The Gift of Tongues
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to believers for many purposes. The gift of tongues is the only gift that is given to strengthen the individual. The rest of the gifts 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 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. I have a friend who said the first time he spoke in tongues was when he was riding his motorcycle. His motorcycle was hit by a car and he went flying through the air. He said as soon as he was airborne, he began speaking in tongues.
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, but rather 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.
Occasionally someone will pray in tongues and an interpretation will be given, but not always. When an interpretation is given of something that was said in tongues, it is usually a word of encouragement to an individual or group. In that respect, the interpretation of tongues is similar to the gift of prophecy.
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 for. 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.”
The gift of tongues is like any other gift. The more we exercise it, the more proficient we’ll become at it. If you want 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. Rather, it’s a way that He operates through you as you speak or pray. The key is that you must initiate the process.
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. 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.