Last week I blogged about saying the Lord’s Prayer each Sunday in church as a kid and my apprehension for doing so. I cited my reason as the phrase “vain repetitions” (KJV) found in Jesus’s warning about how not to pray. The NIV is more colorful in its rendering: “babbling like pagans.”
Though I didn’t get it as a kid, I now know that not all repetition need be in vain. I suppose that just as we can have vain repetition, we can likewise have worthwhile repetition.
So is repeating the Lord’s Prayer vain or worthwhile? I suppose that depends on the person doing the reciting. For some the repetition may be in vain and for others it may be worthwhile.
What I do know is that just a couple verses after Jesus warns against vain repetition and babbling like the pagans when we pray, he teaches us the Lord’s Prayer.
This gives me pause, for it seems like he tells us not to do something and then teaches us how to do what we’re not supposed to do. Is this another of the Bible’s paradoxes?
However, I don’t think Jesus intends us to recite his prayer. I suspect he gives it to us as a model to guide us, not a passage to memorize. That’s what I use the Lord’s Prayer for, not a form to follow verbatim, but an example to steer my words when I communicate with God.
So, yes, I do use the Lord’s Prayer when I pray. I follow it as an outline to inform my prayers, not a refrain to repeat. For if I recite it verbatim, it would indeed become vain repetition—at least for me.
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.