My guest blogger today is Lisa Thompson who shares her experiences with speaking in tongues.
For outsiders — and even for those within the Christian faith — speaking in tongues often seems like a bunch of, well, mumbo jumbo. It doesn’t make sense to either the speaker or the listener. People have so many questions about the practice. What good does it do? Why do people bother? How can it help? I received my personal prayer language about 30 years ago and want to answer some of these questions for the reader as well as share my personal experiences.
No Gifts Allowed – Especially Tongues
I was raised in a denomination that was very against most of the gifts of the Spirit, especially against speaking in tongues. They didn’t exactly preach that these gifts were “of the devil,” but if you participated in these gifts, you might unknowingly be partnering with satan.
These attacks were based in fear and an attempt to control the people who attended that church. After all, if you didn’t pray in tongues, then you needed to just keep listening to the pastor and only do what he said. He could properly interpret the Bible for you because you certainly couldn’t be trusted to depend on the Holy Spirit to lead you and guide you.
As if this weren’t enough, the pastor of the church wasn’t just someone I saw on Wednesdays and Sundays and whenever the doors were opened. No, he was someone I saw on a daily and constant basis.
He was my dad.
However, he prematurely passed away at the age of 55, leaving behind a young widow 19 years his junior and six children. Someone else now needed to step in and take over the church, carrying on his legacy.
That person was my uncle by marriage, the man who married my dad’s sister. As such, the cautions against the gifts continued along with the warnings against the “dangers” of any of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Overcoming the Fear of Change
By the time I hit my mid-20s, I’d had enough. I was tired of feeling stifled. Tired of wondering why my Christian life wasn’t working. After all, I knew all the verses and then some. I had served in every way possible from the nursery to the pre-K to grade school, junior high and on up. I was in the choir. I gave rides to people who needed them. I tithed. I read my Bible and prayed and fasted. I even went door-to-door witnessing to strangers. I served on summer missions, not once but twice. I taught in a Christian school.
But I felt So. Very. Empty.
So I quit.
Oh, I didn’t quit God. I knew that He was still for me. But I quit that church. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t keep up the charade of pretending any longer. I was hurting and had no idea of where to go for help. One thing I did know — my denomination didn’t have what I was looking for. So I took a deep breath and much to the chagrin of my mom — who I loved dearly — and my uncle, the pastor, I left. Yes, I suffered some backlash. But I had reached the point where the pain of remaining the same overcame my fear of the unknown and my fear of change.
Moving Out of My Comfort Zone
First, I went to a nice, safe community church. God connected me with amazing people there, many of whom I am still friends with to this day. But within a very short time, the church underwent some serious transition, and many of the people left, including my new friends. One of the former pastors started his own church, and I began to attend.
The only issue was that this church was very charismatic and believed in the full operation of all the gifts of the Spirit. Including — or should I say especially — speaking in tongues. God began unpacking a greater revelation of just what this gift was and how it worked. I came to see that He has given a personal gift of tongues to every believer who wanted it.
I sat under some new teachings about speaking in tongues as my pastor expounded upon 1 Corinthians 14 and the related passages. I learned that there were different types of tongues: a private, prayer language; tongues that released a message from God in a corporate, church setting; and tongues that were actually the understanding and ability to speak in a foreign language, similar to what happened at Pentecost in Acts 2.
So I stepped in. I don’t remember the exact moment when I began speaking in tongues. It wasn’t some type of eye-opening experience filled with emotionalism. It felt like taking a step — a very small step. I do remember that it was very low key with not much more than saying something similar to “sha-ba, sha-ba.” (I still say that a lot!) From those small beginnings, the gift grew until it became much more mature.
I prayed quietly to myself in the privacy of my home, and the words that flowed through me increased. I prayed quietly in church when encouraged to do so. Later, I began to use my gift in intercession, both privately and in groups. I also used it when ministering to others. I found that tongues increased my clarity and ability to clearly hear from God for myself and the person to whom I was ministering.
Tongues and a Creative Solution to a Challenging Problem
Years ago, when my youngest son was in kindergarten, our family found themselves in a tough predicament. His kindergarten teacher recommended that he be moved up to first grade since he was academically capable of doing more advanced work. The school had two first-grade teachers — me and another person, who struggled both personally and as a teacher. My son’s father and I clearly did not want our son in this class. However, administration refused to let me teach him.
We were stuck between a rock and a hard place. We even considered sending him to another school, but logistically, we couldn’t arrange transportation. My son’s father then met with the principal. As an employee of the school and somewhat concerned about my job, I did not attend the meeting. Even so, it didn’t go very well, and nothing was resolved.
So I spent time early each morning, praying in tongues, pressing into God for the answer that I needed — the answer that I knew that He had already prepared for this situation. Only a day or two later, during my prayer time, the answer dropped into my spirit. Another teacher had just joined the kindergarten team. I approached the principal with the following three options for my son’s placement:
- Transfer to the new teacher’s kindergarten class with first-grade work funneled to him.
- Remain in his current teacher’s class with first-grade work funneled to him.
- Advance to my first-grade class
I told him that my son was not allowed in the other first-grade teacher’s class. I asked that he get back to me when he made a decision as to a course of action.
The principal decided to leave my son in the kindergarten class, allowing him to complete more advanced work.
That experience taught me so much about the power of privately praying in tongues. I learned that God has answers to our difficult questions even when we see no way out. In my situation, I thought that I only had two solutions, neither of which were in my son’s best interests. After further prayer, God provided a creative third option that I hadn’t even considered. This opened the door to the best solution for him.
I learned that God operates in similar ways in many situations when I spend time praying in tongues. A problem seems to have just one or two solutions. After praying in tongues, other doors open, literally making a way where there seems to be no way.
My prayer for each reader is that you will experience the transforming power in your relationship with Jesus that speaking in tongues provides for you personally.