Tongsung Kido (A Korean Style Prayer)
Young Sung Kim, Major
Territorial Ambassador for Holiness
The Salvation Army
USA Eastern Territory
Tongsung Kido, which literally means “praying together out loud,” is an important part of prayer lifethat the Korean Christians have cultivated in their practice of faith. Tongsung kido is a significant and almost universal spiritual practice that has been a distinctive way of experiencing the Spirit filled prayer life among Korean Christians. As a unique form of prayer, it is used both in public and private settings of prayer intentionally. Whether practiced in a setting of personal prayer or in public worship, tongsung kido is offered in a loud voice.
Tongsung kido has value as an example of a fervent, persistent and earnest way of crying out to God. It is a prayer experience of completely liberating oneself to God in total surrender, and in unflinching desperation giving to God anything and everything that can be expressed to Him. The person praying is freed from any awareness of his surrounding and relinquishes his sufferings and joys to God, who hears his voice.
The purpose of tongsung kido can be crystallized in two functions: First, as tongsung kido is defined as a passionate form of individual and communal prayer of lament, tongsung kido functions as a practice of confession of one’s sins and an assurance that sins are forgiven. Second, as tongsung kido has a biblical character of a visceral struggle with God, tongsung kido embodies a radical channel for transforming one’s prayer life into the life of a new creature requiring the discipline of the body as well as the mind.
The spiritual and cultural reference of tongsung kido is anchored to the idea of Han, which is unique to the experience of Korean people; in particular in a socio-historical context, including the experiences of Japanese colonization (1909-1945), the Korean war (1950-1953), the institutionalized oppression caused by the military dictatorship (1961-1992) in the history of Korea. In a special way, Han is significant in relation to the suffering experience of Korean women who are economically oppressed, politically repressed, and socio-culturally victimized under the “age-old Confucian system of ethics, which inculcates male domination.”
Andrew S. Park defines Han as “frustrated hope, the collapsed feeling of pain, letting go, resentful bitterness, and the wounded heart” (Andrew S. Park, The Wounded Heart of God, 1993, 15-30.). James H. Cone attempts to compare Han with the concept of blues. For him, the experience of Han as “the crystallization of suffering and unresolved feelings owing to injustice” might be compared to the blues in the U. S. Afro-American experience (The Commission on Theological Concerns of the Christian Conference of Asia, ed. ‘Minjung’ Theology: People as the Subjects of History , 1981, xi.).
There is no one way to practice tongsung kido, but there are certain patterns one can observe. Individual tongsung kido may take place in a private place or in a church sanctuary when no one is around in order to allow oneself to be immersed into fervent prayer with a loud cry to God. As a public collective prayer, tongsung kido might be practiced in various places such as in early Morning prayer meeting, regular Sunday worship service, revival meetings, and group prayer meetings. During worship, usually at the time of special prayer request, the minister or the worship leader will call the congregation to pray in unison. The whole congregation joins together to pray aloud individually but spontaneously at the same time in unison. Some time, in the beginning of prayer the congregation may shout, “Lord! Lord! Lord!” in unison as a corporative sign of engaging the prayer warfare.Usually the congregation is given a specific time period, with a common theme of petition or supplication.
Some Biblical References on Tongsung Kido:
* Tongsung kido as a lament:
Rachel’s cry – Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:18
*Tongsung kido as a passionate faith practice:
The Israelites’ experience of the Exodus – Exodus 2:23b-25
Jesus’s example – Luke 22:44
*Tongsung kido as a unique form of fervent prayer:
Jacob’s wrestling with Angel – Genesis 32:22-32
James 5:13-15, 17a, 18a
Chapter 4, “Fervent Prayer: The Practice of Praying Together” in Sing the Lord’s Song in a New Land: Korean American Practices of Faith. Eds. Pak, Su Yon, Kim Jung Ha and Cho, Myung Ji. Westminster John Knox Press, 2005, pp. 35-44.
Kevin Park, “Tongsung Kido (Unison Prayer) in Hungry Hearts: Solemn Assemblies, Special Edition, Vol. 17, No. 5, 2008.
John Wesley’s emphasis on prayer, especially in his book, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection.