At the recent Ethne 2019 conference, one of the things I enjoyed–I always enjoy–is worship and prayer in multiple languages.
For some of the worship songs, we seek various verses in different languages. For some, we take one verse, and each one sings it in their own heart language (all together). For some prayer times, we tell people to just pray in their heart language.
The struggle to understand another language - to sing words I don’t really understand - helps me grapple with the idea that the world is bigger than me.
When we all sing the same song in multiple languages, or pray in multiple languages, the “cacaphony” of noise is incredible. I can’t understand a thing of what is being said, beyond my own prayer.
But God can.
This is what struck me: this praise and worship isn’t about me. It’s about God. It doesn’t matter if I understand everything: this is a living example of how God is greater than me, and understands everything being said, sung, and cried no matter what language it’s in.
And, of course, this kind of worship represents Revelation 7:9, with every tribe, language and tongue before the throne.
This is the second thing that struck me, as it has before: why do we “think” we will all speak one language in heaven?
I often have this idea that I will miraculously be able to talk to everyone in heaven–from my mother to my mentors to people like C.S. Lewis to Bible saints like Peter, Paul, Mark…
What if you have to learn ancient languages to converse with ancient saints?
Why do you think you will understand Paul or even Martin Luther when you arrive?
In fact, one key way that “some will be last and some will be first”: people who only know one language from “western” cultures may be “last in heaven," while people who had to learn multiple languages just to survive in poverty conditions now might be able to talk to more people right off the bat.