Should We Avoid Vain Repetition When We Pray?
As a kid I took seriously the warning in the Bible to avoid vain repetitions 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 not supposed to.Reciting a memorized prayer over and over does not impress God. Click To Tweet
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.
Do you see 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?
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.