A question came up a while back--someone wanting to know THE holy name of God, to be used for chanting purposes. . . .
Okay. . . . So, the 7 or so years prior to being born again, I was a fairly dedicated practitioner/follower of "Vaishnavism" . . . which is a monotheistic version of Hinduism. Generally speaking, in Hinduism there are considered to be two approaches to God. Bhakti and Jnani. And people are thought to have a tendency toward one or the other. Bhakti is the "heart"/emotional/devotional way to God. Jnani is the intellectual/mind/knowledge way. Previously I had always considered myself Jnani but the Vaishnava path was Bhakti. Vaishnava, the word refers to Vishnu, who was taught to be the supreme being in the trinity Godhead. His ultimate expression was a Krishna. I believed that Krishna was none other than God the Father.
The means of reaching spiritual perfection in the Vaishnava philosophy was to chant the "Hare Krishna" mantra. The mantra was said to possess supernatural, transcendental spiritual energy which, the more you chanted it, the more it would work in you to break down and purify the fallen nature. This was taught also to be a means of showing devotion. It (the mantra) was said to be imbued with the very person/energy of God (Krishna) himself. Serious devotees of this spiritual discipline will chant the mantra nearly all waking hours of the day, in the mind while doing other tasks along with doing it also solely in a meditative state. 16 rounds a day is considered a bare minimum. 100s of 1000s of times is thought to be most auspicious.
And what I learned later, once a Christian, that this has got to be the essence of the warning in Matt. 6:7: "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking."
This is just another one of those things that we might try to add in place of, in addition to, etc., relying solely on the perfect work of the Intercessor Jesus. [In the case of Vaishnavism, I have since come to believe that chanting the Krishna mantra is the equivalent of calling up Satan and imbuing oneself with his evil energy.]
But any mantra . . . or rote prayer . . . or even saying the name Yahweh over and over . . . is but another excuse to avoid being in RELATIONSHIP with the living, one true God. It is a "vain repetition".
We are suppose to be engaged with the Spirit of God, not "checked out" while repeating some phrase, word or prayer. It is no different than, for instance, relying on a charm, a lucky talisman, or magical incantation etc., rather than being consciously engaged in prayerful communication or praise which ought be the mode instead. It's an attempt at a short cut. It's an avoidance of submission to God's commands and warnings.
In my own case, because of having practiced this method for a number of years, I still sometimes have a tendency to want to put my mind into a repetitive mantra-like, meditative state. What I do instead, which IS sanctioned by the Word of God, is to memorize scriptural verses or, ie., the Lord's Prayer . . . and I may even repeat it (ie., before falling asleep) BUT I don't not "vainly" repeat it, where my conscious, deliberative mind is checked out. Rather, I think of the meaning of words and I speak them in my mind, not "incidentally" but very deliberately, MEANING what I am saying as I say them. It is a highly effective and blessed act . . . to have verses of God's Word memorized so that you can go over them in your mind, meditating (yes, meditating--but according to the Bible's teaching of "meditating") on their meaning. We should have God's Words in our hearts and minds.
Another great benefit in this is that it keeps the demons away. They hate the Word of God when it is used according to its intended purpose and meaning. (They don't mind using scripture to twist and distort its true meaning to something wicked). But they cannot stand being around a mind and heart that is consciously, deliberatively focused on and thinking of the Word of God. They will fight you at first (if you happen to be oppressed by them) but eventually they will split the scene. On the other hand, they don't mind "vain repetitions" and will even use that as a portal to infect you further. . . .
Next, I will address the other question that came up related to this general discussion of how we are prone to want to use a thousand other things . . . in place of, in addition to etc., the simple, direct spiritual practices taught in God's Word.