as the pagans do” or "do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do."

While some Protestant translations use the expression “do not say the same things over and over again,” one must not forget that Jesus is saying not to do this “as the pagans” or heathen people did.

Pagans believed that their gods would not pay attention to the prayers unless they called them by name. In some instances they also believed that a deity might be offended unless they were addressed using all their proper titles. To add to this confusion, language differences in the first-century world meant that a pagan worshipper might be pronouncing a deity’s name incorrectly. Unless the name of the god was said right and all the proper titles employed, the deity could ignore the petition.

To avoid this situation pagans devised long lists of names, titles, and even “sounds-like names” or transliterations of a pagan god’s name offered in various ways and spellings that could be said in the hopes that at least one of the pronunciations would be correct. This means the Gentile would be saying a long list of names and titles that sounded like babbling, along the lines of: “O Great god, Poseidon, caretaker of the oceans, king of the seas, mighty Poseidon, Pasiden, Passuden, Possooden, Pecidin…”

Jesus told his followers they didn’t have to do that. You see the Hebrew God of Abraham has a Name, but the Jews, due to how they treat holy things as something that should be used rarely, generally did not employ the Name in prayers or person worship, not by literally pronouncing it anyway. Apparently some Jews and proselytes were imitating the Gentiles and starting to demand that the Name be uttered as correctly lest God not pay attention and the prayer wasted.

Jesus teaches that the God of Abraham does not need to be address with such “babble,” as if unless someone uses the correct formula God will not consider a prayer acceptable. God does not go about ignore people as if one needs to get God’s attention by calling out his Name or saying just the right thing, neither can God be forced to accept a prayer by the mere utterances of a human. No, God is different than the pagan gods.

“Your Father knows what you need before you ask him,” Jesus says at Matthew 5.8. In other words God is always paying attention to you. He doesn’t need to be called in desperation or by any formulized set of names and titles. Jesus then offers a brief and simple prayer which the Church has used ever since.

Mere repetition or the use of a memorized prayer is not the issue. The Shema, which Jews pray daily (“Hear O Israel: The Lord is God, the Lord is One.”), was obviously one of the prayers Jesus said all his life. He constantly makes reference to it, and even today wherever you find a Jew you will find they know this prayer and can even say it in Hebrew. Simple prayers like the Shema, which are actually inspired words of Scripture (Deut 6.4), can be dependable words to use. Often our emotions and inner feelings speak out when we utter them, and the Spirit that inspired these words understands when our deeper feelings are saying more than just the memorized words. ( Romans 8.26-27) Both the Our Father and the Hail Mary are taken from Scripture like the Shema. They are simple, use words inspired of God, and therefore are proper prayers to use in any occasion as often as we need.

  1. If you are making reference to Jesus’ words at Matthew 5.17-20 you might want to relax about “breaking” laws.

Matthew’s gospel was written by and to Jewish Christians. It reflects their understanding of how to follow Jesus. In the eyes of a Jew who believe that Jesus is the Messiah, doing so in their minds fulfills the Mosaic Law. A faithful Jew obeyed their Messiah, and so Jewish Christians began to observe the Law in the light of Christ. They originally did not abandon it, even eating kosher in some cases. (Note Acts 10.13-14 and 21.17-24) Things eventually became more relaxed among Jewish Christians as the centuries passed, but at the time the Bible was written though Jesus fulfilled the Law for Jewish believers, the Jewish Christians continued to observe it in this fashion at first because simply Jews were charged with keeping it. As their understanding changed, Jewish Christians began to express their obedience to Law as obedience to the Church and to Christ.

Gentile Christians have never been obliged to observe the Mosaic Law. Since only the children of Israel were charged with its observance, only they can technically break its laws. A person who is a member of one nation cannot be charged with breaking the laws of a nation he is not a part of even in today’s modern society.

Interestingly Hebrew Catholics who observe certain aspects of the Law do so only because it preserves their heritage and culture. No Jewish Christian is obligated to do so but no person who becomes a Christian is obliged to discard their ethnic customs and replace their culture with another. Catholics of Jewish origin do not “break the Law” if they do not hold a Seder on Passover or don’t eat kosher foods, but they don’t get merits if they keep these customs upon becoming a Catholic. The reason is that they see their being Catholic as completing their charge to be obedient to the Law.

You might sin, but Gentiles who sin are not breaking the Mosaic Law. It’s still sin, but you have not broken the Law of a nation that you do not belong to.

As noted, we are not to “babble as the pagans do.” Jesus offers a model of prayer after that: the “Our Father,” also called the Lord’s Prayer. But that is not the only prayer. At the Last Supper, Jesus told us “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me,” and, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor 11:24-25). This is another prayer. Similarly, after the resurrection, the Apostles used to go to the Temple to pray as well as in their homes (Acts 2:42, 46; 3:1). Did they just show up, recite the Lord’s Prayer, and go home?

Also, the “Hail Mary” is not a required prayer–although the Rosary is strongly encouraged.

But the real point of prayer is that it is part of our personal relationship with God. I know people who babble and chatter on, but not (at times) even speaking to anyone in particular. That gets annoying. On the other hand, a long, intense conversation can be rewarding–as long as those speaking are engaged in the dialogue, relating to one another, considering points and making deep connections. It is anything but babbling chatter.

Elsewhere he offers means of forgiveness, for example Matthew 18:15-35, which includes someone coming to you and asking forgiveness. The Church has developed this into one sure means of forgiveness: the sacrament of Reconciliation. (For venial sins, there are other means, such as prayer, receiving the Eucharist, offering alms, and so on.) If you are ready, and in the Catholic Church (or, under some circumstances, joining it), you can go to the priest in confession and be reconciled, with your sins absolved.

Actually, the Hail Mary is not meaningless babble, it is perfectly coherent. In fact, it is the very words God told the Angel Gabriel to say and what Elisabeth said under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. If you look in your Bible in the Gospel of Luke you will find it.
The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary
And she conceived by the Holy Spirit
From Luke 1:28 Hail, Mary . . . .
From Luke 1:42 Blessed art thou . . . .
From Luke 1:38 Behold the handmaid of The Lord
Be it done unto me according to your word.
From John 1:14 The Word was made flesh
And dwelt among us.

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