The Bible’s Viewpoint
How Does God View Aids to Worship?
Physical aids to prayer are common in Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Roman Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy. Hence, many millions of people in almost all countries believe that such items help them to approach God, win his favor, or obtain blessings. What does the Bible teach?
THE use of objects as aids to prayer goes back thousands of years. For example, at the site of ancient Nineveh, archaeologists unearthed “two winged females standing before the sacred tree in the attitude of prayer; they . . . hold in the left [hand] a garland or rosary.”—The Catholic Encyclopedia.
What function do rosaries serve? The same encyclopedia answers: “Whenever any prayer has to be repeated a large number of times recourse is likely to be had to some mechanical apparatus less troublesome than counting upon the fingers.”
Prayer wheels take the repetition of prayer a step further. Each turn of the wheel, whether by hand, wind, water, or electricity, is seen as the equivalent of offering a prayer. Prayer wheels are often used in conjunction with mantras—mystical formulas or verses. Consider how God feels about such things.
“Do Not Say the Same Things Over and Over Again”
Jesus Christ, who is recognized even by millions of non-Christians as a prophet of God, explained the Creator’s view of repetitive prayer, saying: “When praying, do not say the same things over and over again, just as the people of the nations do, for they imagine they will get a hearing for their use of many words.”*—Matthew 6:7.
Hence, if God disapproves our saying “the same things over and over again,” would not objects that are used as an aid to such constantly repeated prayers also be unacceptable? Accordingly, the Bible does not contain a single reference to a faithful servant of the true God ever using rosaries, prayer wheels, or other such objects in worship. The reasons become even clearer when we understand the true nature and purpose of prayer.
Prayer That Pleases God
In Jesus’ model prayer, he specifically referred to God as “Our Father.” Yes, our Creator is not some aloof being or mystical force that must be appeased by incantations, rituals, or mantras. Rather, he is a loving Father, and he wants us to recognize him as such and to love him. “I love the Father,” said Jesus. (John 14:31) A prophet in ancient Israel said: “O Jehovah, you are our Father.”—Isaiah 64:8.
How can we draw close to Jehovah as a spiritual Father? (James 4:8) As in any relationship, we draw close to God by two-way communication. God “speaks” to us through the pages of the Bible—his written Word—wherein he reveals his activities, personality, and purpose for us. (2 Timothy 3:16) In turn, we speak to God by means of prayer, or worshipful address. Such prayer should, of course, be sincere and intimate, not formal and ritualistic.
Consider: Within a warm, loving family, how would normal, intelligent children communicate with their parents? Would they utter the same words or phrases repeatedly, perhaps counting the repetitions with some device? Of course not! Rather, they would speak meaningfully and respectfully, from the heart.
Prayer to God should be much the same. Indeed, we can go to God with virtually anything that concerns us. Says Philippians 4:6, 7: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God . . . will guard your hearts and your mental powers.” Naturally, when we are anxious over something, we may pray about the matter often. But this is not the same as word-for-word repetition.—Matthew 7:7-11.
The Bible contains many examples of prayers that please God, including psalms, or songs, and prayers uttered by Jesus himself.* (Psalms 17 and 86, superscriptions; Luke 10:21, 22; 22:40-44) One of the latter is found at John chapter 17. Take a few minutes to read it. As you do, note how Jesus poured out his heart to God. Observe, too, the unselfish nature of his prayer—how it reflected his deep love for his followers. “Holy Father,” he said, “watch over them because of the wicked one,” Satan.—John 17:11, 15.
Do you detect even a hint of impersonal, mechanical ritual in Jesus’ words? Absolutely not! What a fine example he set for us! Yes, all who want to draw close to the true God should get to know him accurately as a person. Then, impelled by love based on that knowledge, they must reject religious customs and practices that displease God. To such ones Jehovah says: “I shall be a father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me.”—2 Corinthians 6:17, 18.
In his model prayer, Jesus did not say: “You must pray, then, this prayer,” which would contradict what he had just stated. Rather, he said: “You must pray, then, this way.” (Matthew 6:9-13) His point? As the model prayer reveals, we should give spiritual concerns priority over material interests.
Although psalms were sung on various occasions, they were not uttered repetitiously like a mantra, nor were they used in rituals involving rosaries or prayer wheels.
HAVE YOU WONDERED?
▪ Does Jesus’ counsel against repetitious prayers have any bearing on the use of rosaries and prayer wheels?—Matthew 6:7.
▪ What should our prayers reveal about our view of God?—Isaiah 64:8.
▪ If we reject religious falsehoods, how will God view us?—2 Corinthians 6:17, 18.