Matthew 6:7-8. When ye pray, use not vain repetitions A multiplicity of words without meaning, or uttered without seriousness, reverence for God, sincerity, or faith. The original word, βαττολογησητε , is derived from βαττος , a stutterer, or foolish talker, and λογος , speech. The former word was the name of a certain prince of the Cyrenæans, who was a stammerer, and also of a babbling foolish poet, who frequently repeated the same things, and whose rhapsodies were full of tautologies. Our interpretation of the words, Use not vain repetitions, Dr. Campbell thinks is too confined, and does not include all that is meant to be signified by our Lord’s expression, which, he says, comprehends “every thing, in words, that may justly be called vain, idle, or foolish.” The word πολυλογια , much speaking, applied to the same fault in the latter part of the verse, is a further elucidation of its meaning. As the heathen do When invoking their false gods: for they think they shall be heard In the prayers which they address to them; for their much speaking Thus we find the priests of Baal crying from morning till noon, O Baal, hear us. Hence it appears, partly at least, what the repetitions were which Christ forbade his disciples to use in their prayers, namely, such as proceeded from an opinion that they should be heard for their much speaking, after the manner of the heathen. This opinion, implying a denial of the power, or the knowledge, or the goodness of God, is highly injurious to him; and therefore repetitions in prayer, flowing from it, are highly culpable, as also is the repeating of any words without meaning them, or the expressing in words any petitions or thanksgivings which do not proceed from the heart. Therefore, we should be extremely careful, in all our prayers, to mean what we say, and to desire what we ask, from the very bottom of our hearts. The vain and heathenish repetitions which we are here warned against, are very common, and a principal cause why so many who profess religion are a disgrace to it. Indeed, all the words in the world, however well chosen and uttered in prayer, are not equivalent to one holy desire; and the very best prayers are but vain repetitions, if they are not the language of the heart. But let it be observed, on the other hand, that repetitions proceeding from a deep sense of our wants, and a vehement desire of divine grace, and the spiritual blessings flowing therefrom, or connected therewith, are by no means prohibited here by the Lord Jesus, otherwise indeed he would condemn his own practice, Matthew 26:39-44. For your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before you ask him We do not pray to inform God of our wants. Omniscient as he is, he cannot be informed of any thing which he knew not before: and he is always willing to relieve them. The chief thing wanting is, a fit disposition on our part to receive his grace and blessing. Consequently, one great office of prayer is to produce such a disposition in us; to exercise our dependance on God; to increase our desire of the things we ask for; to make us so sensible of our wants, that we may never cease wrestling till we have prevailed for the blessing.
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