This is one of the topics of the Bible that bothers me and I am writing this post so we can discuss it and if I am wrong in my perspective, I would really like to have it clarified and be corrected. I’m definitely not saying I’m certain that I’m correct on this but that I’m in question of it and would like to talk about it so ultimately I can better understand it and better serve God.
We’re taught to “continue praying” for someone or something over and over, but when we read the verse Matthew 6:7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.“, it would seem Jesus is speaking against it, especially if you read the KJV of it.
The word repetition in this verse comes from the Greek word battologeo, which means “to repeat the same things over and over, to use many idle words, to babble, prate.“
This imposes two different questionable aspects to prayer for me:
Praying without ceasing
In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul commands us to pray without ceasing, but yet somehow he still managed to travel quite a bit, so what does that imply? I would have to believe it would mean to always be mindful of God, talking to Him in your thoughts and not only in a prostrate position with your eyes closed or else the Christian community would never be able to work or drive since it’d require doing so bowed down with closed eyes.
However I’ve seen this verse be used to imply we must pray for long periods of time which would also imply that even if we can say whatever it is we feel in our hearts to say to God in a lesser amount of time in the prostrate or head-bowed form of praying, we should “fill-in” the rest of the time with something else which to me would be “babbling”.
This also would lead to the same thing being prayed over and over, perhaps the words being swapped up just a little to make it not an exact carbon copy, just for the sake of adding length to the prayer, which seems to fall into the verse Matthew 6:7.
I would dare say praying one word beyond what is truly in your heart to ask God for would quickly put you into the category of “babbling”, would it not?
Praying for the same thing over and over
This is another aspect of prayer that troubles me. We’re often taught to keep praying for something or someone until a certain condition is met, which Job seemed to do the same thing and God eventually rebuked him for it, yet He did still bless Job. But the part that bothers me is if we do actually have faith and believe God hears our prayers and will answer them, then why do we keep on asking for the same thing?
Does that not display a lack of faith or that God’s timing in His response isn’t adequate enough for us that we must keep asking for it? For those of us that are parents, surely at one point or another your child has come to you and asked you for something and when you don’t do it immediately, they continue to keep asking for it which eventually irritates the mess out of you and often you reply “I heard you the first time! Quit asking, I will do it in just a moment.” or something similar.
God pretty much said the same thing to Job. The verse Mark 11:24 I think really embraces this: “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you“. Notice the word “received” being past-tense. If you have already received something, why would you keep asking for it unless you don’t believe you received it, thus being a lack of faith?
When looking back on the verses where Jesus healed the sick, He always stated it was because of their faith they were healed, not because they repeatedly asked for it. They only asked Him once.
I can’t help but to sometimes wonder if some prayers aren’t answered because God just gets tired of us asking for the same thing over and over and wants us to instead trust Him when we pray for something and come to Him with a new prayer/conversation so He can answer it as well.
So what are your thoughts?