What Middle Earth Can Teach You About Prayer

Why Elvish and other “Lord of the Rings” languages teach us about the dialect of grace.

It is said that author J.R.R. Tolkien created over 14 languages for his Lord of the Rings trilogy. Some have observed that for Tolkien, language presupposed a story. The language he created served to communicate his story in a particularly compelling way. But it was the story that brought the language alive. It gave it texture.

In the Scriptures we also find that language paints the drama. Think about the early chapters of the Bible as if you have never read them before. You have themes and concepts like mercy, grace, covenant, blessing, inheritance, promise, rest, etc. It is here, early on in the story, that God begins to show us the budding flowers redemption and restoration. This is the gospel language. God created it to serve his ends in communicating the most fascinating, soul-arresting, hear-stirring, joy-producing drama in history.

Of course this is not the native tongue of the world around us. When we speak in this dialect of grace, we are met with confused looks. We sound as though we are from another planet. We might as well be speaking Elvish or say we are from Middle Earth. It is a strange tongue.

For the Christian however, we understand it. It has become our new heart language. We hear God speaking to us in his word. He is the master linguist of grace. He tells us of our adoption and redemption through Jesus (Eph. 1:5–7), the great storehouse of blessings (Eph. 1:3), the infinite grace of Christ (Eph. 2:8–10), the prevailing truth of acceptance instead of condemnation (Rom. 8:1), the presence of comfort and mercy (2 Cor. 1:3), the fact that he will never leave or forsake us (Heb. 13:5), and on and on. The dictionary of grace is infinite and the corresponding thesaurus is likewise unfathomable.

We may also speak this truth with one another. We have the privilege of talking together in this new heart language as we encourage one another on the narrow road to the Celestial City. We may even meet other pilgrims for the first time who are likewise fluent in the dialect of grace. Like two immigrants from the same native country, we may joyfully speak our native tongue in a foreign land.

When you pray, remember that you are speaking to God in the language he has created to depict and display the glorious drama of redemption. There is an entire language, a gospel language, for us to hear and employ when we commune with God in prayer. This is the privilege of speaking to both the author and the main character of the story. Don’t overlook this privilege!

Erik Raymond
Erik is a pastor at Emmaus Bible Church, a church plant south of Omaha. Converse with Erik on Twitter.