ella because we learned language so early in our lives we have no clear memory of the process, but by observing our own children learning to speak we readily enough confirm the obvious: language is spoken into us; we learn language by being spoken to. we are plunged at birth into a sea of language. we swim in words. we are soaked in nouns and verbs. gradually we realize that some of these words are directed to us – personally targeted words that name, love, and comfort. then slowly syllable by syllable, we acquire the capacity to answer: mama, papa, bottle, blanket, yes, no. not one of these words was a first word. hundreds of thousands of words, for days and weeks and months, were spoken to us before we began to answer, to speak our own words. all speech is answering speech. we were all spoken to before we spoke.

prayer is the development of speech into maturity, language in process of being adequate to answer the one who has spoken most comprehensively to us, namely, god.

eugene h. peterson


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