What is Speaking in Tongues
Speaking in tongues, for the Christian, is a way of allowing the regenerated human spirit to pray to God or to praise God, or to speak a message from God, without the interference or limitations of the human mind. Speaking in tongues actually happens when a person allows syllables to flow out of their mouth without consciously controlling them. When a Christian is empowered by the Holy Spirit in this, it is a powerful spiritual practice.
The Bible says that we do not know how to pray as we ought. See Romans 8:26. This is a fact. Now, the Spirit of God helps us to pray through unutterable groanings, but that is not the only way He helps us to pray. He also enables us to pray with our spirit, which is to pray in tongues. This I will show from the Scriptures in due course.
It has now been shown scientifically that a Christian while speaking in tongues is using totally different parts of the brain than one does while speaking a known language.
The apostle Paul spoke in tongues. He said,
1Co 14:18 I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all;
Paul did not say that he was ashamed that he spoke in tongues. If Paul was not ashamed of it, no
Christian today should be ashamed of speaking in tongues.
For Paul wrote in another place:
Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1
Paul spoke in tongues. Paul prayed with his spirit, as well as with his understanding. There are
good reasons for both kinds of prayer.
If you are critical of speaking in tongues, please remember one thing. God did not entrust the writing of any part of the New Testament to anyone who did NOT speak in tongues.
There are people who hold to a theological viewpoint known as Cessationism. Cessationists believe that all the sign gifts like speaking in tongues and the working of miracles stopped once the early church apostles died. One problem for Cessationists, apart from the serious risk they will face of ascribing the work of the Holy Spirit to the devil, is that it is hard to come up with rules for deciding which verses of the New Testament apply today and which are not.
For example, do we still not know how to pray as we ought, or has Romans 8:26 been superceded by some new understanding?
Does the verse in Mark 16:17 which says, “These signs shall follow those who believe. In my name they will drive out demons, they will speak with new tongues” – does that verse still apply or has it been now abrogated by some sacred principle of Cessationism which has rendered it obsolete?
Should the verse which says, “Whatever you ask in faith, really believing, you will receive” now read: “Whatever you ask in faith, really believing, except if it be tongues, spiritual gifts or the working of miracles, you shall receive”?
Is the Bible itself now an insufficient guide to doctrine? Does the Bible give one message to the people it was originally written to, and another message to us today?
Is Jesus who is the “same, yesterday today and forever” now a God who does not speak except through a Book, whereas formerly He could talk as any human being could?
I hope you see one problem with Cessationism as I have outlined it here.
If we dispense with Cessationism, we are left with the thought that valid Christian speaking in tongues is still available to the believer today.
Three Kinds of Speaking in Tongues
The Bible refers to different kinds of speaking in tongues. Without this insight, it is impossible to harmonize all the Biblical passages about speaking in tongues. In the Book of Acts, chapter 2, the disciples spoke in tongues and the people around them recognized what they were saying as praises to God in their own language. God obviously intended this to be a sign for the Jewish people who had gathered for the feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem. This kind of speaking in tongues still happens today, but it is quite rare.
The second kind of speaking in tongues is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Now Paul makes it very clear in 1 Corinthians 14 that speaking in tongues out loud in church is not helpful at all unless it is interpreted. This kind of tongues, then, is one way God sometimes chooses to give a message to men, to people.
The third kind of tongues is referred to in 1 Corinthians 14:2.
"For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries." (KJV)
Obviously this verse cannot apply to the other kinds of speaking in tongues we just mentioned. In those cases men understood the tongues, or they were messages to men, not to God.
A message to God is in fact PRAYER. So this kind of speaking in tongues is in fact a powerful form of PRAYER. It is powerful because it consists of words given by the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we take this on faith, but anyone who has spent much time praying in the Spirit in tongues knows that it can make an incredible difference to the level of anointing, power and grace that can flow out of one's life as a result.
This is the only kind of speaking in tongues that is generally available to all believers in Jesus. The other types can only happen by the Sovereign will of God, by the initiative of the Holy Spirit.
Praying in Tongues
One of the chief benefits, then of speaking in tongues, is to have a new channel of prayer opened up, in which the Holy Spirit transcends the limitations of your mind and gives you words which will be acceptable to God, even though you do not understand them with your mind.
We are told to "pray without ceasing". There are a number of ways this could be achieved, but tongues is certainly a very helpful weapon to have in your arsenal in this regard.
Ephesians 6:18 tells us to pray at all times in the Spirit with all kinds of prayer and supplications. Since tongues is ONE KIND of praying in the Spirit, it is part of "all kinds" and therefore we are encouraged by God to do it.
The truth about these things does not depend upon which ecclesiastical body believes in or practices it. The various denominations of Christianity have proven that they are not absolutely reliable measures of truth, or interpreters of truth. Therefore, if the Scripture exhorts one thing, and a denomination another, it is SAFER to go with the Word of God.
You will find that way you also get to enjoy God's blessings.
Other Benefits of Speaking in Tongues
Speaking in tongues can become a kind of introduction to the supernatural power of God. It is an a gateway into some of the other gifts of the Spirit. Exercising the ability to pray in tongue opens up a person to learning to operate from their human spirit, joined as it is to the Spirit of God by virtue of the New Birth. It is with the spirit that one can touch God, and receive the things of God. The natural man – that is the purely mental and emotional part of man, cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God, nor perceive them.
Praying in tongues brings pleasure and refreshing to the spirit and soul of man.
Because it brings a strong connection with God's Spirit, praying in tongues can create a spiritual refreshing for the heart of a person. When you are weary from a hard day at work, or from dealing with various trials and frustrations, you may be even too tired to pray in your own mother tongue. At times like this, you can pray in tongues and receive a direct refreshing from God that does not depend on mental effort. It is truly a form of "rest" for the people of God.
Speaking in tongues may be interpreted to reveal the things of God
If you have faith for it, and you have prayed for it, you may also intrepet your prayers to God. While you are praying in tongues, thoughts and revelations may arise in your heart and mind which come from the Spirit of God. These thoughts can be highly relevant for your life. They can give key insights concerning what to do, or what God will do, or how to change. The value of speaking in tongues then is very great inasmuch as it acts as a catalyst for hearing important things from God in your heart.
Speaking in Tongues allows you to Pray about things you Do Not Know
God may need to find someone who can pray for something that only God and the persons needing prayer may be aware of. If God has an intecessor who is available and will pray in tongues, that can be the means through which God is invited to act in a situation that the intecessor knows nothing of. In this way the prayer can result in "God's Kingdom coming, God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
Speaking in Tongues creates a Bond of Common Experience with Other Christians
We do need to learn things from other Christians who do not necessarily share all our doctrinal beliefs. When Peter saw that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles in the same way as it happened with them, it created a kind of trust that God was genuinely at work in the lives of those people. In the same way, when I talk with a Methodist who speaks in other tongues, or an Anglican, I share a deeper bond of fellowship because I know this person is more likely to have an understanding and appreciation of some of the spiritual experiences I have.
Speaking in Tongues helps prepare for Soulwinning Activities
Speaking in tongues is somehow like charging the battery of the human spirit. Much speaking in tongues attracts God's power and grace. It is a sacrifice of time and energy with which God may well be pleased. It requires one to give up some other less important activities – entertainment for example, to devote oneself to facilitating the purposes of God in the world.
I have found that much speaking in tongues brings me to a place where the anointing for leading people to Christ seems to be stronger. Call it faith, call it power, the Holy Spirit works more when we pray in tongues – all other things being equal.
Speaking in Tongues empowers other Aspects of Ministry
Whatever your gift and call is, spending time speaking in tongues will attract power into your life, or rather cause the power of the Holy Spirit within you to be released more. This will make for more effective ministry in every area of Christian service.
I hope this article will motivate you to pray in tongues more. If you have not yet started praying in tongues, may I recommend my article on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.