Why do Catholics Say/Repeat Prayers?

Why do Catholics Say/Repeat Prayers? – The second in our series of Catechesis 

Why do Catholics say prayers or repeat set prayers? After all, in yesterdays article, I said that prayer is  our personal relationship with God. Relationships don’t work by learning things by heart and using scripts for conversations, but Catholics have so many prayers they keep repeating, like the Rosary, or the prayers during the Mass!

Well, it’s true that relationships and conversations don’t work with scripts, but after all is said and done, we are creatures of habit. We repeat things we say several times in  our conversations with people as well. For instance, phone calls usually begin with a ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’. When a husband says “I love you” to his wife of 20 years, she doesn’t say, “That’s so boring. Say something new!”

It is true that in our personal prayer, we don’t need to stick to set prayers; we can express ourselves to God however we feel, even without words. However, we also have to keep in mind that God Himself has given us a set prayer. Jesus taught us the Our Father, the prayer that not just Catholics, but practically every Christian knows and prays!

So why the need for these set prayers? Prayer is not just about us expressing ourselves to God; it’s also about opening ourselves to God and directing our hearts towards the Truth, and set prayers help with this. For example, when we ‘hail Mary’, we are acknowledging Her dignity as Queen and as the Mother of God.

The family that prays together stays together and we, as the (Catholic) Church, are the Family of God. Our relationship with God also binds us in relationships with one another which is why community worship and prayer is important. It would be complete chaos if everyone were praying their own prayers individually during the Mass. To pray together, we need set prayers so that we can all pray as one.

Vain repetition is a problem, but repetition isn’t. The next time you pray a set prayer, try paying attention to the words.

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3 thoughts on “Why do Catholics Say/Repeat Prayers?”

  • An absolute fact Fr. Warner. So well justified in simple words and examples.

    I must add, very humbly that I have noticed that many of our brethren are unable to get into the mode of praying or expressing their gratitude in their own words. Somehow it seems they are at ease to say prayers that have been taught or are readily available.

    I don’t know if that is comparable to the one who wishes and even attempts to sing hyms loudly in the Church even though he or she is out of tune. However the appreciable thing is they wish to sing in Praise of God..

    Thankyou and God Bless you Fr. Warner 🙏🙏

  • A nice example of vain repetition is seen in 1 Kings 18 where we read the account of Elijah and the prophets of Ba’al. The prophets of Ba’al keep calling out to their god thinking that if they keep repeating their prayers, he will hear them eventually. This explains why they get increasingly more graphic in their approach.

    [They] called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

    I think we can come close to this when we think that we need to pray more to get something, as if it depended on us and how much we were praying and not on God’s power. But maybe I’m wrong here.

    For us, I think the repetition is more for us. In the Old Testament, repetition serves to remind the people what God has done for them in the past so that they remain faithful. I’ve seen that many of our traditional prayers do more than give us words to ask God for something. The texts have some form of teaching as well. I see this especially with novenas where the prayers to a saint often include details of the saint’s life and so I get to learn more about the saint I’m praying to and hopefully be inspired to follow his/her example. Moreover, we see Jesus repeating his prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane.

    I’m loving this series father! Just finished reading all three of your posts.


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