May 13 Meaningless Repetition: False Prayer Content

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.—Matt. 6:7

If we’re honest, all of us have been guilty of repetitive prayers—before meals, at prayer meetings, before bed—with little or no thought to what we are saying or how God feels when He hears us do that. But such prayers are offensive to God and should be to us as well.

We should understand, however, that Jesus here is not forbidding the repetition of genuine requests. In His parable of the midnight visit, Jesus pointed to the persistent man as a model of the believer’s persistent prayer to God. In another parable, the Lord praised the godly widow’s persistence before the ungodly judge: “Will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?” (Luke 18:7). Paul asked God three times to remove his thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7–8).

Jesus Himself could be persistent in prayer. In the garden of Gethsemane, He pleaded, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39). Christ prayed this prayer a second time, and again He “prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more” (v. 44).

Sincere, honest repetition of needs and praises before God is not wrong or ineffective. It is the mindless, indifferent repeating of tired, cliché-filled “prayers” that is not pleasing to Him. God wants our hearts and our minds properly engaged when approaching His throne.


What would enliven your set times of prayer, transforming them into fresh, expressive, genuine moments with God? Even if the same words and requests are made, what could you do to make them real and in-the-moment?[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 142). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

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