I am carried away realizing the fact that billions of people in this planet are establishing their private connections to God from different cities in different continents, through prayers via at least a thousand different languages. How each and every single one of them has the exact same concept of God as omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and omniunderstanding although they learn through different words and sentences is simply astonishing.
Now an intriguing question comes knocking my unresting mind: Does the language you use to pray with affect the way you perceive God? Or, the way you comprehend the idea of ‘praying’ itself?
Some languages facilitate its users to communicate better narratively, some others are more romantic, mnemonic, sermonic, or plain blunt. There are values attached to each language, histories behind words, and stories behind expressions.
For instance, American English has less complicated combination of words and is relatively more straightforward. Whilst Turkish possesses extra rooms for amorous metaphors and bahasa Jawa helps you to feel much less-powerful than the Kings.
When I was a kid, I used to pray in bahasa Indonesia, in which I see God as a close-yet-unreachable respected Figure. I bet you’re very familiar with this:
Ya Allah, mudahkanlah hamba dalam melaksanakan ujian besok, semoga hamba dapat mengerjakannya dengan tenang, berikan hamba kecermatan dan kekuatan untuk menyelesaikannya sebaik mungkin. Hanya Engkau yang dapat menolong hambamu.
Now, when I try to call Him, I talk English. He’s become a dear and close Friend that understands me better than anyone else, that has power to solve my every problem, that causes things to happen. The word ‘hamba‘ and ‘Engkau‘ which have significantly different meanings with the normal ‘saya‘ and ‘kamu‘ (don’t forget that we still have ‘aku‘, ‘kau‘, and many others) do not exist in English. In English there’s only one ‘I’ and ‘you’, which are useable for both parents and peers, boss and colleagues. This, to some extent, blurs the separating distance (in a positive way) that bahasa Indonesia puts between you and your God.
In this context, back then I prayed only when I need to ask for things, because ‘problems’ once meant ‘not-being-able-to-watch-Sailor-Moon-due-to-electricity-cut-off’. However, today, the word ‘problems’ grows as ‘complicated-situation-between-me-and-campus-matters’. Thus, I pray not only to make humble requests, but also to tell stories, to let go burdens, and to feel peaceful. In both ways, the practice of praying itself will always be a sacred ritual that calms and sooths my agitated heart.
Do you experience the same shift of language-use in your prayers?