A Defense of Repetitive Prayer

Repetitive prayer is one of the most popular types of prayer in the Catholic Church.  We perform repetitive prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours, the holy rosary, and the Divine Mercy chaplet, just to name a few.  Repetitive prayer is not nearly as popular in other Christian denominations, however.

Many Christians find repetitive prayer to be an abomination and explicitly forbidden in the Bible. Many Christians point to this verse in Scripture:

“In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.” Matthew 6:7

But one must analyze the entirety of the Bible in order to understand if this verse explicitly forbids repetitive prayer or something else entirely. Let’s analyze the actions of Jesus in the Garden at Gethsemane:

Gethsemane by Carl Bloch

“He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) “Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” (Matthew 26: 42) “He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again.” (Matthew 26:44)

As you’ll notice, Jesus prayed three times in the Garden, and each time he prays the same prayer.  His words are heartfelt and intense.  They are not empty babble, the repeating of the same prayer emphasizes the intensity of the prayer of Christ to the Father. So, Christ himself clearly performed repetitive prayer!

Side Note: Some Protestants argue that, “Yes, Christ performed repetitive prayer, but it was not 'form prayer'. Form prayer is to be rejected.”  Again, one need only to look to the Catholic Bible in order to see the clear error in this reasoning, as Christ himself gave us a form prayer as the method with which we are to pray:

“This is how you are to pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:9-13

Repetitive prayer done correctly is clearly far more than empty babble.  The challenge is to pray intensely in repetition.  If we are not focused on the words we are saying and what they mean, then our prayer could certainly become empty and devoid of any real meaning.  What are your thoughts on repetitive prayer?  Do you enjoy praying such repetitive prayers as the rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet?

Copyright 2012 Kathleen Wellman