Our Lord forbade vain, repetitious prayer. It was the habit of many at the time to “heap up words,” on the belief that God would more likely hear them and answer their prayers. But God hears us just fine the first time. Jesus warns that we will not be heard merely for using many words (Matthew 6:7), but for what is in our hearts. Our choice of words is far less important than what is in our hearts.
Carefully worded prayers help us to focus our thoughts, and are very important in certain times and places, such as liturgy. In private, what we say and even how we say it is far less important. The Rosary, however, is an example of a carefully structured prayer/litany that can be extremely powerful if it’s used properly. We must be properly disposed to it, have the right intentions for it, concentrate fully on what we are saying and upon the mysteries we contemplate. The Rosary is easy to learn, but difficult to master.
There are a number of examples of efficacious, repetitive prayer throughout the Bible. See, for example, Psalm 136 (Psalm 135 in the Douay-Rheims, due to a different numbering methodology), where the phrase “for His mercy endures forever” is repeated 27 times. In the third chapter of Daniel (3:56-90), when Nabuchodnosor cast Sidrach, Misach, and Abdenago into the fiery furnace, they repeated “bless the Lord” and “praise and exalt Him above all forever” until the king relented and drew them out, utterly baffled at their having been spared from the flames. Recall too the tax collector and Pharisee in Luke 18:13: Which of the two “went home justified,” the one who tithed and fasted and thanked God for not being like the others, or the one who beat his breast and kept saying over and over, “O God, be mercifiul to me a poor sinner?”
Are the angels of Revelation 4:8 wrong for chanting “Holy, Holy, Holy”, etc., for all eternity? Remember, it was our Lord Himself who in the garden at Gethsamane kept repeating the same words, according to Matthew 26:44.
It’s not the repetition, but the vanity that is wrong, for God does not merely listen to our words, but looks into our heart and knows what’s there.
Prayer must not be empty words, but a sincere act of faith, whether we pray out of repentance, thanksgiving, for an answer to a troubling question, for healing, or anything else. Even the phrase “I love you” repeated merely out of habit to your spouse loses its meaning when there’s little or no sincerity behind it. Prayer is the same way! Therefore, when you pray, mean what you say. Don’t just mouth the words.
For many of us who pray the Rosary, it becomes a “Holy Hour” (a “chaplet” is a third of the Rosary, and is the common daily method of praying it), when all our thoughts are focused on God the Son, His Blessed Mother, and indeed God the Father Himself and all the gifts He has bestowed upon us. If we pray it recklessly, it’s an hour spent in vain; but if we pray it as we love the Lord our God—with “all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind”—it is an hour very pleasing to the Lord.