In the early 1990s Gary Chapman wrote a book called The Five Love Languages. In this book, Chapman developed the idea that everyone feels loved in different ways. Some people feel particularly loved by verbal affirmation. Others feel loved by physical touch and affection. Still others feel loved by practical assistance with tasks and chores. Everyone has a different “love language.”
Sometimes we don’t feel loved even though people are trying to love us. The problem is that they don’t understand our “love language.” People are helping us with tasks when what we really want is verbal affirmation. They are offering a hug when what we really want is some help with the chores. Speaking different “love languages” can be really frustrating, especially in a marriage.
Speaking the same “love language” on the other hand can be powerful. The last time I was in Tijuana (around five years ago) I had a 45 minute conversation with a local in Spanish. I have never studied Spanish. All the Spanish I know I’ve picked up from watching T.V. and movies. I know maybe ten words in Spanish. This conversation was hard work. He demonstrated incredible patience with me. He knew I was not speaking my native tongue. I took a real interest in speaking his language and wasn’t shy about asking questions. In my garbled, fumbling Spanish we managed to talk about God, Christ, family, work, soccer, the weather, food, and growing old. There were moments we just didn’t understand each other, but when we did it felt almost magical.
Prayer is a Love Language. God loves to hear us pray and He loves answering our prayers.
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11)
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)
The trouble is that prayer often feels like a foreign language. We don’t know what to say. We actually feel like we are giving more than we are receiving. We even wonder if God is listening. Frankly, we feel like prayer is a waste of time.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22:1-2)
We think of prayer as God’s language, not ours. But there is a big difference between learning a foreign language and learning a forgotten language. My children are third generation Korean Americans. Since my wife and I speak English at home, Korean has become a forgotten language. Lately my oldest has expressed a growing interest in learning how to speak Korean. She is not thinking about her future career opportunities; she just wants to understand her heritage and communicate more freely with her grandmother.
Prayer is a forgotten language. We’ve grown so comfortable with God’s absence that we feel really uncomfortable in His presence. But God is patient. He wants to teach us how to pray again (as Adam and Eve once did in the Garden). Prayer is our love language just as much as it is God’s love language.
Through prayer God wants to communicate how much He loves us. When we learn to listen we will feel more loved than we ever dreamed.
I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. (Psalm 22:22-24)
As we fumble with our words in our prayers we will experience magical moments when we understand God and are understood by God. Through prayer we will discover that God knows how to love us better than we know how to love ourselves.
When we pray, we are not praying to a stranger or foreigner. We are praying to our Father in heaven, who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all (Romans 8:32). How will he not also with him graciously give us all things? More than anything else, prayer is about being loved by God. Prayer is a mercy in itself and a means of grace. It is not always easy to pray. Sometimes it is hard to understand God. Sometimes we feel misunderstood by God. Prayer is hard work but it is always worth the effort.