Saturday, August 29, 2009

Praying in Tongues

When I was growing up, my family always had evening prayers together. My spiritual life grew up like this. So as my turn came around to pray, I would begin like this.

"Dear Lord,

"Thank you for keeping Mom and Dad safe today. Thank you for keeping me safe today. Please give us a good night sleep tonight. Please make Grandma believe in you. Please make me grow taller."

Sometimes, my mom would suggest out some lines. And they weren't just suggestions. You'd actually have to pray them.

"Please don't let me be lazy."

"Please make me love my sisters more."

"Please take away my angry attitude."

Growing up on that. I then started to perceive her suggestions more as criticisms. And I suppose this is how we converse with each other.

"Lord, please don't let so-and-so be such a jerk."

But as I grew in years, my prayers still remained the same. Full of petitions and nothing else. Perhaps a bit of confession of sins here and there. But they were only a general confession rather than ones of specific measure.

After every one was finished, we would pray the Lord's prayer, and sing Hallelujah, thine be the glory.

Except... all of this was in Vietnamese. Now, I never learned how to read or write properly in Vietnamese until last year. Nor were my everyday conversations in Vietnamese, (except my prayers were). English was the rule. And as my vocabulary increased in English, it decreased in Vietnamese.

It wasn't until after entering college when I started to pray in English. Two reasons: 1. I didn't have to pray in Vietnamese since I was living away from my parents. 2. I had to pray in English so that my friends could understand what I was saying when I prayed with them.

Guess what happened? My prayer life exploded! I was able to begin expressing stuff that I always wanted to say but never found the right words to in Vietnamese to say so. I could begin expressing theological truths, talking about the Cross, communicating my hurts and joys to God.

Only after I came back from college to home did I noticed the difference. Evening prayers continued in Vietnamese. What the heck am I supposed to say? Thank you for teaching me to pray in English?

But the vertical divide on prayer and language is one thing. I realized then I can't communicate to my parents what God has been doing in my life while I was away either. But that's another story. Perhaps another day.

St. Cyril and St. Methodius, pray for us.
St. Jerome, pray for us.


  1. this sounds like the time you where in joe and I's room and you were talking to your mom in joe and I cracked up!

    - Tom

  2. "Lord, please don't let so-and-so be such a jerk."

    hahah classic

    but for real, great post