Monday, August 4, 2008

Vain and Repetitious Prayer

Once upon at time, I was taught and believed that Catholics prayed "vain and repetitious prayers". Obviously they had to because they relied so much on written prayers - their entire liturgy (ok, maybe I didn't realize this much) was formed using set prayers for given occasions, they prayed the rosary (repeating the Hail Mary), many times they used personal prayer books with written prayers...oh my, how much more could they do?

At the same time, my prayer life was pretty pathetic. As a Protestant, one of my worst habits was my lack of a real, substantial prayer life. It wasn't because I didn't want to have one. I really did. I prayed in the morning, before meals, before bed, during Church services, etc. The real problem was that my prayers were vain and repetitious. I couldn't think of anything except the standard prayer and I would pray the same ones all the time! Even if I had a special intention, I'd just stick it obtusely into my form prayer.

Then I became Catholic. WHAM! It hit me up side the head like a 2X4. The prayers had so much depth, there were so many thousands of them, and they were all so beautiful when you paid attention to the words, focusing you on Christ. I realized that the very Catholic prayers that I thought were so vain actually turned out to kick me out of my own dry repetitious prayer. I especially think about this when I pray the Liturgy of the Hours.

Please Note: I am not taking up the doctrinal question of vain and repetitious here. Thus, I won't go into detail about how the Psalms were prayers of the Faithful, how songs that we sing are prayers, how scripture reading is a form of prayer, how Christ was specifically targeting a Pagan practice when he referred to Vain and Repetitious prayers, etc. All that is for another time I guess.


Anonymous said...

I'm pretty much in agreement with you on this one, too. [Although I probably wouldn't approve of all Catholic prayers in their substance/doctrine, of course.]

But yeah, I thought about this for a long time, and I know a lot of people in the church of Christ are against repeating the Lord's Prayer and what not, but N.T. Wright, an Anglican author and bishop, sort of opened my eyes on this subject. I think repeating a prayer is just like repeating the words of a song. I pray the Lord's Prayer often these days [even the "Thy kingdom come" part (shh)].

Yes, and I also agree that everyone generally has there own formula, which backfire on the "vain repetitions" argument. [And I would argue that repetitions, especially when they're from Jesus, aren't vain in any way, shape or form.]

When I pray publicly, I usually just end up saying the same things in the same way every time. To me, it's almost harder than giving a sermon. :-)

~Joseph the Worker said...

Yeah I never got the disagreement about the "Thy Kingdom Come". First of all, it's a looking forward to Christ's second coming (he is the Kingdom in many ways) but it's also a looking forward to the reuniting of the entire Church in Heaven....the entire Kingdom all together....anyway...