Prayer or the Rosary?

"Holy Mary, Mother of God,

Pray for us sinners,

Now and at the hour of our death. Amen."

At nightfall in my village, I often hear my neighbors reciting the rosary. Many recite the rosary. Others pray. Some recite the rosary and pray. Which should we do, pray or recite the rosary?

What Is the Rosary?

The rosary is "a form of devotion to the Virgin Mary . . ."1 composed of various prayers. Often people use a string of beads to count the prayers. This string of beads is also known as a rosary.

The most common rosary contains fifteen mysteries upon which the devotee is to meditate: five joyful mysteries, five sorrowful mysteries, and five glorious mysteries. The five joyful mysteries are episodes in the birth and childhood of Jesus; the five sorrowful ones are episodes in His suffering and death; and the five glorious ones are about Jesus' resurrection, His ascension, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the Virgin Mary. After each mystery, the devotee is to recite one Our Father, one Glory Be to the Father, and ten Hail Marys.

The Catholic Church recommends that the devotee do five mysteries daily. That means he will recite five Our Fathers, five Glory Be to the Fathers, and fifty Hail Marys. Now that takes devotion! But does God hear all this?

What Does History Tell Us?

According to Roman Catholic tradition, St. Dominic brought the rosary into common usage in about 1200 A.D. It is said that the Virgin Mary appeared to him, giving him the rosary and instructing him to promote its use. If he would, she promised him much success in conquering her enemies and the enemies of the church. St. Dominic was working against the Waldenses and the Albigenses. The Catholic Church considered these movements heretical—these were her enemies.2

However, the practice of repeating prayers with a string of beads is much older than that. Even before Christ, Buddhists used this type of devotion. Buddhists, as well as Muslims and Hindus, still use beads to repeat memorized prayers.3

But does God hear them?

What Is Prayer?

God does hear us when we pray.

To pray is to talk to God, to enjoy fellowship with Him, to come close to His throne. There we speak to Him with simple words that come from our hearts. We worship Him, and we make our requests to Him.

Whoever has a heart that is cleansed from sin by the blood of Jesus and is yielded to the will of God has the privilege of praying. If a person does not meet these requirements, he may confess his sin to God. If his repentance is real, God will hear his prayer and cleanse his heart. The Bible says in Hebrews 4:16: Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

What Does the Bible Teach?

The Bible speaks much of prayer. It uses a form of the word pray more than three hundred times, but it never mentions the rosary.

In Matthew 6:6 and 7 Jesus tells us how we should pray: "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. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking."

Remember that the practice of repeating prayers has pagan origins. Notice that Christ said that the heathen thought they would be heard because of their repetitions. They thought they needed to beg insistently in order for God to hear them. Jesus doesn't just say such repetitions are worthless; He prohibits them.

If our hearts are cleansed from sin, God hears us the first time we pray. But if we have sin in our hearts, it does not matter how often we repeat our prayer, He will not listen. The Psalmist recognized this fact in Psalm 66:18: "If regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me."

Look at the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)—the model prayer given by our Lord. Notice its simplicity; it doesn't use one repetition, and it recognizes the fact that everyone needs God's forgiveness.

According to the Bible, there is another serious difficulty with the rosary. Prayer is a form of worship. For example, in the Lord's Prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray, Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. These words express devotion and worship to God. God deserves worship. But most of the worship in the rosary is directed to Mary, and the Bible explicitly forbids worship of any being other than God:

Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve (Matthew 4:10).

We dare not worship any person but God alone. We dare not pray to anyone else. We dare not bow down to anyone else. The Bible gives no example of any person praying to Mary or worshipping her. Nevertheless, a person who recites the rosary directs his prayers and worship to Mary time after time.

Will God hear the requests of one who disobeys Him like this?

The Bible clearly tells us that the only way to come to God is through Jesus. Jesus Himself said: I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6).

Ephesians 3:12 tells us we have access to God through faith in Christ. The Bible in no place mentions Mary as a way of coming to God.

My Catholic friends tell me, "We agree with you about the mediatory work of Jesus, but we need the mediation of Mary between us and Jesus."

The best I can do is to respond with the Word of God: For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (I Timothy 2:5).

Perhaps this example will help us understand:

The Sale of a Farmer's Product: From the Farmer to the Merchant to the Market to the Consumer.

How many intermediaries are between the farmer and the consumer's table? Two, right? The two intermediaries are the merchant and the vendor at the market.

The Prayers of a Person Reciting the Rosary: From the person to Mary to Jesus to God.

Now, how many mediators are between the person and God? Two, right? But the Bible tells us very clearly that there is one mediator between God and men. And that is the man Christ Jesus.

The concept of needing to use Mary as an intercessor implies that Jesus is stingy, that it's hard for us to get His attention, and that since Mary is His mother, He will listen to her quicker than to us. That, my friend, is a wrong concept of Jesus. He gave His life for us. Why then, should we believe that He will not hear us when we pray?

In conclusion, since Jesus shed His blood to bring us into the presence of God, would we not be despising Him if we say His intercession is not enough—that we need another mediator?

Since we can speak directly to God, why should we try to speak through another person?

Since the Bible says there is but one mediator between God and us, why try to use another?

Since the Bible forbids praying to anyone who is not God, why do it?

Since Jesus hears us the first time we pray, why use vain repetitions?

Since God has told us in His Word how to pray, why adopt a pagan system?

Since we can pray, why recite the rosary?

-Mark Yoder

(1)American Heritage Dictionary

(2)Encyclopedia Barsa, Volume 13, page 183

(3)World Book Encyclopedia. Volume 16, page 437

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