Allegheny Valley Church Of God
Vain And Repetitious
On the practice of novenas.
"But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him." (Mat. 6:7-8}
To your left you see something that is very common in many of those free classified papers. It is a published prayer that supposedly allows the one saying it to receive special graces from the person or "saint" to whom it is addressed. It is called a "novena" from the Latin word for nine. While this particular prayer only requires a three day recitation, it falls into the category of novena because there are some clauses to be repeated 3 times.
The definition for novena given in the Catholic Encyclopedia is this: "a nine days' private or public devotion in the catholic church to obtain special graces." (I have included the link to their article on novenas in lieu of footnotes. All of the quotations concerning this topic in this article come from that source.)
There is much written in the scriptures about prayer. It is the act of communing with our God. It is not a one-way communication, but a conversation in which we are to listen as well as speak, perhaps more so. Yet so many of us, Protestant as well as Catholic, find ourselves too often doing all the talking. In the above passage from Jesus' sermon on the mount, we find a warning concerning prayer.
Prayer is not strictly a Judeo-Christian practice. Indeed, people of all nationalities and religions pray to someone or something. Even Jesus acknowledged that the heathen pray. But he warned us to not allow ourselves to fall into the same kind of ritualistic prayer practiced by the heathen. They think that, by saying more words or repeating the same thing over and over again, they will be heard. Remember Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel? The false prophets prayed and cut themselves and jumped and screamed and danced for hours, all to no avail. The prophet Elijah merely invoked the name of YHWH, and instantly His power was manifest to all who were there.
According to the aforementioned article in the Catholic Encyclopedia, there is no basis in the religion of the Jews to constitute any "nine day" prayer, but, like many of the traditions being taught as doctrine by Catholicism, the practice of "nines" can be traced to certain customs of the pagan Greeks and Romans. This kind of practice could certainly be what Jesus referred to in the above passage. Shortly after condemning the practices of the heathen, he gives us a model prayer which has mistakenly been called "the Lord's prayer" but would be better off known as the sinner's prayer. In this prayer we see all the elements of communing with God. Yet isn't it strange that one of the most vainly repeated prayers is this "Lord's prayer?" How many children are taught the words without being taught what they mean? How many adults blindly recite the "Our Father" thinking that they are being heard by God without realizing what they are saying?
If we examine the above novena, we will find that it clearly violates many precepts of scripture. The very thought of earning grace by repeating a written prayer is a slap in the face of the Father who provided all things freely through the sacrifice of His son. (Rom 8:31-32) And please notice to whom the prayer is addressed. Is it to the Father in the name of Jesus? Is it to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? There is a mention of the Holy Spirit, but primarily it is to the goddess of Romanism known as "Mary." This is not the Mary of scripture, the one who was chosen above all the other Jewish maidens to bear the Messiah of Israel. The Mary of the prayer is described like this:
•"most beautiful flower of Mt. Carmel" - Nowhere is Mary addressed as such in the scripture.
•"fruitful vine" - Jesus said that he was the vine (John 15:5)
•"splendour of heaven" - Who think's this stuff up?
•"blessed mother of the son of God" - The real Mary was that. But the pagan goddesses also carry with them the mythology of bearing divine seed.
•"immaculate virgin" - The real Mary was never immaculate and she is no longer a virgin. This is a discription of the heathen deities which have sat on the thrones of various pantheons throughout history
•"star of the sea" - Can't find that in the concordance.
•"Holy Mary, mother of God" - God does not have a mother. The incarnate Christ had a mother whose name was Mary, but therein the similarity ends between the real Mary and the object of this prayer.
•"queen of heaven" - The Jews of Jeremiah's time got in a heap of trouble for worshipping the queen of heaven. (Jer. 44)
•"there is none that can withstand your power" - The real Mary has no power whatsoever. Omnipotence is ascribed only to the King of kings and Lord of lords. He alone sits on the throne and has power over all things.
•"Mary, conceived without sin" - Only Jesus is spoken of as being sinless. (Heb 7:26; 2Co 5:21; 1Pe 2:22; 1John 3:5
So we see that the very object of this prayer is not a Biblical person, but a female deity probably akin to the fertility goddess of the Babylonians, Astarte the queen of heaven. There are other novenas you will see to St. Jude and the sacred heart of Jesus and others. Imagine praying to a heart? Where can you find that in scripture? The Catholic Encyclopedia states:
"Christians know from their experience that the novena is no pagan, superstitious custom, but one of the best means to obtain signal heavenly graces through the intercession of Our Lady and all the saints. "
This statement in itself is a signal that the practice of chanting novenas is pagan in origin and pagan in present day usage. The only way to obtain any grace at all is through our high priest, Jesus Christ. (Heb. 4) We have only one mediator between God and man, that is the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5) There is not a word of scripture which even hints at the existence of another heavenly intercessor.
Notice the promises given accompanying the above prayer, as well as many others. "Never known to fail." Can a prayer succeed or fail? Is it like a magic lamp we rub 9 times and then, poof, instant answer. How can Catholics say that these novenas are not objects of superstition with a straight face? Along with the medals and angel pins and candles and all the other amulets which are promoted by Papalism, these vain and repetitious prayers are nothing more than good-luck charms. "Say the right words long enough and I'll grant your wish." Is that in scripture?
We are exhorted to be persistent in praying, and to pray constantly. But that doesn't mean reciting the same memorized prayer over and over and over again. Is that the way you speak to your spouse, or your kids? "The person must say this prayer three conssecutive days and the prayer will be granted." Different prayers have different formulas, like a witchcraft spell. This is all absolutely foreign to the Bible and Biblical Christianity.
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (Rom 8:15)
When your children come to you, do you make them recite a prewritten request nine times before you will grant them their desire? Do you turn a deaf ear to their needs if they don't say the right words enough times? Of course not, because you love your children and want the best for them. Jesus said our heavenly Father knows what we need and does want us to communicate with Him. But He's not some celestial ATM machine, just push the right buttons in the right order and, boom, out comes the cash. We can cry out to Him, "Daddy" and He will hear us. He might not always give us the answer we want, but then do you give your children everything they ask for?
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Mt 6:33)
That's the key. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. You don't need any good-luck prayers or charms for that. All you need is a sincere heart calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus. He will answer your prayers and meet every need, not want, according to his riches in glory. And he will make you a joint-heir with him.
Put away the superstitions. Put away the good-luck charms and the magic-lamp prayers. Instead put your trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and become a child of God. You, too, will then have access to the throne of grace through faith in Jesus.(Rom. 5:2; Heb. 4:16)