“Doesn’t God understand my language?”

The Asian pastor was troubled by the frequent, pointed question from Mr. A. An educated man who ran a pharmaceutical shop, Mr. A was an outspoken nonbeliever. He had observed a curious thing about Christians in his own language community: despite the fact that most people in the area spoke another language as their mother tongue, all Christian activity (praying, Bible reading, preaching) was done in the national language. This obvious disconnect had prompted his taunting question: “Doesn’t God understand my language?”

It was odd, but true. People spoke their mother tongue everywhere—in the home, in the village, visiting with friends, at the market—everywhere, that is, except in one important area: their faith. Once inside a church building, or engaged in anything to do with the church, they would switch to the national language.

Why was this so?

Probably in part because the church had been planted and nurtured in the national language. The problem was that few people understood the national language very well. One woman told the pastor, “I just can’t pray (aloud), because I don’t know the national language well enough!” How hard it would be to thrive in our relationship with God if the language we were convinced was necessary for our prayer and worship was a language we didn’t understand well! But the pastor’s congregation could not even imagine anything different, and he had no answer to Mr. A’s derisive taunt. The whole issue had become a painful thorn in the pastor’s side.

Then one day the pastor attended a song-writing workshop run by the translation project team. To his amazement, everything was conducted in the local language—devotions were read from the translated Scripture, praying and singingwere done from the heart, in the mother tongue. Later he shared, “I felt like new life had been breathed into me !” While at the workshop he had actually prayed out loud and led devotions in his mother tongue; now he longed to go back and begin to use his own language in his church. He also wanted to find Mr. A and confidently tell him, “Yes, God does understand our language!” Please pray that as people in his community learn to speak to God in the language of their hearts, they will experience a stronger, deeper relationship with Him.