Matthew 6:7 is the seventh verse of the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament and is part of the Sermon on the Mount. This verse continues the discussion on the proper procedure for praying.
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
The World English Bible translates the passage as:
In praying, don’t use vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their much speaking.
For a collection of other versions see Bible Gateway Matthew 6:7
The term translated as "vain repetitions" is battalogein. This word is unknown outside this verse appearing in none of the contemporary literature. It might be linked to the Greek term for babbling, or it might also be derived from the Hebrew batel, vain. It is often assumed to be a related to the word polugein, and thus a reference to a large quantity of words.
This verse moves away from condemning the hypocrites to condemning the Gentiles. Matthew never makes clear who these Gentiles are, though pagan prayers to Baal and other gods are mentioned in the Old Testament. In Luke's version of this verse, found at Luke 11:2, it is not the Gentiles who are condemned but "the rest of men."
France notes that in this era Gentile prayer was portrayed as repeated incantations that had to be perfectly recited, but where the spirit and understanding of the prayer was secondary. Fowler states that the Jews believed the pagans needed to incessantly repeat their prayers, because their false gods would not answer them. The followers of the true God had no need to repeat their prayers as God would hear them the first time. Schweizer presents an alternate view. He does not feel battalogeo is a reference to repetition, but to nonsense. He argues that the Jews of that era felt that the pagans had forgotten the true name of God, and that their prayers were thus filled with long lists of meaningless words in an attempt to ensure the true name of God would at some point be mentioned.
This verse is not generally seen as a condemnation of repetitive prayer. Jesus himself repeats prayers, such as at Matthew 26:44, and in two verses he gives a prayer to be repeated. Rather this verse is read as a condemnation of rote prayer without understanding of why one is praying. Protestants such as Martin Luther have used this verse to attack Catholic prayer practices such as the use of rosaries.
- Luz, Ulrich. Matthew 1-7: A Commentary. trans. Wilhlem C. Linss. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortess, 1989.
- France, R.T. The Gospel According to Matthew: an Introduction and Commentary. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985.
- Fowler, Harold. The Gospel of Matthew: Volume One. Joplin: College Press, 1968
- Schweizer, Eduard. The Good News According to Matthew. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975
- Hendriksen, William. The Gospel of Matthew. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1976
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