Hello! Blessings on your springtime, wherever you are!
A few weeks ago, someone asked me out of the blue, “Where do you get the idea of tongues?” I could picture myself twenty years ago asking the same question. Growing up, the only exposure I had to the “idea of tongues” was in the account of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11). To me, it was a one-time event that happened 2,000 years ago, and had no bearing on my life.
Since that time, I have explored the concept of tongues through Bible study and my own experience, as well as that of others.
The gift of tongues has two different expressions. There is a public gift, where one person speaks in tongues and another one (or the same person) interprets the tongue in the common language. I’ve only seen that in operation once, and can’t speak to it outside of what Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 14.
On the other hand, there is praying in tongues or in the spirit, which all believers are encouraged to do.
For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God… they utter mysteries by the Spirit…Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves…I would like every one of you to speak in tongues…If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays… I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. When you are praising God in the Spirit, you are giving thanks well enough…I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. (1 Corinthians 14, selected verses) I purposely left out the limitations Paul gives in this passage, because he was addressing a church where people were going overboard with their tongues and prophecies. He clearly was not saying the gifts were bad, but that they weren’t helpful to the church assembly if they weren’t expressed decently and in order. I don’t think it’s possible to privately pray in tongues too much.
One key is in verse 14: “If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays.” We have talked before about how each of us is body, soul, and spirit. The body is our physical flesh; the soul is our mind, will, and emotions; and the spirit is where we become a new creation in Christ when we believe. Our born-again spirit is where we are the righteousness of Christ, holy, perfect, and blameless. And when we pray in tongues (or pray in the spirit) we are uttering mysteries by the Holy Spirit. We are praying the perfect will of God, and we are building ourselves up in our most holy faith (Jude v.20). Jesus says that God desires those who worship him in spirit and in truth. We can pray with our flesh, reciting words without even meaning them. We can pray with our souls, pouring out our emotions. But praying in the spirit involves yielding our tongues to the Holy Spirit, letting God choose what we say.
James describes the immense power of our tongues. If they can steer us down such a dark and evil path, imagine the incredible blessings on our lives if we turn them over to the Spirit!
If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is mature, able also to control the whole body. Now if we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we direct their whole bodies. consider ships: Though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how a small fire sets ablaze a large forest. And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among our members. It stains the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:2-6)
Jesus addressed this same topic:
For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of his good store of treasure, and the evil man brings evil things out of his evil store of treasure. (Matthew 12:34-35)
When Jesus speaks, the Father acts!
The words I say to you, I do not speak on My own. Instead, it is the Father dwelling in Me, performing His works. (John 14:12)
When I was first filled with the Spirit, I rarely prayed in tongues. My first experience with it was when one of my children was in a crisis situation that I had no power to affect in the natural, and didn’t even know what to pray. For years, the only times I prayed in tongues were when I had reached the end of my human strength. I gradually learned that this yielding to the Spirit brought with it peace, strength, and wisdom or revelation regarding the situation. I’ve come to realize that these are the very words of God, coming through my mouth.
Whether I feel a mighty move of the Spirit while I’m praying, or nothing at all, I know that what I’m speaking is incredibly powerful in the spiritual realm. I am watching God do things in my life that I wouldn’t have known or dared to ask for. To God be the glory!
Please share your experiences and questions in the comments. I’d love to engage with you!