Vain repetition versus consistency in prayer. │© Fola Daniel Adelesi

A few days back at a Bible Study meeting, a question came up. It was from a lady who wanted to know if you could keep going back to God in prayer to keep talking about something you have asked from God that he is yet to do. Can you ask for something repeatedly in the place of prayer? That was the simple question. Amazingly, as simple as the question sounds, it got some very interesting answers which is one of the reasons I thought I should write about it now and this can get to many more people with clear pictures and references from the Bible.
The first answer which was also controversial in the sense that it came with a verse of the Bible that was misinterpreted is my main concern. Someone stood up and quoted Matthew 6:7 which says ‘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.’ He then said since the Bible says we should not use vain repetitions then it means that it is wrong to repeat what you want in the place of prayer and that what you should do is to ask once while every other thing should just be thanks giving. He was right about giving thanks in advance for whatever you have asked from God. It is one sure way to get answers from God but it was very wrong to have quoted the scripture above as the proof of repetition when you are in the place of prayer.
When this brother was also quoting, where he missed it was that he only quoted, ‘do not use vain repetitions…’ he did not complete it with ‘…as the heathen do.’ I then stood up immediately to say that we must not get things wrong. when Jesus was talking about vain repetition here he was mainly talking about Pharisees and Sadducees who always wanted to pray in the public places so as to impress other people. They wanted people to hear their prayers and to think that they were the most righteous people. Those were the people he was talking to.
Is there proof from the scripture that children of God can go back to God in the place of prayer to consistently ask for something? The answer is yes. The interesting part is that some of the answers in the Bible even involved Jesus, the one in whose name we have to pray, directly. My first answer was about the parable of the wicked Judge in the Bible which can be found in Luke 18. Verse 1 of Luke 18 says, ‘Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart…’ This was Jesus speaking here saying men ALWAYS ought to pray and NOT TO LOSE HEART.’ Jesus told us about a woman here in the later verses who consistently went to the Judge until the Judge was frustrated and gave the woman what she wanted.
I also cited the example in the case of Daniel who prayed about something but the answer did not come until twenty one days later. When you Check Daniel 9 from verse 1 – 23, it was Daniel’s prayers all through. Then in verse 23 we heard the voice of the angel Gabriel who said, ‘at the beginning of your prayers the commandment went forth.’ When the angel says the commandment went forth at the beginning of the prayers it means that the answer did not arrive immediately. Daniel continued to pray until the answer arrived.
Later that day when I thought about the matter alone, I remembered the story that was told in the Bible that a certain woman came to Jesus asking him to heal her child. At first, Jesus did not answer the woman. That was enough for the woman to give up and return to where she came from. She stayed. She persisted. When she persisted Jesus made it worse by saying, ‘it is not right to give the food of the children (privileges of the chosen nation of Israel) to dogs (gentile or unbelieving nations). That sounded like a great insult. The woman still did not give up. She responded to Jesus by saying, ‘even the dog eats of the crumbs that fall of the table.’ At that point Jesus said, ‘what a great faith?’ Jesus no longer had a choice but to heal her child. That was consistence in prayer which is different from vain repetition.
You also need to know that the idea of vain repetition was about people showing off in prayer. People who wanted to prove that they were righteous. It was about people who would claim that they are praying and will disturb all the people around them. It had to do with some form of self righteousness as well. When you check all the prayer examples cited as that of being consistent, you will see that they were people who had genuine issues in their lives that they really wanted God to take away. One of the answers that also came during the interactive session was about Jesus himself. He took his disciples to go and pray with him. The Bible says Jesus went in the first time to go and pray. He came out to check the disciples and they were already sleeping. He woke them up and went back. In all of these we were made to understand that Jesus was saying the same thing in the place of prayer. Was Jesus involved in vain repetition?
One good question I also asked before ending my contribution was, ‘if for instance you prayed to have a child and the child does not come in the first year, do you stop praying?’ the chorus answer I got was no. let’s not mix things up and turn the Bible upside down. When you have genuine issues that bother your soul, you can go to God in prayer and stay in prayer while also using thanksgiving to prevail.
There is indeed vain repetition but it is not the same as consistent prayer! Even the Bible says that the effectual, fervent prayers of the righteous availeth much. Another version says it makes much power available. Even another one says, ‘The heartfelt supplication of a righteous man exerts a mighty influence. (WNT)’ Keep praying and keep prevailing!

Fola Daniel Adelesi
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