13 And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” 15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” 16 This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again. (Acts 10:13–16, NKJV)
Wouldn’t it be grand if parents could tell their child to do some chore only once, and the child would forever do the parents’ will? Of course, that rarely happens. Repetition is important to the learning process. We should not expect it to be different with teaching and learning the will of our Heavenly Father. God sent Peter a vision telling him to do the same thing three times, thereby emphasizing God’s determination in the matter, as well as His expectation that Peter accept the lesson and obey Him (which he did, Acts 10:28-29). God’s word patiently teaches, but we must be willing to learn. Let us learn quickly and obey fully. God’s patient teaching of His word is not our license to disobey Him or otherwise neglect His commands. Repetitious teaching also helps breakdown objections in the good and honest heart (as it did with Peter here). Repetitious teaching also gives us protection from falling back into sin (Philippians 3:1). Furthermore, repetitious teaching helps us remember what we have previously learned (2 Peter 1:12-15). Let us not get bored with hearing God’s word repeated time and again. Such instruction is for our learning, our exhortation, and our spiritual safety.
Then He arose from there and came to the region of Judea by the other side of the Jordan. And multitudes gathered to Him again, and as He was accustomed, He taught them again. (Mark 10:1, NKJV)
There is value in repetition. In elementary school, my classmates and I memorized and repeated the alphabet, the multiplication table, the U. S. states and their capitals, and many more such things. Good teachers do not teach something only one time. They teach, they review what has been taught, and they test their students on the lesson. Whenever the multitudes gathered around Jesus, His habit was to teach them “again.” He repeatedly taught His apostles of His approaching death and resurrection (Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34; 9:31-32). We should not be yearning for some “new thing” when it comes to gospel teaching, because its message is the same today as it was in the first century. What we yearn for is to hear the same message again and again. Repeatedly teaching the truth of the gospel is for our spiritual safety (Philippians 3:1). By its repetition, we remain strengthened and resolute in the face of life’s trials and temptations (2 Peter 1:12-15). You may have heard the gospel over and over. But remember, someone is hearing it for the first time. May we never grow weary of hearing God’s word taught again, and again, and again.
7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. (Matthew 6:7–8, NKJV)
How do you pray? The volume of words used in prayer does not constitute a prayer that pleases our heavenly Father. Liturgical attempts to approach the Almighty are met with the Son of God’s rebuke and rejection. Jesus likens empty rhetoric in prayer to the attempts of the heathen to move their lifeless gods to action (cf. 1 Kgs. 18:26-27). Citizens of the kingdom carefully avoid useless, purposeless words in prayer. The reason is obvious (yet, Jesus remind us, for we have a tendency to forget) – our heavenly Father knows our needs before we ask Him. Prayer expresses the deep yearnings of the heart to Him who made the heart and who knows what is in our heart better than we do ourselves. Our prayers express our trust in and dependency upon God, not our ability to repeat phrases men have deemed pious and persuasive (1 Pet. 5:6-7). Let us adorn our prayers with simple communication from trusting hearts, not with mindless prattle that offends the One to whom we pray.