Christian Living

Should We Avoid Vain Repetition When We Pray?

Pray with Intension

As a kid I took seriously the warning in the Bible to avoid vain repetition when we pray. Even at a young age I knew that reciting a memorized prayer over and over did not impress God. In fact I suspected it sorely vexed him.

Given this I was highly critical of my church for spewing forth the Lord’s Prayer in rote unison each Sunday morning. I’d wag my head at their babbling.

Though I’d participate, I hoped God knew that in my heart I didn’t go along with their repetition.

Gee, don’t they read their Bible to know they’re not supposed to do this?

They so ingrained this habit in me that all someone needs to do is begin droning “Our Father…” and I’ll jump in without the slightest hesitation.

The church has programmed me to perpetuate their vain repetition—even though I know I’m supposed to avoid vain repetition .

So, then, it will surprise you to know that each morning I say the Prayer of Jabez:

“Oh, that You would bless me indeed,
and enlarge my territory,
that Your hand would be with me,
and that You would keep me from evil,
that I may not cause pain!” (NKJV)

But I don’t repeat this simple little prayer every morning because I think God needs to hear it again. With him, once is enough.

I say this prayer every morning because I need to hear it again. I need to remember what this prayer says and to consider ways that God has answered it in the past 24 hours—or what I may have done to thwart it.

Then when I have duly reminded myself, I add an addendum that often goes something like this: “Thank you God for hearing my prayer and answering it: in the past, in the present, and in the future.”

That’s a prayer worth repeating.

Consider is there’s value in saying the Lord’s Prayer or Prayer of Jabez. If your church recites the Lord’s Prayer in unison each week, what do you think about it?

[Matthew 6:7, 1 Chronicles 4:9-10]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

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2 replies on “Should We Avoid Vain Repetition When We Pray?”

Once a month, before the Lord’s Supper, our church recites The Nicene Creed in unison, I believe it is heartfelt on both our parts. I used to daily recite the Prayer of Jabez and I’m wondering why I ever stopped for I STILL need it too. Hmmmmmm…

My daily repetitious prayer of late goes something like, “Good morning Lord. I love you, but I know I would love You even more if I knew You better. Please reveal Yourself to me even more today as I study Your Word and listen to Your voice.” BUT, I don’t say it vainly. It’s what I need to hear each day. Something someone once said pricked my heart. They asked, “How I would like it if my kids woke up each morning and proceeded to ignore me?” Ever since, I’ve made it my practice to greet Him each morning before I even open my eyes!

I am familiar with vain repetitious prayers though. I think as a child I could bless my food in 5 seconds with “Bless us oh Lord for these Thy gifts…” and I believe I may have set a record (had I ever admitted it) to saying the rosary at lightning speed (even though to anyone listening, it would have been unrecognizable as English.)

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