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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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Our Lord in his sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:7) cautions his followers against using vain repetitions (βαττολογέω ) in prayer. (See PRAYER, FORMS OF). It is well to distinguish that this is not directed against simple repetitions, which may often arise in the fervor and urgency of earnest supplication, but against the vain repetitions of such as think, whether in theory or practice, "that they shall be heard for their much speaking." The idea that a prevailing merit was attached to much speaking in prayer with multitudinous repetitions has been, and is, found in most of the false systems of religion. Perhaps we find it among Baal's worshippers, who "called upon the name of Baal from morning to noon, saying, O Baal, hear us!" (1 Kings 18:26). The practice was certainly common among the classical heathen, and is noticed by some of their more serious writers with disapprobation and laughed at by their satirists. If we may judge by the hymns of Homer, Orpheus, and Callimachus, we may suppose that the pagan prayers were so stuffed up with synonymous epithets and prerogatives of the Deity as to be justly liable to the censure of "vain repetitions." The Jews adopted this and other bad practices, insomuch that it was one of their maxims, "He that multiplies prayer shall be heard." The same idea was inculcated with much earnestness by Mohammed, and is at this day exhibited in full force among his followers. Witness the following from the Mishat-ul-Masabih: "The prophet said, Shall I not teach you an act by which you may attain the greatness of those who have gone before you,i and by which you shall precede your posterity, excepting those who do as you do? Then they said, Instruct us, O prophet of God. He said, Repeat after every prayer Subhan Allah! [O most pure God!] eleven times, and Allaho acber [God is very great] eleven times, and Alhamdo lilldhi [praise to God! eleven times." Compare this puerility with the sublime instructions of our Saviour. But again: "Whoever says Subhan Alldh and Bihamdihi a hundred times in a day, his faults shall be silenced, though they be as great as the waves of the sea. Whoever says, morning and evening, Subhan Allah and Bihamdihi a hundred times, no one will bring a better deed than his on the day of resurrection, except one who should have said like him, or added anything thereto." To these instructions the Mohammedans have been most attentive. There are those among Christians, especially Roman Catholics, who repeat the Lord's Prayer and other forms a great number of times, and vainly think that the oftener the prayer is repeated the more efficacious it is, i.e. if repeated two hundred times it will be twice as good as if repeated only one hundred times. (See the literature in Volbeding, Index Programmatum, p. 33; Hase, Leben Jesu, p. 229.) (See AVE MARIA); (See PATERNOSTER); (See ROSARY)


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Repetition'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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