There is more confusion over praying in tongues than any other type of prayer. Praying in tongues is a New Testament doctrine. I see no scriptural evidence of it ending or being “done away with.” However, I continue to see a lot of misunderstanding and unbiblical demonstrations throughout the Church, which need to be addressed. First, I will share my personal experience with the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
On November 7th of 1988, I was born again. a few weeks after my conversion, being completely unchurched and having had no exposure to any teaching about praying in tongues, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues while alone in my bedroom.
I was reading the book of Acts for the second time. I saw that there was more available to me than what I was currently experiencing, so I prayed, “Lord if there is more of You available to me, I want it.” The Lord then baptized me in His Holy Spirit.
When the Spirit of God came on me, I felt power like electricity all over my body, and it felt like my tongue was as big around as a soda can. I could hear these crazy-sounding words and syllables in my head but resisted saying them out of my mouth because this was all too strange. When I finally yielded to what was happening inside me, I said a few sentences in an unknown tongue and then stopped because it freaked me out. I could not deny that I had a genuine experience and felt the power of God all over me. I just didn’t understand what had happened.
No one taught me, no one prayed over me, and no one laid hands on me. I simply saw it in His word and asked for it. God is good!
Here is my concern from over 30 years of observation. Many who claim to have the baptism of the Holy Spirit speak a sentence or two in “tongues” and repeat the same things. This is the limit of their so-called “prayer language.” I have also seen people repeatedly give “messages from the Lord” by tongues and interpretation but use the same few words in tongues, maybe changing the order of the words a bit. However, the interpretation is always different.
Praying in the Spirit requires communion, not just conversation.
This is not praying in tongues, it is a repetition and a parroting of what once may have been an actual utterance by the Spirit. I am not saying these people have not been baptized in the Spirit. I just question their understanding and their expression of it to the body of Christ. I believe that some things are out of order.
Praying in other tongues is a practice of listening with the heart, not a mindless repetition of past utterances. Speaking in tongues is a supernatural experience in which we should grow and develop. It should always be fresh, dynamic, and alive. Many people have gotten stuck in their initial experience, thinking this is all there is, and never made an effort to develop beyond that. Others, I believe, have simply been taught wrong and never actually experienced the true baptism in the Holy Spirit.
I still remember the first few sentences I spoke in tongues, but I rarely repeated them. Instead, I listen on the inside for the same voice of the Holy Spirit that I heard the first time and practice repeating what I hear. The utterance is almost always different. Sometimes the utterance is so unique and funny sounding that I laugh at myself.
Praying in tongues should be done with an understanding that we are handling holy things and representing a sacred God. Is what we are doing done in fear of the Lord? Are these things edifying us and the Church? It is a serious thing to speak publicly in tongues and claim these words are from the Lord.
My understanding of scripture is that praying in tongues should be limited in public unless accompanied by an interpretation. 1 Corinthians 14 addresses this issue.
1 Corinthians 14:22-25 (NKJV) Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. 23 Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. 25 And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.
How we represent God in any setting is a serious thing. We are responsible for being an example to others to the best of our ability. We are all at different places in our journey with the Lord. We should not be too quick to follow others’ examples unless we are confident that they represent the Holy Spirit well.
We can all grow in our understanding, humility, and fear of the Lord. Let us not put God in the tiny box of our limited experience. Instead, let’s ask Him to elevate our experience and understanding to match what the Bible teaches.
Praying in the Spirit is a beautiful thing. It is yielding to the influence of the Holy Spirit, letting Him define us and shape us as we pray in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication.
Quoted from the book, The Spiritual Warfare Manifesto
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