"But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him." MAT 6:7-8.
The absence of vain repititions in ur prayers is one of the principles Jesus teaches in our text. "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. [Use a short prayer] Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him."
The word vain as used in our text means, "Empty of substance, i.e., more showy than valuable," according to Webster's Christian series. When Jesus says, "Use not vain repetitions," He is saying that we should not use a repetitious speech that is showy. Rather, we should use a sincere prayer from the heart. The word vain captures the exact meaning of the text in a very precious way.
The heathen used vain repetitions in their prayers that were more showy than valuable. Let's look at an example of how the heathen used vain repetitions.
We find that in 1KI 18:26, "And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made."
This was their whole prayer before Baal: "O Baal, hear us, O Baal, hear us." They used that vain repetition from morning until noon. Repetition, repetition. There was no answer. They leaped upon the altar. They put on a show; they put on a scene, and they kept crying, "O Baal, hear us."
Now I ask you a question. How often have we found that we keep saying, "O Lord, O Lord," as a byword to fill in while we are thinking of what next to say when we are laying something before the Lord? That is vain repetition. There isn't any substance in such a use of the Lord's name. It is absolutely nothing but a byword.
That is what these people were doing when they repeated, "O Baal." It was vain repetition. Do you realize that we sometimes use God's name in vain when we keep saying "O Lord" while we are trying to think of what to say next in prayer? We are often prone to say "O Lord" or "O God" or "Our Father" as a transition phrase between thoughts.
The heathen used vain repetitions in their prayers as we find in ACT 19:34, "But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out [See the vain repetitions], Great is Diana of the Ephesians." Jesus said not to use vain repetitions as the heathen do. What we say should be said from our heart, and it doesn't have to be repeated, and repeated, and repeated. Don't use vain repetitions!
Rosaries are recited with the vain belief there is credit gained by much repetition. There are people who will go over and over their rosaries believing they are gaining credit before the Lord with repetitions. Jesus said, "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking."
Jesus is not saying that all repetition is wrong. We find repetitions in Scripture; all repetition is not bad. He is warning against vain repetitions that are, "Empty of substance, i.e., more showy than valuable." Consider these three examples:
First, the law of God is referred to in Psalm 119 by the use of eight different words, i.e., law, testimonies, ways, precepts, statutes, commandments, judgments, and Word. By the use of those eight words, there is a reference to the law of God in every verse except four in Psalm 119.
Second: we find repetition in Psalm 136. Every one of its 26 verses end with, "...for his mercy endureth forever." This is repetition, but not vain repetition, i.e., more showy than valuable. It is an awesome, holy, reverential reference to the mercy of the Lord.
Thirdly: the Psalmist vowed before the Lord he would eternally repeat his song of God's mercy in PSA 89:1-2, "I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations. For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens." David vowed he would repeat, and repeat, the mercies of his God.
David repeated his praise for God's mercy every morning to remember His mercies and to come with gratitude. Such repetition is not vain. In PSA 59:16-17 we read, "But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble. Unto thee, O my strength, will I sing: for God is my defence, and the God of my mercy."
The Lord is not saying all repetition is wrong, but vain repetition is wrong. A man who offered a simple prayer every morning became exercised with our text, fearing that the Lord was displeased with such repetition. One morning as he was deeply exercised about this, his child got up and greeted him with, "Good morning, Daddy." The Lord taught the man through that example. He was not tired of hearing that greeting from his child every morning. You see, it was not vain or empty. Every time that little child said, "Good morning, Daddy," it was a refreshment to her father.
A humble, intelligent prayer will always gain a hearing with our Heavenly Father. When we pray let us avoid vain repitions and pray with a God-honoring repentant heart overflowing with thanksgiving.