“Tongue Cannot Speak the Words Which He Prayed” – 3 Nephi 19:32

On the first day of the Savior’s ministry on the American continent following His death and resurrection, He invited the multitude He was with to kneel on the ground. He offered a prayer to His Father, “and the things which he prayed cannot be written, and the multitude did bear record who heard him” (3 Nephi 17:15). Here is how the people who heard that prayer described it:

The eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father;

And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father.

3 Nephi 17:16-17

The following morning, after offering two prayers which were writable, the Savior offered another prayer like the one from the day before:

And tongue cannot speak the words which he prayed, neither can be written by man the words which he prayed.

And the multitude did hear and do bear record; and their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which he prayed.

Nevertheless, so great and marvelous were the words which he prayed that they cannot be written, neither can they be uttered by man.

3 Nephi 19:32-34

What is it like to hear a prayer that can’t be written? How can you understand a prayer but be unable to articulate its meaning? I don’t know. But this miraculous experience appears to have reminded the multitude of the following passage from Isaiah:

Since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.

Isaiah 64:4

When the apostle Paul later quoted this prophecy, he appended the observation that God can reveal things to us by His Spirit which we cannot perceive by our physical senses:

As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

1 Corinthians 2:9-10

And Paul also taught that our communication with God in prayer is not limited to the thoughts and feelings that we are able to express in words:

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Romans 8:26

Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught that we can experience this kind of extraverbal communication as we pray:

In our deepest prayers, when the agency of man encounters the omniscience of God, we sometimes sense, if only momentarily, how very provincial our petitions really are; we perceive that there are more good answers than we have good questions; and we realize that we have been taught more than we can tell, for the language used is not that which tongue can transmit.

Patience,” BYU Devotional Address, 27 November 1979

Today, I will remember that my communication with God need not be limited to words alone. I will strive to receive the Spirit of the Lord, so that my prayers can transcend the limitations of language and include thoughts and feelings which I am unable to put into words.

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