There are three ways we can respond.
First, Jesus is not condemning repetitious prayer per se. If he were then he would be condemning himself, since he prayed multiple times, “Father . . . remove this cup . . . not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:39). But that’s absurd.
Furthermore, right after Jesus condemns the “vain repetitions” of the Gentiles, he commands the apostles, “Pray like this . . . Our Father who art in heaven . . .” Does Jesus intend for us to only say it once? Are we forbidden to repeat the Our Father? Of course not.
Finally, if we accept the objector’s interpretation of Matthew 6:7, we would have to condemn the four angels of Revelation 4:8 singing day and night without ceasing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty.” Of course we don’t want to do that!
So what was Jesus condemning?
He was condemning Gentile prayers, which were meaningless or mindless repetitious prayers, as the Greek word battalogesete suggests. The Gentiles recited prayers only to appease their gods. They were, as the Revised Standard Versioh translates it, “empty phrases” having nothing to do with expressing one’s love for and trust in God. They would simply say the words, and that was it—they went their merry way and lived their lives as they wanted. That’s what Jesus is condemning, not repetitious prayer such as we find in the rosary.
Meeting the Protestant Challenge
– Karlo Broussard (Paperback)
Every Catholic has heard the challenge:
“How can you believe that? Don’t you know the Bible says…”
It’s a challenge we have to meet. If we can’t reconcile apparent contradictions between Scripture and Catholic teaching, how can our own faith survive? And if we can’t help our Protestant brothers and sisters overcome their preconceptions about “unbiblical” Catholic doctrines and practices, how will they ever come to embrace the fullness of the Faith?
In Meeting the Protestant Challenge, Karlo Broussard gives you the knowledge and tools you need to answer fifty of the most common Bible-based objections to Catholicism.