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Protestants and the rosary
Paternosters Blogspot ^ | February 26, 2007 | Chris Laning

Posted on 06/05/2007 10:53:58 AM PDT by Frank Sheed

I grew up Protestant in the Northeastern U.S., in an area with many Irish and Italian families, so most of my playmates when I was in elementary school were Catholic. This was somewhat (ahem!) before Vatican II, and both Protestant and Catholic kids were taught by their parents (and sometimes even in Sunday School) to regard the other with suspicion, if not downright hostility. My Catholic playmates, for instance, said they were told they would spend eternity in Hell if they (literally!) so much as set foot inside a Protestant church building.

Boy, have things changed. While there are still plenty of Protestants who believe the Roman church is the Scarlet Woman of Babylon, for the most part Catholics and Protestants now acknowledge each other as fellow Christians, are often fairly relaxed about attending each other's worship services, and I suspect that informal, unofficial sharing of Communion is more common than the authorities on both sides would like to think. There are still plenty of incompatibilities (women priests, to name one) but I don't see that degree of almost superstitious mistrust of the "other" any more.

The status of the Virgin Mary is a point of difference between Catholics and Protestants, of course, and that's one of the reasons Protestants tend to be rather wary of the rosary. Unfortunately, I think people brought up Catholic often demonstrate how little they understand about their "separated brethren" when they blithely suggest that Protestants can pray the rosary too.


There are four main points I can think of about the rosary that give many Protestants problems. Briefly they are (from the Protestant point of view):
(1) What about Jesus's prohibition of "vain repetitions" in prayer?
(2) Does the Rosary give Mary too much honor?
(3) Do saints actually hear the prayers of living people?
(4) Is it legitimate to ask saints for favor?

I should make it clear here that when I say "Protestants" in this discussion, I am not including modern Anglicans or Episcopalians. There are certainly Anglicans who do say the rosary, either in the same form common to Roman Catholics or some other form, such as the modern Anglican rosary (which I still want to write about sometime). But what Americans usually call "mainstream" Protestants (Presbyterians, Methodists, etc.), and essentially all of the more evangelical and conservative Protestants, are generally opposed to the rosary as a Roman practice, and that's who I'm referring to here.

As I've said, Catholics do sometimes cheerfully assert that Protestants, too, can "honor" the Virgin Mary and pray the rosary. But I've noticed that somehow, all the Catholic stories that circulate about Protestants praying the rosary tend to end with the story's Protestant becoming a Catholic. If those are the only stories you ever hear, the (inadvertent) message is "If you start praying the rosay, you'll become Catholic" -- as though the rosary were the first step down a slippery slope!

I noticed this on Rosary Workshop's "Why pray the rosary?" page and mentioned it to the website's owner, Margot Carter-Blair -- who shared my amusement, once I'd pointed it out. Margot is now looking for some good stories about Protestants praying the rosary who stay Protestant.

Hmmm. Looks like this is the start of another series of articles....


The first challenge Protestants frequently offer is Matthew chapter 6, verse 7, where Jesus says (in the original King James 1611 spelling): "But when yee pray, use not vaine repetitions, as the heathen doe. For they thinke that they shall be heard for their much speaking."

This verse has had various English translations. Wycliffe's version from around 1400 says: "But in preiyng nyle yee speke myche, as hethene men doon, for thei gessen that thei ben herd in her myche speche." ("But in praying, nil [do not] ye speak much, as heathen men do, for they think that they are heard in their much speech.")

The Bishop's Bible (1568) says, amusingly, "But when ye pray, babble not much, as the heathen do. For they thynke that they shalbe heard, for theyr much bablinges sake."

One modern version puts it: "And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words." In all the versions the next verse says "Therefore be not lyke them, for your father knoweth, what thynges ye haue nede of, before ye aske of hym."

The King James version, however, is so entrenched in the English language that "vain repetitions" is the actual phrase the debate tends to focus on. Protestants generally assert that any repetition of the same prayer over and over must be "vain" by definition, since God really only needs to be asked once, and repeating the same words doesn't add anything.

The usual (rather feeble) Catholic defense is to argue that Christ didn't mean to prohibit all repetition but only vain repetition -- which is a very incomplete answer, since it leaves open the question of how you tell whether it's vain or not.

I think there's a point here, though: saying the same thing over and over doesn't necessarily mean it's less sincere. Parents and children, husbands and wives tell each other "I love you" over and over, and it doesn't seem to mean any less to them for being repeated.

Protestants generally don't see that their own argument isn't completely consistent. There may be no particular virtue in repeating the same prayer over again, but Protestants will cheerfully pray the "Our Father..." weekly and daily throughout their lives anyway. Many Protestants are taught that "true" prayer is spontaneous and from the heart, expressed in one's own words or wordless desires -- but if that were literally followed at all times, we'd all be praying like Quakers, who only pray as they feel "inspired" to do so. But in fact, most Protestant worship services do include standard, pre-written prayers in which everyone is expected to join. I was brought up, for instance, saying one that begins "Almighty and merciful Father, we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep...." every Sunday without fail.

I think both sides would admit that the idea of saying a prayer 10 or 100 or some other "round number" of times is something humans have dreamed up for our own satisfaction, not something God particularly cares about. (100 is only a round number if you're using a base-10 number system, anyway!) So perhaps the question that needs to be addressed is whether or not it's a good thing to allow our human preferences for certain numbers to affect our prayers this way. I can certainly see that reasonable adults could have different opinions on this.

to be continued

posted by Chris at 11:04 AM

TOPICS: Catholic; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: convert; historicalrosaries; penguinhumor; rosary
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To: XeniaSt

5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

The context is telling you that when you pray, pray in earnest, not just to appear holy, to hear yourself pray.

“After this manner therefore pray ye:”

After you said your prayer, then pray the following, “Our Father...”

Matthew 6:5-6:8 is referring to your own prayers, not the one God gave us. He specifically told us to say that one.

101 posted on 06/05/2007 5:05:21 PM PDT by kenth (I got tired of my last tagline...)
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To: Suzy Quzy
Are we HURTING you by praying the Rosary?

Not at all actually!

102 posted on 06/05/2007 5:05:33 PM PDT by ladyinred
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To: Frank Sheed

Objections to the Rosary arise from the experiences of the Reformation. Those who abandoned devotions to Mary and the Saints than ransacked Scripture for reasons to justify their choice. Recitation of the rosary is no more “babbling” than Pentacostals speaking in tonques. Likewise, the Geneva service is, like that of a Zwingli, a Christian service such as can be conducted only by laymen. Generally speaking, that would be song, prayers, Scripture, and preaching. Abandonment of the priesthood also means that the Lord’s Supper is a rare event, although “the breaking of the bread” seems not have been that rare at all. Luther saw this, which is why his service was more like a Low Mass in German. Even Calvin would have celebrated the Eucharist weekly, but went along with his colleagues since he wanted to point up the contention that the Priesthood was a kind of spiritual tyranny.

103 posted on 06/05/2007 5:05:50 PM PDT by RobbyS ( CHIRHO)
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To: ladyinred

Good answer.

104 posted on 06/05/2007 5:07:03 PM PDT by Suzy Quzy (Hillary '08...Her Phoniness is Genuine!!!)
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To: pjr12345

Sadly, you don’t even follow what Jesus IN THE BIBLE taught us to do.......Holy Communion comes to mind...I’m sure that is in your Bible...right?

105 posted on 06/05/2007 5:09:34 PM PDT by Suzy Quzy (Hillary '08...Her Phoniness is Genuine!!!)
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To: Enosh

Some time ago Christianity Today had an excellent article on Evangelicals and Mary. I can see where the saying of the Hail Mary would be a problem for Protestants. But the concept of the Rosary to meditate on the Life of Christ while saying set prayers could find valid application in Protestantism.

Why not instead of reciting a Hail Mary recite one of the Psalms while meditating on Jesus. An example would be to recite psalm 22 while meditating on Christ’s death on the cross. Prayer is part of Christian discipline. With all the distractions we have isn’t it good to have a means of turning all our attention to the Lord? This is what the Rosary does for some.

106 posted on 06/05/2007 5:10:21 PM PDT by lastchance (Hug your babies.)
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To: Blogger

You’re saying that Catholics hold the Blessed Mother as a god but are so bad at worshipping her they won’t admit it—even to themselves?


107 posted on 06/05/2007 5:13:32 PM PDT by Ransomed (Son of Ransomed says Keep the Faith!)
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To: Suzy Quzy

Testy testy! I was just trying to help!

Actually, I observe the Lord’s Supper as instituted by Him as a memorial in remembrance of the atoning sacrifice He was to undertake.

108 posted on 06/05/2007 5:18:10 PM PDT by pjr12345 (I'm a Christian Conservative Republican, NOT a Republican Conservative Christian.)
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To: Suzy Quzy


109 posted on 06/05/2007 5:18:49 PM PDT by tiki
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To: lastchance; Enosh
That's a good idea.

Originally the Rosary was a replacement for reciting the 150 Psalms of David, for those who didn't have a Psalter or couldn't read. So by reciting Psalms as you count off the beads, you're simply returning to the original idea!

Of course, an essential part of the Rosary is meditating on one of the Mysteries, which changes with every ten beads.

110 posted on 06/05/2007 5:22:52 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother ((Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)))
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To: pjr12345; Suzy Quzy


Actually, I observe the Lord’s Supper as instituted by Him as a memorial in remembrance of the atoning sacrifice He was to undertake.

108 posted on 06/05/2007 6:18:10 PM MDT by pjr12345

I'm with you, every year, I celebrate Passover as Yah'shua asked me to.
b'shem Yah'shua
111 posted on 06/05/2007 5:29:45 PM PDT by Uri’el-2012 (you shall know that I, YHvH, your Savior, and your Redeemer, am the Elohim of Ya'aqob. Isaiah 60:16)
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To: kenth
"Do you ask others to pray for you

Never. Please don't do that. I don't consider myself worthy.

"Do you pray for others yourself?"

Yes, I pray to God for us all.

112 posted on 06/05/2007 5:30:40 PM PDT by Enosh (†)
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To: alpha-8-25-02
And most catholics cannot find the Lord’s prayer in the Bible.

Too true

113 posted on 06/05/2007 5:31:35 PM PDT by ears_to_hear
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To: sandyeggo
I'm so glad I'm not alone in having to watch out for the 3 A.M. Worries . . . .

. . . the Rosary does help, it's very calming.

114 posted on 06/05/2007 5:31:39 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother ((Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)))
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To: N3WBI3
One of the most eye opening and prayer enhancing things I ever heard was the our father laid out as a framework for prayer.

That is because that was the purpose of the prayer in scripture. The Apostles said Lord HOW should we pray (not WHAT should we pray)

Jesus responded when you pray, pray LIKE this ( not PRAY THIS)

It was given to us as a pattern for prayer.

Also when He gave us this pattern He revealed the fatherhood of God to the elect. Something that was not a part of Jewish thought but is clearly taught in the NT

115 posted on 06/05/2007 5:35:12 PM PDT by ears_to_hear
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To: Tax-chick
Hey, I crack up every time I see your tagline!

‘“Admiral Boy—Vice-Admiral Babe,” says Gloriana, “I cry your pardon. The heat of these present times ripens childhood to age more quickly than I can follow."'

116 posted on 06/05/2007 5:36:10 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother ((Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)))
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To: Enosh
Really ? In the 30 years i have been a protestant I have NEVER heard the Lords prayer said in a church service or in a bible study or meeting.

I have attended studies ON it but it is not a common practice especially in the evangelical churches

117 posted on 06/05/2007 5:37:39 PM PDT by ears_to_hear
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To: AnAmericanMother

I’ve got the book on order from the library.

I think it’s a wonderful line ... “I’ve got the end-of-school-year dog-wearies. Get out of here so I can drink, already!”

118 posted on 06/05/2007 5:37:49 PM PDT by Tax-chick ("Oh, a Queen may love her subjects in her heart, and yet be dog-wearied of ’em in body and mind.")
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To: Between the Lines
But Suzy's question was not "convince", but "make".

Nobody can make you say the Rosary, and even if they try to convince you, you don't have to read what they write.

(I was saying the Rosary for years before I became a Catholic, but then again the writer excepts Piskies . . . and we were so 'high' our noses bled)

119 posted on 06/05/2007 5:38:16 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother ((Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)))
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To: sandyeggo
Really? Why not?

Probably because we see it as a part of scripture that is intended to teach us, not be quoted verbatim

120 posted on 06/05/2007 5:39:20 PM PDT by ears_to_hear
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