Question about prayers

Here is somthing that has me confused. Just remember I am learning and don’t know much lol. But it seems to me when praying using a rosary you repeat the prayers over and over. I am nto sure where but i remember reading a verse in the bible That we are not suppose to repeat our prayers over and over because it was heard the first time.
So can someone explain this to me? Thanks

we are not suppose to repeat our prayers over and over because it was heard the first time.
So can someone explain this to me?

Brierpatch, I’ll make a first attempt.

We are told not to indulge in “vain repetition” as the pagans do (Matt 6:7, “do not babble like pagans with their many words.”) Pagans repeat their utterances in order to compel the gods to do something. It is a way of bending reality to fit your wishes. It is a form of superstition–“if I just do this or that action just thus and so, I will get what I want”

When Jesus Christ told His disciples to pray, “Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy name…” we understand that we are to say this prayer not once, but throughout our life. This is certainly repetition. But it is not “Vain” repetition.

“Vain” means “empty”, “ineffective.” The “Our Father” is not empty in itself, but rather full of meaning and grace. All we have to do is respond to it! We have to say it thoughtfully.

We can make the repetition of the Our Father vain if we say it mindlessly with our thoughts elsewhere. If we find ourselves doing that, we have to ask ourselves why are we saying it in the first place? Our reason for saying it has to be Christ’s reason–to submit absolutely all of ourselves to Our Father.

Jesus Christ, in His “High Priestly Prayer” in John 17, asks the Father 5 times the same thing–He asks that His followers may be one.

And now I am not in the world, and these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name whom thou hast given me: that they may be one, as we also are. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in thy name. Those whom thou gavest me have I kept: and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition: that the scripture may be fulfilled. 13 And now I come to thee: and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy filled in themselves. 14 I have given them thy word, and the world hath hated them: because they are not of the world, as I also am not of the world. 15 I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from evil. 16 They are not of the world, as I also am not of the world.

17 Sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth. 18 As thou hast sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 And for them do I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

20 And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in me. 21 That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them: that, they may be one, as we also are one. 23 I in them, and thou in me: that they may be made perfect in one: and the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them, as thou hast also loved me.

Our Blessed Lord Himself was pretty repetitive, right?

Other examples: Mt 26:44, where Jesus prayed a third time, saying the same thing again; 1Kings18:25-29 where they called Baal for hours (vain repetition); Rev 4:8–repeat day & night, “Holy, holy holy is the Lord”; 1 Thess 5:17–pray without ceasing."

So the warning is against vain repetition, and to illustrate the point the words are added–“as the pagans do.”


the rosary is praying on at least 2 levels, sometimes 3. the repetitive prayer of the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be (all come directly from the bible) is one level, the basic level, and is a well known technique in many religions for entering into the second level, meditation. The recitation keeps the mind from wandering off prayer, and the words themselves, being scriptural, are a worthy form of prayer.

Meditation is mentally, actively using the mind, intellect and imagination directed at specific subjects, namely the Gospel events of the life of Jesus and Mary. These events are announced at the beginning of each “section” of the rosary, and can either be read directly from the bible or a printed guide, or for most people are simply called to mind because they are so familiar. during the recitation of the formal prayers, the mind dwells on Jesus present in those scriptural passages.

the third level is contemplation, and this often follows, as a gift from God, in any type of mental prayer, and is the closest communication with God, a time mainly of listening and being with God.

the bible verse you may recall warns not to repeat meaningless words and phrases like the pagans do. Pagans do not pray the rosary, and they do not pray from the bible, so that warning is NOT about the rosary, or about any formal Christian prayers.

bottom line: when ever you observe someone else at prayer never make the mistake of presuming to know what is going on in their mind and heart. turn your attention to your own prayer life and your relationship with Jesus Christ.

The scripture you have heard is taken out of context and misused by well-meaning Protestants who do not know or understand Catholicism. It is 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.” Can you see how the heathen’s intent was to be heard through simple, meaningless repetition? There was no foundation to their prayers. It was pure quantity over quality.

I would add that the Rosary is a contemplative prayer. You actively contemplate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, as well as the assumption and crowning of his mother Mary as you pray. It is a multi-tasking prayer, if you will. The point is not repetition, but contemplation as you repeat. The Hail Mary and Lord’s Prayer add structure to an otherwise free-form thought process. It is not so much that you talk to the Lord during the Rosary, as you allow the Lord to speak to you as you pray it.

I do not know if any Protestants engage in, or recognize contemplative prayer, but I suspect that many do not. Thus, it is unknown to them and they likely do not trust it.

Christ’s peace be with you.


You took the thoughts right out of my head…and my apologetics “cheatsheet”. :smiley: :thumbsup:

May the peace of the Lord be with you.
Prodigal Son1

beatcha to it! :thumbsup: to the cheatsheet!

Great input, guys.

Also, there are times when the brain is running all over the yard, like the proverbial headless chicken, and the heart NEEDS to pray, so we repose on the sacred words of Scripture, as presented in the prayers of the rosary, to help us settle into “listening mode” as we approach Our Lord.

Ok Now I understand. I was always told somthing along these lines when a child. kinda like this… If you ask god to proctect your family you only have to ask him once. Don’t repeat the same question over and over during the same prayer… Example. saying prayers before bedtime you only ask god to proctect your family once, don’t ask ti more than once that night…

Now I understand the verse and the function of the Rosary. I must admit I like it too. When you have Attention problems like I do its not hard for the mind to wonder somtimes when praying. The rosary really seems to help focus the mind and heart onto matters at hand. Which is prayer.

Pope John Paul talks about this in his APOSTOLIC LETTER

In my personal experience of prayer – as I seem to be losing my powers of concentration as time passes – “prayer” consists mostly of dragging my attention back to the center 200 times during the hour. Praying the rosary in a contemplative way (SLOOOOWWWW down, breathe gently and deeply, allow your mind to touch gently the subject of the mystery . . . helps to put me in a prayerful frame of mind. Praying 5 decades of the rosary this way can take about 45-50 minutes, and when it’s finished, I can slide into a more personal kind of prayer.

When I am having difficulty in mental prayer, I interpret the prayer of the rosary, “. . . pray for us now . . .” to mean: Mary, I’m not doing so well with prayer, so please DO it FOR me! And mostly, she does! She absorbs our imperfect, distracted, shallow prayer and converts it into her pure and perfect contemplation.

Thank you, Lord.

Remember there is plenty of repetitive prayer in scripture - Psalm 136, for example, repeats the line ‘his faithful love endures forever’ dozens of times, Jesus repeats His prayer in Gethsemane three times (‘using the same words’ as scripture says) and the Gospels point out, with approval, the publican who prays over and over the line ‘Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner’.

So clearly the ban is on a particular TYPE of repetitious prayer - and my thought would be that it is about ‘babbling’, or simply praying with the mouth without putting any thought or meaning into it.

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