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Why the Rosary Isn’t “Vain Repetitions”


Jesus says, "Use not vain repetitions as the heathens do” (Matt. 6:7, King James Version). Doesn’t this prove that Catholics are wrong in praying the rosary?


There are three ways we can respond.

First, Jesus is not condemning repetitious prayer per se. If he were then he would be condemning himself, since he prayed multiple times, “Father . . . remove this cup . . . not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:39). But that’s absurd.

Furthermore, right after Jesus condemns the “vain repetitions” of the Gentiles, he commands the apostles, “Pray like this . . . Our Father who art in heaven . . .” Does Jesus intend for us to only say it once? Are we forbidden to repeat the Our Father? Of course not.

Finally, if we accept the objector’s interpretation of Matthew 6:7, we would have to condemn the four angels of Revelation 4:8 singing day and night without ceasing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty.” Of course we don’t want to do that!

So what was Jesus condemning?

He was condemning Gentile prayers, which were meaningless or mindless repetitious prayers, as the Greek word battalogesete suggests. The Gentiles recited prayers only to appease their gods. They were, as the Revised Standard Versioh translates it, “empty phrases” having nothing to do with expressing one’s love for and trust in God. They would simply say the words, and that was it—they went their merry way and lived their lives as they wanted. That’s what Jesus is condemning, not repetitious prayer such as we find in the rosary.

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