In what language do you worship?
We all have a ‘heart’ language, the language in which we think, feel, and express ourselves most freely. I hope we all have opportunity to worship God in our heart language.
Is it enough just to worship in your heart language? Yes, it probably is enough. But consider this—could our experience of worship be fuller and richer if we heard it expressed in multiple languages? What if we allowed the new sounds of another’s heart language to make us bigger than we are?
Several years ago I found myself in an underground location in China with Chinese Christians. They chose the hymn, "Amazing Grace", and began heartily singing in Chinese. I couldn’t understand a word but I fully understood the conviction on their faces. As they sang, I added my English words to their Chinese. It didn’t matter what stanza they were on—they sang it through 16 times (I think they kept starting over)—I just chose a verse I knew and sang along.
Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ‘tis grace hath brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home. Hearing the sounds of these words in Chinese, with these friends in this place, expanded my vision of what ‘dangers, toils, and snares’ are. The hope we hold in common that ‘grace will lead us home’ became much more real to me that day. Different sounds, different languages, but we were singing of the same grace of the same God who made and loves us. It was amazing!
I’ve also stood in a circle, praying the words to the Lord’s Prayer while the person next to me prayed in Korean, and the next person in the circle spoke in Spanish, and another in Portuguese. As we got to the end, “For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever, amen!”, I heard the sounds from the ‘ends of the earth’ spoken in one united voice of worship and I thought my heart would explode. It’s hard to describe, but it felt like I was given a Revelation glimpse of what it will be like someday around the throne worshiping with those from every nation, tribe, people, and language.
I’ll admit to being language challenged—I only know one. If I hear someone speaking in a language other than English, I can be intimidated and focus only on what I don’t understand. I’ve heard others express that same sentiment when they experience worship in a new language. But I wonder what might happen if we start with what we have in common—the one God who made us and loves us—and we begin to listen to the sounds that make us bigger than who we are? What if we listen to new sounds and hear what transcends language, that is the love of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Language doesn’t have to divide us—it can unite.
Do you have stories to share? Have you experienced worship in other languages that expanded your vision?