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”