“Praying the rosary is wrong. In Matthew 6:7, Jesus warns us against vain repetition.”
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This month’s “Whaddaya Say” is about the statement, “Praying the rosary is wrong. In Matthew 6:7, Jesus warns us against vain repetition.” This statement is made by some protestant fundamentalists. It is often used to try to persuade Catholics that some of the Church’s popular devotions go against the Bible. Since part of the rosary involves repeating the Hail Mary, a practice that is unfamiliar to many protestants, they often get suspicious of it and this verse from the Gospel of Matthew occurs to them: “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.” (The King James version, popular among many protestant fundamentalist churches, says: “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”)
So, imagine you are waiting in line at the bank and you have the following conversation:
Evangelist: Hi, what’s your name?
Other person: Grant, and you?
E: [Your name]. Would you like a free rosary?
O: No thanks, I’m not Catholic.
E: Well are you Christian?
O: Yeah, but I feel like the Rosary goes against what Jesus said about not using vain repetitions.
So what would you say next? Let us know using the form below.
The Divine Craftsman in the last 1500 years formed the Rosary into a spiritual sword, a weapon of truth for conversion. Jesus is not condemning repetitious prayer. The rosary uses scripture to meditate on the life of Christ. Jesus is condemning pagans for reciting long litanies of divine names to gain the attention of the gods. Matthew 6:7 is not aimed at repetitious prayer in itself. Jesus repeats three times in Garden of Gethsemani, Mk 14:39; Mt 26:44; The publican repeats “God be merciful to me a sinner” Lk 18:13; The 4 creatures repeat” Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God” Rev 4:8; The rosary fulfills “pray without ceasing” 1 Thess 5:17; The Psalms 136 and etc. has repetition. The rosary was founded over 800 years ago by Saint Dominic. The Christian world has been praying the rosary for a long time. The rosary is twice as old as the Baptist church. It is a very powerful form of prayer and will change your life. One should not take one scriptural verse in isolation from the totality of divine revelation. The Catholic Church is very good at scriptural interpretation.– Clarence B
You know I use to not like the rosary for that very reason. But when I had my conversion, scripture came alive for me and started to renew my mind and changed the way I looked at life. Now when I pray the rosary and contemplate on the mysteries of Jesus’s life as I repeat the Hail Mary, Our Lady is actually praying along with me and helping me to understand more about God’s love and His great plan of salvation of which I am included. Contemplation leads to revelation and revelation leads to knowledge and knowledge leads to transformation. God wants us to use our intellect, reason and will in order to know him more. I always experience more peace after saying the rosary.– Nancy M
If Jesus was condemning all forms of repetition in prayer, then we must charge Jesus Himself with praying incorrectly. After all, He repeated the same prayer three times in the Garden of Gethsemane: “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” […] Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, thy will be done.” […] So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words.” (Mt 26:39,42,44)
Ever read the Psalms? They are filled with repetitive prayer. Psalm 136 repeats the phrase “his steadfast love endures forever” 26 times! Worship in heaven is also repetitious: “day and night they never cease to sing, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” (Rev 4:8).– Nick H
The Rosary is a meditation on the life of Jesus. The repetition is meant to take us deeper and deeper into the heart of God. Jesus said “you will know them by their fruit” and a host of Christians who pray the rosary can testify to its fruitfulness in their life, and the lives of others.
Would you like to learn how to pray it?– Mark M
Consider the Parable Jesus told about the persistent widow in Luke 18 – There was a widow who kept coming to the judge and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them.”
So obviously repetition isn’t an issue for Jesus, in fact, He encourages it. What Jesus speaks against is vain repetition. To be vain means to be excessively proud of or concerned about one’s own appearance, qualities, achievements. We should never pray in this way, Amen?– Bob W
Why do you think my prayers are vain? Our Lord repeated three times in the garden for the cup of suffering to pass from Him. Did His Father not hear Him the first time? Please don’t judge me by my repetition, but my sincerity to God.– Troy H
Repetitive words from those you love are wonderful !!! At what point are you tired of hearing “I Love You” from your spouse or children??– Beth S
If I met someone while on the street who says this, I may briefly defend the Rosary by emphasizing Jesus saying vain AND repetitious prayer. I would then ask the person if they spend time with scripture. If they say yes, then I shift to the Lectio Divina pamphlet. I do not want to debate the Rosary with this person. I want to give him/her tools to enrich their faith that come from the Catholic tradition.– David B
The prayers of the rosary are like the background symphony while you meditate on the Scriptural mysteries of the gospel.
Repetitive prayer isn’t a problem, vain repetition is. If you’re sincerely speaking to God it isn’t vain.– Gary G
I would say… thank you for reminding me to pray the rosary not just repeating the words but reliving the life, the passion, the sacrifice and most importantly the love of Jesus Christ for us sinners. Thank you for reminding me to honor the very first person to say ‘Yes’ To the salvation of mankind Mother Mary. For the rosary or any prayer for that matter, should not be done in vain.– Fiel N
That’s not what Christ said! He said “vain repetition as the heathens do.” So not all repetition is vain. He himself prayed the same prayer 3 times in Gethsemane. The angels in heaven pray “Holy holy holy” eternally. What makes repetition vain when it is done AS THE HEATHENS do. And that is repeating prayers as if they were magical incantations to get their god to do what they want. Our disposition in prayer should be to do what God wants. So it isn’t a lesson on repetition but a lesson on our disposition in prayer.– Joby P