Matthew 6:7-8, Matthew 6:5-13....?


Im a bit confused by these 2 verses…

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

So here it says to NOT use vain repetition, but then it goes on to give the Lords prayer…?? So how is saying this over and over again, not vain repetition?

What was Jesus meaning by saying this? Im curious who the ‘heathens’ praying like this were…and how/ if they are any different from, lets say, someone continually saying the lords prayer or even the rosary, over and over again…?


I find the CPDV translation is a bit more understandable

CDPD Matthew Chapter 6

6:7 And when praying, do not choose many words, as the pagans do. For they think that by their excess of words they might be heeded. 6:8 Therefore, do not choose to imitate them. For your Father knows what your needs may be, even before you ask him. 6:9 Therefore, you shall pray in this way: Our Father, who is in heaven: May your name be kept holy. 6:10 May your kingdom come. May your will be done, as in heaven, so also on earth. 6:11 Give us this day our life-sustaining bread. 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. 6:13 And lead us not into temptation. But free us from evil. Amen.

Latin Matthew Chapter 6

7 orantes autem nolite multum loqui sicut ethnici putant enim quia in multiloquio suo exaudiantur

Which makes more sense to me. By the way this is way more accurate to the Latin Vulgate.


Hello mikekle.

You asked about potential objections concerning “vain repetitious prayer”.

Below is an excerpt from our local Catholic Men’s Bible group. (It focuses on what some Protestants have said to the men in the group so it may not be exactly what you are looking for, but hopefully it helps with your question somewhat).

God bless.


Catholics & Their . . .Vain Repetitious Prayer Vain Repetitious Prayer Vain Repetitious Prayer

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

MATTHEW 6:7 (RSV)** 7 "And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words.

We often hear from some (thankfully not “all”) Fundamentalist Protestants about how Catholics don’t obey Jesus because we allegedly carry out: “Vain repetitious prayer” (i.e. The Rosary).

When Jesus taught concerning Matthew 6:7, He was re-affirming something that was already being taught in the Catholic Old Testament (which Protestants have sadly rejected—Sirach).

SIRACH 7:14 (RSV) 14 Do not prattle in the assembly of the elders, nor repeat yourself in your prayer.

Jesus’ admonition against repetition in prayer is in the context of “prattling” or “many words”.

But does that mean “**ALL **repetitious prayer" = "VAIN prattling repetitious prayer”?

The answer we will see is “NO”.

**Not all repetitious prayer = VAIN repetitious prayer. **

Jesus teaches, “do not heap up” vain or “empty phrases” in prayer. That’s the prohibition.

Vain repetitious prayer is focused not on God, but upon one’s self.

As Dave Armstrong says (here), this is a “theme of genuine vs. sham piety”.

Pagans (or “the heathen”) would often pray like this and sometimes the Pharisees did too.

Jesus warns us about the Pharisee’s vain prayers in the Temple. Jesus even tells us about a Pharisee (parable in Luke 18:9-11) who vainly, “trusted in (himself)” and “prayed with himself”.

LUKE 18:9-11a (RSV) 9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: 10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank thee that I am not like other men . . .

Yet we are told the righteous tax collector said, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” Do you think the righteous tax collector MAY have repeated this prayer? Likely yes.

LUKE 18:13-14 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

If ALL repetitious prayer is automatically VAIN repetitious prayer, WHY would Jesus Himself tell us two measly verses later (Mt 6:9) to pray the Our Father prayer. **Do you think Jesus only intended us to pray this prayer “once”?? **

MATTHEW 6:9-12a 9 Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread; 12 And forgive us our . . .

If ALL repetitious prayer is automatically VAIN repetitious prayer, WHY would Jesus Himself pray “repetitiously” (“he went away and prayed, saying the same words”—Mark 14:39)?

MATTHEW 26:44 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words.

If ALL repetitious prayer is automatically VAIN repetitious prayer, WHY would the Angelic hosts in Heaven pray constantly and “repetitiously”, chanting “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts”? (See also the Mass –The Sanctus and Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8) When the Angels constantly repeat this prayer in Heaven, does God holler out: “OK you guys! Knock off that vain repetitious prayer stuff right now!”?

No of course not.

Continued . . .


I tell you what our priest told us one day.
He said that when we are praying the rosary,we are using our hands(body) ,mind and heart in unity and harmony.Together, not rushing. Thinking,feeling ,being aware of what we are saying and to Whom.
When he prayed with us,he sort of guided us in the rhythm too. It helped. We slowed down.
Maybe it has something to do with your question.


Conclusion . . .

If ALL repetitious prayer is automatically VAIN repetitious prayer, WHY would the Holy Spirit inspire REPEATING the phrase, “For His steadfast love endures forever” TWENTY SIX times in Psalm 136 (!)?

And is it double-shame for having “His steadfast love endures forever” repeated in Psalm 100, 106, 107, and FIVE MORE TIMES in Psalm 118?

And in Daniel 3:35-66, are we to think the inspired prophet Daniel is falling headlong into sin when he repeats the phrase “Bless the Lord” THIRTY TWO TIMES in his inspired repetitious prayer?

If ALL repetitious prayer is automatically VAIN repetitious prayer, WHY would St. Paul mention the Romans in his prayers **“without ceasing” **(Romans 1:9)?

Or can we possibly conclude the fundamentalist Protestant inventions and conclusions and these nonsense traditions of men that make void the Word of God is what is erroneous here?

In the parable in Luke 18:1-7, Jesus praises the woman (probably representing in some prefiguring way Mary and also the Church) who repeatedly cried out to her judge (an a fortiori representation of God*) to deliver her from her adversary. This model for prayer Jesus praised was . . .(you know what I’m going to say) . . . repetitious.

See also (as Dave Armstrong suggests) Ephesians 1:16, Colossians 1:9, Colossians 4:12, 1st Thessalonians 1:2, 1st Thessalonians 3:10, 2nd Thessalonians 1:11, 1st Timothy 5:5, 2nd Timothy 1:3, Nehemiah 1:4-6 and Psalm 141:5 (“my prayer [singular] is continually against their wicked deeds.”).

Also think of all the frequent repetition in many popular Protestant prayerful songs such as:
“A Closer Walk With Thee”,
“The Old Rugged Cross”,
“Amazing Grace”,
“Just As I Am”,
“Hail Him the King of Glory”
or newer pieces like “Mighty To Save”
“How Great Is Our God”,
“Blessed Be Your Name”,
“Father Abraham Had Many Sons”, etc.

Is there any “repetition” in these prayerful hymns? Yes.

Are we are to criticize and challenge our non-Catholic friends and family members because they sing these songs (over and over again incidentally)? No. That would be dishonest as we know repetition is not necessarily vain repetition. We as Catholics know better than to do this.

We should not “manufacture” differences with people. That would not be unifying. We have real theological issues we can respectfully disagree with concerning our Protestant friends and family members (when the prudent and proper moments arise), but it is important to reaffirm our unity with them when unity exists.

We want to look honestly and appropriately at Matthew 6:7 and see how this harmonizes with ALL of the verses.

God will not contradict Himself.

*An a fortiori representation of God = just means: If this call to persist is true concerning this woman and this mere bad human judge, how much MORE are we to persist in prayer to the totally GOOD Divine Judge.

(The Latin term a fortiori basically just means “how much more”)


The gist of Jesus’ words is that when you pray, when you ask God for something, you get straight to the point. You don’t (have to) babble on and on and on. Some cultures back in those days believed that you have to recite long and drawn-out prayers and incantations to compel the gods and spirits to give you whatever you want. Many people in the Greco-Roman world back then often used the names of gods (any god apparently counts), made-up gibberish, fragments of words and phrases (often in various languages), strings of vowels and somesuch in their prayers and incantations. The gibberish in particular was thought to have some potency. This mumbo-jumbo is really what Jesus was condemning.

Make me Invisible, Lord Helios, AEO’ O’AE’ EIE’ E’AO’, in the presence of any man until sunset, IO’ IO’ O’ PHRIXRIZO’ EO’A


I invoke you, great, everlasting and almighty god, whom the heavens and the valleys fear throughout the whole earth, through whom the lion gives up its spoil and the mountains tremble with earth and sea, and [through whom] each becomes wise who possesses fear of the Lord who is eternal, immortal, vigilant, hater of evil, who knows all things that have happened, good and evil, in the sea and rivers, on earth and mountain, AOTH, ABAOTH, the god of Abraham and IAO of Jacob, IAO AOTH, ABAOTH, god of Israma, bring Urbanus, to whom Urbana gave birth, and unite him with Domitiana, to whom Candida gave birth, loving, frantic, tormented with love, passion, and desire for Domitiana, whom Candida bore; unite them in marriage and as spouses in love for all the time of their lives. Make him as her obedient slave, so that he will desire no other woman or maiden apart from Domitiana alone, to whom Candida gave birth, and will keep her as his spouse for all the time of their lives. Now, now! Quickly, quickly!


If I remember correctly - the explanation provided in the Ignatius Study Bible and NAB is that during ancient times, there was a belief that by invoking the name of a God many times one could literally channel his divine powers on earth, in essence “controlling” them. So it’s not a saying against repetitive prayer, it’s against blasphemies like such.


That’s right. It’s almost kind of like Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea series: in many ancient cultures, you have the idea of names being potent things. To know somebody’s name is to gain some sort of mastery over that entity, to force it to do your bidding. That’s why in ancient incantations, the names of gods, angels, demons, and one’s own mother is recited: it makes the spells more powerful. The ancient Egyptians also practiced a form of cursing which involves writing the name of an enemy - an individual, a place, or whole groups of people - onto a piece of pottery and then smashing and burying it. The idea is to symbolically defeat and kill the being (represented by its name) in question.


Our prayers are an expression of love. The Rosary is a meditation upon the life and death of Jesus Christ. The Joyful Mysteries : 1st Joyful Mystery focuses on the Annunciation to our Blessed Mother by the Angel Gabriel. Luke 1, 28-31 “And coming in, he said to her “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you”. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you shall name Him Jesus” . For that decade, consisting of praying the Lords Prayer and ten 'Hail Mary’s, we can meditate upon the wonder of the event and give thanks to God for it. The 2nd Joyful mystery focuses on the visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth about which Gabriel also informed Mary. See Luke 1, 41-42. Etc. If you were raised Catholic as you state in your personal religious affiliation, perhaps you can recall this? Each mystery of the rosary recalls to us in a very focused manner some witness to Christ’s love for the world as for each one of us. The rosary is a perfect prayer in times of need, in times of sorrow, or joy. Perhaps you can be a witness to those who simply do not understand?


If repetitive prayer is not “vain”, there is nothing against it.

Vain being worthless or ineffectual. It is obvious that prayers to heathen “gods” are worthless/ineffective no matter how many times those prayers are being said. See 1 Kings 18:20-40.

Hence the opposite must be true. Effective or worthy repetitive prayers to be encouraged.


Hi Mike.

I think we can agree that Jesus did not say that we should not pray with repeating prayers. The question is what does it mean by ‘vain repetition’?

When I was younger and praying the rosary perhaps it was a bit vain because I just wanted to get through it to ‘do my duty’. Now when I pray the rosary there is a different dimension to prayer that I did not fully recognise when I was younger. Now as others have said, the hands are moving, the words are being said but my concentration is more fully on my spiritual connection with God.

In this way although the words are the same, it is never repetitive. It might look so on the outside although I would garner you could tell the difference between someone just wanting to get through it and someone who was reaching out to God and his blessed Mary with his spirit.

Sometimes I wonder about Muslim prayer repeatedly praying in a language many of them don’t even understand. Perhaps similarly, some are also praying with their spirit like me and others are just doing their duty like younger me.


Previously I was in 2 minds whether the “vain” meant (per Merriam Webster)

  1. conceited. This mindset could be the followup from the previous verse Mat 6:5 where Jesus criticized the hypocrites for advertising themselves in doing their prayers


  1. useless/worthless/ineffective praying to false gods of the heathens.

However, the Greek language doesn’t seem to translate to vain repetitions (I am no expert of Greek btw). Greek resources that I checked against say it meant stammer or babble.

I couldn’t connect “stammering” to the “heard for their many words” phrase. One shouldn’t fault a person for stammering as a speech impediment anyway and purposeful stammering/babbling doesn’t lend itself to worship.

The RSV CE, Ignatius edition translate it as “heap up empty phrases”. Conceited praying perhaps may be a possible meaning or/and useless/worthless/ineffective prayers (as equivalent to the heap up empty phrases).

Regardless, it is clear that repetitive prayers are not discouraged at all as others have pointed out.

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