“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7).
This command of Christ is an important part of the instructions on prayer in His sermon on the mount (Matthew 6:5–13). These instructions end with what is commonly known as the “Lord’s Prayer.” This prayer was not intended for ritualistic repetition, of course, for Christ clearly told His disciples to pray “after this manner” (v.9), not just to repeat the words. It is ironic, however, that it soon did become a rote prayer of vain repetitions, mechanically uttered.
It is characteristic of most religions that their prayers consist mainly of incantations and recitations of ancient formulas and phrases. In the current New Age movement, eastern mysticism and pagan pantheism have permeated western civilization and so-called Christendom to an alarming degree, with their mantras and other repetitive prayers.
The “Lord’s Prayer” indicates, on the other hand, that our prayers should focus on the will of God and then on our personal needs. We are also exhorted by Paul to “in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). There are so many prayer needs that we surely ought not to waste time on vain repetitions in our prayers.
Perhaps this principle should also be applied to our musical prayers. In recent years, some Christian services have been displacing the great hymns that have blessed many generations of wise and godly Christians with short worship sentiments repeated over and over again, possibly hoping that “they shall be heard for their much (singing).” Whether in prayer or meditation, in singing or in speaking, let us be sure that our offerings to God are substantive and sincere, not mere vain repetitions. HMM