|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
6:5-8 It is taken for granted that all who are disciples of Christ pray. You may as soon find a living man that does not breathe, as a living Christian that does not pray. If prayerless, then graceless. The Scribes and Pharisees were guilty of two great faults in prayer, vain-glory and vain repetitions. Verily they have their reward; if in so great a matter as is between us and God, when we are at prayer, we can look to so poor a thing as the praise of men, it is just that it should be all our reward. Yet there is not a secret, sudden breathing after God, but he observes it. It is called a reward, but it is of grace, not of debt; what merit can there be in begging? If he does not give his people what they ask, it is because he knows they do not need it, and that it is not for their good. So far is God from being wrought upon by the length or words of our prayers, that the most powerful intercessions are those which are made with groanings that cannot be uttered. Let us well study what is shown of the frame of mind in which our prayers should be offered, and learn daily from Christ how to pray.
Verse 7. - But when ye pray (προσευχόμενοι δέ). The Revised Version, and in praying, shows that our Lord is only continuing the subject, and not turning to a new one, as in vers. 2, 5, 16. But while he has thus far thought of prayer as an external act, he now speaks of the substance of the prayers offered, the δέ indicating a transition to another aspect of the same subject. Use not vain repetitions; "Babble not much" (Tyndale). The word used (μὴβατταλογήσητε) is probably onomatopoeic of stuttering. The Peshito employs here the same root () as for μογιλάλος, Mark 7:32 (). But from the primary sense of stuttering, βατταλογεῖν, naturally passed to that of babbling in senseless repetitions. As the heathen do (οἱ ἐθνεικοί, Gentiles, Revised Version; Matthew 5:47, note). Thinking that the virtue lies in the mere utterance of the words. Even the Jews came perilously near this in their abundant use of synonyms and synonymous expressions in their prayers (cf. Lightfoot, 'Hor. Hebr.'). Perhaps it was this fact that assisted the introduction of the reading "hypocrites" in B and the Old Syriac. For they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. In the continuance (ἐν) of their external action lies their hope of being fully heard (εισακουσθήσονται).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions,.... Saying the same things over and over again,
as the Heathens do, as the worshippers of Baal, from morning till noon, 1 Kings 18:26. This our Lord observes, to dissuade from such practices, because the Gentiles, who were odious to the Jews, used them, and the Jews were guilty of the same; had they not, there would not have been any need of such advice:
for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking; as did the Jews, who, under pretence of "long prayers", devoured widows' houses; and with whom it is an axiom, that "everyone , that multiplies prayer is heard" (h); and whoever prolongs his prayer, his prayer does not return empty; and he that is long in prayer, his days are prolonged (i): and, according to their canons, every day a man ought to pray eighteen prayers. Moreover, their prayer books abound in tautologies, and in expressing the same things in different words, and by a multiplicity of them.
(h) T. Hieros. Taaniot, fol. 67. 3.((i) Zohar in Exod. fol. 104. 4.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
7. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions—"Babble not" would be a better rendering, both for the form of the word—which in both languages is intended to imitate the sound—and for the sense, which expresses not so much the repetition of the same words as a senseless multiplication of them; as appears from what follows.
as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking—This method of heathen devotion is still observed by Hindu and Mohammedan devotees. With the Jews, says Lightfoot, it was a maxim, that "Every one who multiplies prayer is heard." In the Church of Rome, not only is it carried to a shameless extent, but, as Tholuck justly observes, the very prayer which our Lord gave as an antidote to vain repetitions is the most abused to this superstitious end; the number of times it is repeated counting for so much more merit. Is not this just that characteristic feature of heathen devotion which our Lord here condemns? But praying much, and using at times the same words, is not here condemned, and has the example of our Lord Himself in its favor.
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