Is Repetitive Prayer Okay for Christians? What about “Vain Repetitions” in Matthew 6:7?

Repetitive means to repeat over and over, continuously or constantly. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says to “Pray continually,” but Matthew 6:7 says to "do not keep on babbling" and "use not vain repetitions." The “vain repetition” Jesus was referring to was faithless prayers.
Danielle Bernock
Is Repetitive Prayer Okay for Christians? What about “Vain Repetitions” in Matthew 6:7?

Repetitive Prayer Definition

Repetitive means to repeat over and over, continuously or constantly.Now let’s rephrase the question using this definition: “Is continuous prayer or constant prayer okay for Christians?”

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray continually,”so the answer is clearly yes. But if it’s so clear, why do we ask if repetitive prayer okay? The question arises because of something Jesus said.

What Jesus Said about Prayer

Jesus said, “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7, KJV).

It’s interesting that we tend to define vain by the word repetition instead of the other way around. By doing this we misunderstand what Jesus was saying. The point He was conveying was that the repetition was vain, or empty.

Vain Repetition Definition

In the original language (Greek), “vain repetition” in Matthew 6:7 is a single word. In Strong’s concordance (#945) it defines the word as “to prate tediously.” To prate means to talk excessively and pointlessly or, as the NIV translation says, to babble. Another definition is to utter empty or foolish talk.

Pagans or heathens do not have faith in God, so their prayers are empty or void of faith. It doesn’t matter how long or short you pray; if it’s empty, it’s vain. Repeating such emptiness is pointless. The “vain repetition” Jesus was referring to was faithless prayers.

Useful Repetition

People of faith often repeat what they believe. In Psalm 136 David continually repeated the same phrase, “His love (or mercy) endures forever.” We repeat what we believe. 2 Corinthians 4:13 says, “It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak.”

Repetition is also how we learn. It’s how we train our minds to align with our hearts. As children repeat questions until they understand, we repeat the promises of God until they’re etched on our soul.

Jesus isn’t concerned with repetition in itself. His interest is in us having faith. In Luke 18:8 He asks, “when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” You can use repetition to grow your faith. How?

1. Pray in Faith

When you pray, believe that God is hearing you. Talk to Him as if He’s real because He is. Jesus went on to say how the Father knows what you need and then taught his disciples how to pray.

What is called “The Lord’s Prayer” or “The Our Father” is the pattern Jesus used to teach His disciples. This prayer can be prayed either mindlessly or in faith. The difference is in the heart of the one praying.

2. Check Your Heart

Sometimes people get into a habit with prayer and it becomes vain repetition. For example, when they repeat written prayers by rote, or the words “Father” or “Jesus” mindlessly. To check yourself, listen to how you pray. Do you repeat those words or other phrases mindlessly, or are you using them intentionally?

Consider when you talk to a friend, do you repeat their name over and over? Is your prayer a conversation where you’re talking to the Lord God who loves you endlessly, or are you performing a speech trying to sound spiritual?

God is always and forever interested in your heart. If you discover you’re performing, simply stop, apologize, and begin talking to Him again. He’s all ears. Repetitive prayer full of faith is not only okay, it’s a desire in the heart of our God.

Danielle Bernock is an international, award-winning author. Her works include: Emerging With Wings: A True Story of Lies, Pain, And The LOVE that Heals, A Bird Named Payn, and Love’s Manifesto. Her new book Because You Matter: How to Take Ownership of Your Life so You Can Really Live will be released fall 2019. For more information or to connect with Danielle https://www.daniellebernock.com/

Photo Credit: Thinkstock/ipopba


Originally published July 26, 2019.