Saturday, May 16, 2020

If Repeated Prayers are Forbidden by Jesus (Matthew 6:7), why did Jesus Repeat His Prayers (Matthew 26:44)?


Let us look at the original text of Matthew 6:7:
Προσευχόμενοι δὲ μὴ βατταλογήσητε ὥσπερ οἱ ἐθνικοί, δοκοῦσιν γὰρ ὅτι ἐν τῇ πολυλογίᾳ αὐτῶν εἰσακουσθήσονται.
For those who studied Biblical Greek, you will see the greek word Battalogeō.

Battalogeō (verb, subjunctive, aorist, active, 2nd person, plural).

What does this mean?

This was mentioned on page 329 of The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament by Spiros Zodhiates:



If we study closely Matthew 6:7, Jesus condemned the Babbling prayer of pagans.
“He condemns the babbling prayer of the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. He is not criticizing persistence in prayer (see 7:7–11) or repetition, which is biblical and pleasing to God (Dan 3:52–68; Ps 136; Rev 4:8). Rather, Jesus condemns a common pagan practice of reciting divine names and formulas to implore the gods to act on their behalf.” (The Gospel of Matthew (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture) page 105 by Edward Sri , Curtis Mitch)
Even Protestant scholars who made an analysis understood the historical background of Matthew 6:7. 

This is what a Baptist Pastor and President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, John Broadus, in his book, Commentary on Matthew:
“This well represents the practice common in the public worship of some of the heathen, as when the priests of Baal continued from morning until noon to cry: “o Baal, hear us I”, (1 Kings 18:26) and the multitude in the theatre at Ephesus for two hours shouted, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians.”

Even a Protestant scholar, Craig Evans said in his book on page 143 of the New Cambridge Bible Commentary:
“We may have here an allusion to the story of the prophets of Baal crying out all day to their god – who never responded. Evidently they thought that he eventually would heed their prayer if they made enough noise and repeated themselves often (cf. 1 Kings 18:26–29, “they . . . called on the name Baal from morning until noon . . . and no answer . . .and they raved on . . . but there was no voice”).

Aside from Evans, this is what Craig S. Keener, another Protestant scholar said in his book:
“But Jesus not only warns against the “ hypocrites’ “ prayers that invite human rather than divine attention; he criticizes pagan prayers designed to manipulate their deities.” (The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, Craig S. Keener, page 212)


Isn’t the understanding of John Broadus, Craig Evans and Craig Keener regarding Matthew 6:7 far from the thinking of other Protestants? 

Many often use Matthew 6:7 against Catholics praying the Rosary. However, this is far from what Catholics do based on references mentioned earlier. In the books of Protestant scholars, they mentioned the prayers of those who worshiped Baal during ancient times. In other words, Jesus condemned the “babble” prayers or those that are worthless and often repeated.  


Are all Repetitive Prayers useless or called “Babble”? 

Here are what Protestant scholars said: 

“Not all repetition is babble. While in spiritual agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus Himself ‘prayed the third time, saying the same words” (Matt. 26:44) (Exegetical Commentary on Matthew, page 54, Spiros Zodhiates).


"(1) Babbling-tautology. It is not all repetition in prayer that is here condemned, but babbling. Christ himself, prayed, saying the same words (ch. 26.44), out of a more than ordinary fervour and zeal, Luke 22.44" (Zondervan NIV, Matthew Henry, Commentary).


"Jesus is not condemning prayer any more than he is condemning almsgiving (v.2) or fasting (v.16). Nor is he forbidding all long prayers or all repetition. He himself prayed at length (Luke 6:12), repeated himself in prayer (Matt 26:44; unlike Ecclus 7:14!), and told a parable to show his disciples that “they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1)" (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, page 166 by Matthew by D.A. Carson).


According to the analysis of Protestant Bible scholars, it showed that Jesus also repeated His prayers (Matthew 26:44) and not all repetition is Babble.

It is traditional for Jews to repeat the Shema at least twice a day (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)


According to Rabbi Professor Herbert Basser and Marsha B Cohen in their book, The Gospel of Matthew and Judaic Traditions on page 182:
“Mishnah Menaḥot concludes with a very fine exegesis in which it is said that the burnt offering of a large animal, the burnt-offering of a small bird, and the meal offering, in spite of the difference in cost and quality of each, nonetheless have in equal measure a “savor pleasing to God” (Lev 1:9, 1:17, 2:9); for which reason the exegesis concludes with this exhortation: “It is all the same whether one does much or little, only let a person direct his mind  to heaven” (m. Menaḥ. 13:11). Prayer came to be known as “service of the heart.”25 B. Taʿanit 2a finds the biblical injunction “You shall serve God with your whole heart (Deut 11:13)” to refer to prayer.” 



You can repeat prayers as long as they do not go against God’s teachings. Jesus warned against praying to impress others or using “vain repetition.”  Don't pray like the hypocrites because Jesus knew that they were not praying from their hearts. 

Remember, God rejects lip service. Jesus reminds us to engage our "hearts" when we pray. 
"This people honors me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me"(Matthew 15:8)




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