Sunday, 6 July 2014


(running a bit late with this post sorry!) 

Stammer speak

Matthew 6: 7-8

This is another of those verses of which EVERY translation differs.

Here's a word for word translation:

(when or while cos present participle) Praying and not STAMMERSPEAK (N.B. Aor. Subj.)
like the pagans they seem to think for that in a manyword of them they will be heeded.

Not therefore make similar to them

knows for the father of yours what need you have before of the (need?) you to ask him.

This verse is often used to criticize the devotional practise of repeated prayers and mantras and similar spiritual tools by Catholics Hindus Orthodox and Buddhist. More about that in a moment.

When praying do not stammerspeak. This usually gets translated as empty prayers or vain repetitions as the KJV phrases it but the verb literally means stammerspeak!

We know from Aristophanes and Attic dramas that invocations of gods included repeting names and syllables. Io! Io! Etc.Why say stammer speak? Was it a popular insult directed towards Pagans by Jews of that time?

Were some jews using prayers that involved repeating epiphets of the divine?

Perhaps the point is not simply that repetitions are wrong but meaningless repetitions.

The Jesus Prayer devotional practise involving repeating one short prayer over and over again and has been discouraged by some writers and lauded by others.

The point of such repetitions is not to earn karma or reduce anxiety or reach a meditative state but to achieve communion with the Divine by placing yourself in a receptive state. But if you don't really focus on the divine on the intent of your prayer it can become merely a kind of autohypnosis.

Jesus next saids like the nations the ethnikoi the pagans and note he uses eisakouoo not just hear but listen or hearken … they seem to think dokeoo they fut pass form they will be heeded … greek in manywords perhaps should be by speaking many words over and over again.

The repetitions become an error if you think the repetition is more important than the purpose.

Do not make yourself like them. Or pray because you need something?

God knows your needs before you ask. A relationship with the Divine like many human relationships should not be based solely on need.

The next section is the Lord's prayer and we'll leave that for next week!