The Gift of Tongues
One of the most controversial spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament is the gift of speaking in tongues. Although many people have rejected the idea that God speaks to and through us in this way, I’ve found that there is a great benefit to those who practice this gift. The language we speak when we operate in this gift allows us to communicate directly with God. The Holy Spirit enables us to speak a language (or several of them) without ever having to learn them.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania recorded scans of the brains of people while they spoke in tongues. The study was published in The New York Times. Dr. Andrew Newberg, who headed the study, concluded:
We noticed a number of changes that occurred functionally in the brain. Our finding of decreased activity in the frontal lobes during the practice of speaking in tongues is fascinating because these subjects truly believe that the spirit of God is moving through them and controlling them to speak… Our brain-imaging research shows us that these subjects are not in control of the usual language centers during this activity, which is consistent with their description of a lack of intentional control while speaking in tongues.
The gift of tongues is not only for a select few. Paul said that he wanted every believer to speak in tongues and prophesy:
“I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied” (1 Cor. 14:5)
The Bible says that those who speak in tongues are (generally) speaking directly to God:
“For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.” (1 Cor. 14:2)
One of the exceptions is when we speak in tongues to declare the wonders of God to others:
“We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (Acts 2:11)
Or when praising God:
“For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.” (Acts 10:46)
Those who are experienced with speaking in tongues report that their spirit is strengthened the more they pray in tongues. It also seems to open up a clearer channel of communication between them and God. The gift of speaking in tongues is the one gift given to edify (strengthen) the individual. The rest of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to strengthen the body of Christ:
“He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.” (1 Cor. 14:4)
When I pray with people for healing or deliverance, my wife often prays alongside me. I begin by praying in English as I’m led by the Spirit—most often through visions. She rarely prays in her native language, which is English, but prays as she is led by the Spirit in tongues. She’s become so accustomed to praying in tongues that today it’s easier for her to pray in tongues than it is to pray in English.
The gift of speaking in tongues is like any other gift. The more we exercise it, the more proficient we’ll become at it. If you desire to operate in the gift of tongues, pray for it and believe that you will receive it. Speaking in tongues is not something the Holy Spirit does to you. It is rather, a way that He operates through you as you speak or pray. The key is that you must initiate the process.
When I first began speaking in tongues, I heard in my mind words that were softly spoken in a language I had never heard before. As I’ve said in other chapters, one way in which you can know revelation is from God is when it sounds unlike anything you would normally think. The words I heard in my mind were completely foreign to me. I assumed they were the words the Holy Spirit wanted me to speak, so I said them to the best of my ability. The apostle Paul said that the main problem with speaking in tongues is that our natural mind doesn’t understand what we say:
“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.” (1 Cor. 14:14)
There are times when it isn’t necessary to know what we are praying. Paul discussed this in the eighth chapter of Romans:
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom. 8:26-27)
Praying in tongues is a way in which the Spirit of God can inspire our prayer when we aren’t sure how we ought to pray. The Holy Spirit is our helper, our comforter, our intercessor, and faithful friend. Praying in tongues empowers us when we are weak, comforts us when we are sad, and through it, He intercedes for us according to His perfect will.
This is an excerpt from my book Hearing God’s Voice Made Simple. Click on the link or on the image below to check out the book.