Y’shua spoke of this just once, I believe, as it is recorded, but it has influenced many to believe that memorized prayer is wrong. I don’t believe that is what he meant. When he said do not do as the “pagans” do, I would like to know the practices of pagans in that area of the world. He would have been aware of Buddhism and Hinduism and the Egyptian cosmology, as well as indigenous faiths from Africa, so what was he most likely to have been referring to?
One of the things he was NOT referring to was the repetition of memorized prayers said daily in earnest. He was specific that this was a pagan practice, And since it is fairly obvious there are other places where he was deliberately misquoted, I do wonder what he really said there . . . . . . .regardless, repeating formal prayers was not what he meant. The Shema is repeated 3 times a day by the devout among his fellows and is a beautiful prayer.
Cover your eyes with your right hand and say:
Sh’ma Yis-ra-eil, A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu, A-do-nai E-chad.
Ba-ruch sheim k’vod mal-chu-to l’o-lam va-ed.
V’a-hav-ta eit A-do-nai E-lo-he-cha,
V’ha-yu ha-d’va-rim ha-ei-leh,
A-sher a-no-chi m’tsa-v’cha ha-yom, al l’va-ve-cha.
V’shi-nan-tam l’-va-ne-cha, v’di-bar-ta bam
Uk-shar-tam l’ot al ya-de-cha,
v’ha-yu l’to-ta-fot bein ei-ne-cha.
Uch-tav-tam, al m’zu-zot bei-te-cha, u-vish-a-re-cha.
There is more to it than this brief paragraph, but this is the transliteration of a prayer said morning, noon and night among the Ivrit.
Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.
(Praised be the name of the glory of God’s sovereignty for ever and ever)
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead; inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
If, then, you obey the commandments that I enjoin upon you this day, loving the Lord your God and serving Him with all your heart and soul, I will grant the rain for your land in season, the early rain and the late. You shall gather in your new grain and wine and oil–I will also provide grass in the fields for your cattle–and thus you shall eat your fill. Take care not to be lured away to serve other gods and bow to them. For the Lord’s anger will flare up against you, and He will shut up the skies so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its produce; and you will soon perish from the good land that the Lord is giving you. Therefore impress these My words upon your heart and in your soul, bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead, and teach them to your children–reciting them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up; and inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates– to the end that you and your children may endure, in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give to them, as long as there is a heaven over the earth.
So, the refusal to say repeated prayers or the accusation that the rosary or other uses of prayer beads are vain repetitions misses the mark. Saying the “Our Father” as often as you want to say it is NOT vain repetition, at least not if you say it mindfully when you repeat it.
I believe that that indeed was what the Master was referring to, repetition of words without contemplating in your heart the meaning of them each time you say them. If you will refer to the Sermon on the Mount it is inescapable that the Rabboni felt that words have a power of their own, and saying words without truly contemplating in your heart their meaning in your life and the way you live would have irritated him a bit. Don’t do that, say your prayers mindfully and focus on Spirit when you pray. I do believe that’s all that was meant by that, nothing more, nothing less.