Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist, #48: “Vain Repetitions”

Today, we continue with our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. With this next installment, the Catholic apologist continues his section on matters of “Catholic Life and Practice” as he responds to Protestant accusations that Catholics utilize “Vain Repetitions” of prayer, especially as it applies to the Catholic rosary.


The Roman Catholic church encourages its members to regularly “pray the rosary.” The rosary (Latin: rosarium, “crown of roses”) prayer-string consists of 60 beads and a crucifix. In praying the rosary, a Catholic starts with the crucifix at the end of the dangling string by saying the Apostles’ Creed, followed by saying one Our Father, followed by three Hail Marys, and then one Glory Be/Our Father followed by a Hail, Holy Queen. The Catholic then prays the loop of five sets of ten Hail Marys interspersed by four Glory Be/Our Fathers. Total: 60 beads and 61 prayers. It takes a Catholic around twenty-minutes to “pray the rosary” if they don’t rush through it. Besides the rosary, there are many other examples of repetitive rote prayer used in Catholic “devotions” and liturgies.

Evangelical Protestants are critical of Catholic repetitive rote prayer and cite Matthew 6:7:

“And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.”

Broussard responds to Protestant objections with three arguments:

(1) Broussard states that Jesus’ injunction is not necessarily against repetition of prayers per se, but rather against “mindless” repetition and “the idea that simply multiplying words makes prayers efficacious” (p. 263).

(2) Broussard argues that praying the rosary helps the supplicant to meditate on the mysteries of Christ’s life so that they can have a deeper knowledge of, and a deeper communion with Christ, and that repetition serves that meditation.

(3) Broussard offers the following Biblical passages as proof texts affirming repetitious prayer:

  • Jesus said, “Pray then like this…” (Matthew 6:9-13)
  • Jesus prayed the same prayer several times in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:32-42).
  • Scripture records of the angels in Heaven, “day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” (Revelation 4:8).

Let’s now respond to Broussard.

Point One: To begin with, Roman Catholics have not been taught the genuine Gospel and generally have not trusted in Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone. Does God even hear the prayers of unbelievers? John 9:31 God is omniscient and knows the thoughts of everyone, but is not obligated to respond to the petitions of those who do not accept His Son as Savior by faith alone.

Point Two: Regarding the repetition of the same words and phrases in prayer, God knows the heart and He certainly would accept repeated words and phrases said in sincerity. But the Catholic practice of rote recitation of formulaic, memorized prayers is exactly the type of “mindless” vain repetition that Jesus was referring to. Employing a rosary to successfully “get through” 61 rote prayers reveals the formality and insincerity of the process. From my 27 years in the RCC, I believe it would be fair to say the vast majority of Catholics are uncomfortable praying extemporaneously from the heart; most resort to formulaic prayers like the Hail Mary and the Our Father.

Point Three: The rosary includes 53 Hail Marys, 1 Hail, Holy Queen, and 6 Our Fathers, a good example of how Catholicism focuses so much its piety on Mary.

Hail Mary Prayer

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”

The first sentence of the prayer incorporates two Bible passages, Luke 1:28 and Luke 1:42. The second sentence propagates the RC false teachings of Mary as Mediator and of merited salvation. As we’ve discussed previously, nowhere in the Bible is there an example of a genuine believer praying to anyone other than God.

Conclusion: The rosary is EXACTLY the type of vain, repetitious prayer condemned by Jesus AND a flagrant example of idolatrous Mary worship AND an example of the Roman church’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit.

What does it mean to use vain repetitions in prayer?

Next up: “Wine Is a Mocker”

22 thoughts on “Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist, #48: “Vain Repetitions”

  1. It never ceases to amaze me how creative people can be to defend what they believe. I remember talking to Catholics before and they’ve said that Jesus was simply against prayers repeated without the heart behind it, Now I hear that it is just adding words to impress. But that ignores the formal nature of traditional prayers, because such prayers are specifically prescribed and ordered just like taking medications. Take 3 mg of _____, not exceeding 4 mg, every day.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Will read this later. Answering your question on my blog: I’m super tired and hope to go to garden and reading a booklet for our youth group tomorrow which we will go over and discuss. I also thought it was funny you said ” I didn’t want you to think I was going “Charles Finney” on you! “

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, Finney is very problematic for IFB pastors with his teaching on perfectionism and losing salvation, but they embrace him anyway. Very strange.


    1. Thank you, Crissy! Yes, the rosary is a flagrant example of vain, repetitious “prayer.” Wrong on several levels. Thank you for the encouragement! Only two more chapters to go in this book.
      Thank you and I hope you’re having a blessed weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. RE: Two chapters to go
        Yup, and I have already completed the two drafts. I’m grateful to the Lord for seeing me through this long project and for your support and encouragement!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow didn’t know that much details of the Rosary before! Especially with that diagram. It isn’t Biblical Christianity at all. Good response too; there is a lot of vain repetitions with RC practice here

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, brother! Yup, Broussard’s denial of the rosary being vain repetitious prayer is like a four-year-old with his arm still in the cookie jar denying he’s eating cookies. If the rosary isn’t vain repetitious prayer, then nothing is. And there’s also the anti-Biblical Mary connection.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Next to the heretical views of justification this is as bad as it gets! We are to pray in Christ’s name period. I am NOT against short prayers asking the Holy Spirit for help, wisdom, guidance etc. To add Mary to Trinitarian prayers makes my stomach burn. This is as blasphemous (idolatrous) as it gets and is no different than incantations offered from wiccans, satanist and other Mother Earth type worshipers if I may be so bold. Thank you Papa Tom for your post on this chapter. I have needed a break from reading this alongside Gospel of Rome because it’s just too much. I am praying for you even more with your ministry because it’s just so false.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mandy! I appreciate all of your good comments to which I all concur! As with the previous chapter on rules-righteousness, Broussard employs doublespeak here, denying out of one side of his mouth the very thing he practices, vain repetitions, on the other side. And idolatrous prayers to Mary to boot!
      I appreciate your prayers, Mandy! Yes, dealing with these blatant falsehoods is like wading through deep muck. I doubt few evangelicals are aware of the details of the rosary.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There’s a radio station that I would listen to whenever I visited my mom. For some reason many, many years ago I couldn’t sleep so I tuned my iPod radio to the “Christian” station. It was after 10pm and for HOURS all they played were an endless stream of “Our Fathers”, “Hail Mary” and others. I was astounded and horrified. I only listened because I was curious how long it would last, it was still going well after midnight. What I learned is the more I listened the more anxious I became in the sense that how can/could anyone listen to this? How is this edifying? Mostly I wanted to know why was this normal? I had NO clue this was a Catholic radio station because during the day they played CCM. I have known for a LONG time that Matt Maher was RCC, but didn’t think twice since they played artists such as Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman. I have not listened to the spirit fm since. I am telling you Papa Tom the more these incantations were offered the more unease occurred in my soul. In my mind all I could see was a circle and each prayer being part of a circle, going around and around like a merry go round. I’ll be honest, I cringe when I see rosary beads draped around a persons rear view mirror. I’m all for prayer shawls or blankets but rosary beads, I just can’t. Thank you Papa Tom for your grace and patience with me!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks for sharing your experiences hearing the rosary on the radio. I can relate. I was a Catholic for 27 years, but for some reason I wasn’t drawn to “devotion” to Mary and I don’t believe I ever “said” the rosary, not once. Saying 61 rote prayers in a row had zero appeal for me. Boring beyond belief. Yes, many Catholics believe, as they are taught by the RCC, that saying the rosary is the height of fervent spirituality. Like you, when I channel surf on the radio and TV and happen upon the Catholic channel and people praying the rosary, I am so saddened and revolted.

        RE: grace and patience
        I’m actually very grateful that you “get it,” Mandy. Many evangelicals take the attitude of ignorance (about the RCC) is bliss.


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