Who is praying with “empty phrases”? Jews, Gentiles or secular people? Gregory of Nyssa and Origen on the battalogein in Mt 6,7

R. Hennings (Institut für ev. Theologie und Religionspädagogik der Universität Oldenburg)

Praying in “empty phrases” or “babbling” (battologein in Greek) is the opposite of praying like Jesus wanted his followers to do. He warned his disciples of battologein like Gentiles do. Origen and Gregory of Nyssa explain to their audience in different ways, what battologein means. Origen (de or. XXI) refers to the prayer in Synagogues and the prayers of Gentiles as a kind of praying in a lower degree. Who is praying with a lot of words, in Origen´s eyes, has already lost the unity and simplicity which is adequate for a prayer to the one and only God.

Gregory (hom. I,3) does not refer to Jews and Gentiles, he focusses on the beauty and consistency of speech (logos) necessary for a proper prayer. If a heart is distracted by affections, praying becomes babbling and turns to be senseless or even harmful for the person praying. Both, Origen and Gregory, admonish their hearers not to beg for worldly things but to stretch out for the heavenly goods. Then praying is promising and adequate to the relation between the heavenly father and his children on earth. The study examines differences and similarities between Origen´s and Gregory´s interpretations in respect to the different kinds of exegesis, as Origen writes a treatise and Gregory delivers a homily.