Often when a Catholic wants to pray for a particular intention, like the Pope's monthly prayer intention, he/she will pray a Rosary. It is a beautiful prayer of Church, one that has been passed down to each generation for centuries.
However, sometimes the Rosary gets a bad reputation and is thought to be part of the useless "babble" that Jesus condemns (see Matthew 6:7). Is that true?
Digging a little deeper, we find that the exact practice Jesus was condemning was the pagan way of addressing their gods. In one Bible commentary we read:
Pagans would recite long litanies of divine names to gain the attention of gods. This was meant to ensure that the deity was addressed properly. Jesus considers this practice empty–i.e., devoid of faith and of love for the deity.
Catholic Answers confirms this and adds to it:
Jesus said “do not heap up ‘empty phrases’ (Gr. –battalagesete, which means to stammer, babble, prate, or to repeat the same things over and over mindlessly) as the Gentiles do…” We have to remember that the main idea of prayer and sacrifice among the pagans was to appease the gods so that you could go on with your own life. You had to be careful to “take care of” all of the gods by mentioning them, and saying all the right words, lest you bring a curse upon yourself.”
The pagans would “cover all their bases” by reciting lengthy lists of pagan deities to make sure these deities did not “smite” them. Their rituals were about “appeasement” and not in any way directed toward love.
Which brings us back to the Rosary. The reason why the Rosary is different is because the prayer is meant to be said out of love for God. As Catholics we believe the Rosary is one way to show God our love for him and his mother.
Think of it this way, would a husband or wife be mad if their spouse told them how much they loved them? Would they get annoyed if they said it every day, multiple times throughout the day?
The origin of the word “Rosary” comes from that Latin “rosarium,” meaning a “crown of roses” or a “garland of roses.” Praying the Rosary is like giving our Blessed Mother a “crown of roses,” telling her how much we love her and her Son.
In the end, Jesus condemns “empty phrases” in prayer. We should not pray in order to “appease” a vengeful and wrathful God. Nor should we pray the Rosary because we believe that Mary will calm God’s temper. Our prayers should be born out of love for God and there in lies the true secret to praying the Rosary.
All of our prayers, whether it be the Rosary, a formula prayer, or something spontaneous, should be directed by love.