02 September 2011


When I traveled to Costa Rica and Nicaragua years ago, I listened very carefully to how translators would convert my group's words from English to Spanish. I find translation fascinating. The translator has to first interpret what the speaker is saying and then translate it into another language, all the while doing their best to keep the original meaning.
Occasionally, however, I noticed that the translations weren't always verbatim. An English speaker would say something that maybe (unintentionally) sounded a bit arrogant. Sometimes they would say something ambiguous or inconclusive. When this happened, the interpreter would make changes to the message in Spanish. He made the person sound better and communicated the person's intentions clearer. These translators were skilled with choosing Spanish words and phrases that did a better job at transmitting meaning to the recipients than their English counterparts did.

Now that I know enough Spanish to be dangerous, I find myself doing the same thing while translating. Although I know what the English speakers are saying, if I translate it literally into Spanish it won't make too much sense. I've learned to craft together Spanish words.

Sometimes, I feel like this is what my prayer life is like. I'm learning to think differently about prayer. I'm learning to understand it as encompassing more than just sitting still and mentally talking to God for a duration of time. There are sometimes, though, when I do verbally pray, that I feel at a lost as to what to say. I feel things that can't be conveyed into words. When I do use words, it seems like they're generic and ambiguous. I feel like I'm just talking gibberish (or, even better, just talking "Sunday School talk"... which is... gibberish).

It's frustrating.

It's during these times that I'm reminded that God's Spirit is praying with me.
"[...] The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." - Romans 8:26-27
I think I know what I may need, but God knows me better than I know myself. His Spirit translates my words so that convey meaning better than even I can articulate. God knows my heart, my desires, my fears, my doubts, my goals, and my frustrations.

I'm so thankful that God not only "speaks" my language but also translates it so that it contains deeper significance than I can clearly articulate.

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