Day 22 – Praying in Tongues (Part 2)
Effective Prayer Podcast, by Colin Dye
Prayer in tongues can be an expression of thanksgiving. All of these are found in the passage there in Corinthians. Prayer in tongues is a sign for unbelievers—that’s there in Corinthians—and our motive for praying in tongues is not to draw attention to ourselves, but should be to magnify Jesus and to be a blessing to others.
The Bible says here too the gift of tongues must not be suppressed. “Do not forbid it,” Paul says, “Do not forbid it.” And then he says prayer in tongues, like everything else, should be spoken—well, the Greek word is euschemonos, and in most versions of the Bible this is translated “decently.”
All things should be done, including tongues, decently—euschemonos—decently. It means gracefully. Tongues should be graceful. This kind of aggressive sort of yelling and screaming in tongues isn’t always necessary. Now don’t think by that that I’m against loud, strong tongues, because when you are praying in warfare praying, that’s often what happens.
Now let me just go back to a point that I made when I was touching on this in an earlier session. Some people would say that warfare tongues are unbiblical, because when you pray you pray to God, and you are not warring against him. See the logic of that? So when you pray you are speaking to God, so warring tongues are certainly not speaking to the devil; you are praying to God. You don’t speak to the devil in tongues; you’re praying to God.
But still tongues can be warfare tongues. Just as you can speak to God as the psalms do, and in the psalms, which are mainly addressed to God, we have confession, adoration, worship and victory psalms, and we have warfare psalms, kingship psalms, which speak about the victory of God and the triumphant victory of God over the enemy, and so there is a warring tongue that God can give us.
Now just one question that people ask: Why if during tongues and interpretation, why does God bother with the tongues? Why doesn’t He just speak a word of prophecy? Because tongues and interpretation, when they go together, work just the same as prophecy works. It’s just tantamount to prophecy. Well, there’s two reasons: For a start, these two gifts complement each other. When somebody speaks in tongues, it draws attention to the fact that God is speaking, and that, then, brings people into a state of readiness to hear what God wants to say through this tongue. Even though the tongue will be directed towards the Lord, it is still a revelation; it can still build people up.
And then also it is because the gifts are to be used with each other. It’s not one person doing everything, and so this is a marvelous way in which the body can be blessed and can bless one another.
Now I want to say a few things about tongues in evangelism. In Mark 16, as I’ve said, in verses 16 to 17 there are five signs which demonstrate to unbelievers the truth of the proclaimed word, and they give insight into the power and glory of the living God. And tongues is one of these signs, and so we must say, “How, then, are tongues to be used in evangelism?” Interesting, isn’t it, because if it’s a sign, then it’s going to impress unbelievers.
Now that’s exactly what the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:22. He says, “Tongues, therefore, are for a sign, not to those who believe but unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe.” Now don’t forget he is correcting an imbalance in Corinth. They were over-emphasizing tongues. How were they doing it? How were they doing it? Was it because they prayed in tongues a lot? No. Paul says, “I speak with tongues more than all of you.”
So it wasn’t that they did it too much, but they did it inappropriately. Some people say, “Well, they were just getting together, everybody getting together and praying in tongues together, and that’s wrong.” Paul isn’t condemning that. What was happening was people were standing up and doing nothing but addressing the congregation in tongues. Now can you imagine if I walked into this place today and said to you nothing but tongues, if I spoke to you, just spoke in tongues to you all the time? What would happen? You would say, “What?” And then suppose somebody else did the same thing. You would say, “What?” That is a totally inappropriate use of tongues. That’s why Paul says, “You forget tongues are not for men; you are speaking to God.”
So when you speak to people, speak in a language they understand, but if you’re praying in a tongue you can interpret it and they will be blessed, but you’ve got to address them in a language they understand. So the clear context is this: The abuse was they were showing off their tongues to one another by standing up, hogging the meeting, speaking in tongues, and nobody else getting a chance to do anything else, and perhaps they were doing this one after the other, one after the other.
In fact, Paul says everybody was doing this; they were all doing this. They were all standing up, one by one, speaking in tongues, speaking in tongues, speaking in tongues, speaking in tongues, speaking in tongues, and he actually says if somebody comes in who is an unbeliever from outside, what’s going to happen? They will just say “You’re crazy.”
But he says you’re going right against the purpose of this gift. Actually, this is a sign. When used properly, it’s a sign to the unbeliever, not a hindrance to them, and the way that you’re doing it, you’re actually even like, as it were, pronouncing a judgment, so he says tongues is a sign, not to believers, but to unbelievers. They were speaking to believers inappropriately and the whole gift was if it was used appropriately would be a blessing, of course to believers, but a sign, more than a blessing, a sign to unbelievers.
Why is tongues a sign? Number #1, it is supernatural. What’s this? What’s happening? On the Day of Pentecost it was the tongues that drew their attention. Okay. They heard them speaking in their own language, yes, so it was an unusual sign for them, but nonetheless, as Jesus says, “These signs shall follow those who believe. In My name they will speak with new tongues.” That is a sign to unbelievers. Unbelievers will see it and be impressed by it. And we find they really are when it’s done properly.
And so in Isaiah 28, which Paul quotes in 1 Corinthians 14, he quotes it, he says it’s a sign for those who believe, but then he also says actually in Isaiah 28 it says, verse 11, “For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people.” And that was actually in the context of judgment, because it was a time when God was judging the people of Samaria and the Assyrians were going to come. He said, “I’m going to…you’re not listening to me, but you’re going to hear it from another tongue.” And it was the invasion of the Assyrians that made them understand that God was speaking to them. They finally knew it, but they had to have it in a foreign language, in a foreign tongue, in a language they didn’t understand.
And so people then say, “Surely this, therefore, is a bondage to unbelievers,” and even in the early days of Pentecost it wasn’t very long before people were banning tongues from the so-called gospel service in the evening. In fact, all spiritual gifts were banned, because that was only appropriate for public worship; not for evangelism.
What about Jesus saying, Mark 16, these tongues are a sign that follows those who believe? No. There is something here that we have missed. In fact, tongues, the right use of tongues and interpretation often intrigues and amazes unbelievers. They ask the question, “What is this?” That’s what a sign is there for. A sign is never complete in itself. It’s there to give an indication, it’s to point people in a direction, it’s to arouse curiosity, and that’s what it does and that’s what…something that we must remember when we use tongues. We mustn’t be ashamed of tongues. In fact, in the very early days it was the unashamed use of tongues that marked the Pentecostals out as different.
Now what about the other uses of tongues? Tongues can be used in every area of prayer—thanksgiving, confession, petition, adoration, supplication, intercession and so on—but there appears to be, as we’re living in the Spirit, six areas where the Holy Spirit will use us—either personally or corporately—in praying in tongues. I have chosen six which I think are the main ones.
Number #1, worship. When we are worshiping, we can worship the Lord in the gift of tongues. Expressing our love for Jesus in a way which is even beyond our own capacity in our own human language, and it’s a marvelous way of doing it.
Number #2, intercession. The gift of tongues is especially valuable in intercession when we do not know what to pray. Romans 8:26 promises us that the Spirit will help us in our weaknesses. We are often asked to pray for a person, we have no idea of that person’s needs. Now the Holy Spirit will help us, as we looked at that passage, through words that cannot be expressed. I don’t think that that is speaking about tongues, because tongues can be expressed. Romans 8:26 says, “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.”
But if the Spirit helps us with groanings that cannot be uttered, He can also help us through tongues, which can be uttered. And so the Holy Spirit will help us focus, in tongues, on the real issues in prayer and intercession, and as I said to you in an earlier session, when I have been praying in tongues for a while and then I start to pray in my own language, in English, I find that my English is different. The kind of things that I say I wouldn’t have thought of before, and that can either mean that the Holy Spirit has prepared me to receive this anointed prayer, or He has now given me the interpretation to the prayer in tongues that I have been praying earlier.
I also find that tongues is powerful when you need a spiritual breakthrough. The gift of tongues helps us in the achievement of this breakthrough, and we looked at warfare prayer earlier and I’ve also mentioned in this session how the warfare prayer is appropriate in tongues.
Now sometimes when replies seem to be slow in coming and we are trying to sustain ongoing, persevering prayer, prayer without ceasing, prayer at all times over a particular issue, and even sometimes when we are involved with other activities like driving or walking or waiting for a bus, we can also pray with our understanding at such times as that, but it’s wonderful to have this gift to draw back on and say, “I am praying right now,” and you begin to pray in tongues and you can pray in a long, sustained way in tongues and then mysteries come forth and God’s power is released, and the revelation of the mystery is not just for word, but the revelation of the mystery is for the manifestation that goes with that revelation, for revelation is not just given for intellectual purposes; revelation is given for the purpose of manifestation.
And of course the Holy Spirit’s faith is never, ever low. You might be lacking in faith, you might be slipping in your faith, but when you pray, you are praying in words given to you by the Holy Spirit, whose faith is never low, and that’s a marvelous way to bolster up your own spiritual experience.
And I do think, too, that it is a very good thing emotionally. If we find it difficult, and especially those of us Western believers, we find it difficult to express our emotions—our normal, natural, human emotions. How much more difficult is it going to be for us to express the divine emotions? Our emotions are good—you know that—and when I pray, I give God the full range of all my emotions—anger against the devil, compassion for the lost, mercy, and all the other parts of your personality. You should offer God the full range of your emotions.
You see, somehow we have been taught in Western civilization that emotions have to be pushed down, and many psychological problems develop that way, so I have heard of studies—I can’t quote them off-hand—but I’ve heard of studies that show that tongues speakers are actually more emotionally balanced than those who are not tongues speakers. Now that’s one in the eye for those who say we speak in tongues because we are emotionally unbalanced. Not at all.
It’s a healthy thing. And here’s why I think it is. Because when we are praying in tongues, the Holy Spirit can take our emotions and sanctify them to the Father and use the full range of our emotions, and we can find that we can express emotions in tongues to God about our situation, about our circumstances, and in the line of God’s emotions for that situation, and that brings a release, a psychological as well as a spiritual release.
I am not a psychologist. I can’t say more than that. But I do know that expressing your emotions is very, very important. And say, for example—let me give you an example of this—you’re watching the news on television and you’re seeing the killings and the massacre, you’re seeing the starvation, you’re seeing the problems in the world, you’re seeing the sin, the immorality and the blaspheming that is going on in the world, and what do you do about it?
That builds up a lot of tension within you because your spirit recoils against that stuff, and what do you do? You come before the presence of God, you begin to pray, you can move into lamentation over the situation. You can begin to groan in the Spirit until you get into the deeper parts of prayer where words are no longer appropriate, but when words are appropriate, in your own language. You can move into prayer in tongues, in the spiritual language, and you are expressing a lamentation, you are expressing a concern, a burden that you will have no words to express in your own language, and then even beyond tongues comes the time when you can’t even use tongues and there is a deeper level, a deeper level of identification and travail. So there are many things that you can learn as you move in the gift of tongues.
And so I touched on lamentation already; it’s another use of it. Thanksgiving, again another use. How can you adequately express in your own language thanksgiving to God? Even under the inspiration of that Spirit you find that there is still not that release, that spiritual release, and then it comes with tongues and words in tongues which bubble up to God and you just know that you’re praising Him in a beautiful way, and then if you receive the interpretation and you begin to speak it out in your own language you find, “Why that’s so beautiful. That’s so beautiful. Hallelujah, the Holy Spirit is speaking. Thank you, Lord Jesus.”
I want you to stand right now. The Holy Spirit is speaking to us. Stand right now. Stand right now. I want you to begin to worship the Lord in tongues. I want you to just begin to speak gently in tongues to the Lord right now.
Yes, Lord, we obey you, we obey you, we obey you. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Thank you Lord Jesus. We worship you right now. Now I want you just to hold it right there. Somebody in this room is being led by the Spirit to speak, to pray out loud to the Lord in tongues and worship Him in tongues. Somebody is being led right now. Be free to do it right now. In fact, I’d like you to come to the microphone quickly and do it right now. So you know who you are. Step right out quickly. You know who you are. Quickly come.
Thank you, Lord Jesus. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Now you speak. Here is the microphone. Please speak.
[Woman praying in tongues]
Colin: Thank you, Lord Jesus. Oh Lord, from the very depth of my being, I cry out to you as my only Lord and my only Savior, and I thank You that my eyes can be opened to who You are and I am overwhelmed with the beauty of your face, and I love you. I love you. I love you.
Please be seated again.
Now can you see how through that tongue and interpretation we touched a very beautiful moment in the Spirit? Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
And there is in this place right now a beautiful sense of His presence, and what is happening right now here is an illustration of our next point. This can be a preparation for something else. The gift of tongues exercised can be a marvelous release into what God has for you in your life.
Now something that we just did earlier, some people teach against and say it is wrong to pray in tongues, everybody together, corporate tongues, because they say in 1 Corinthians 14:23, “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?” In other words, they are saying here, Paul says, “Look, you don’t pray with everybody together.”
But then I want you to see that he goes on in 1 Corinthians 14 to the next verse and describes what happens next, and he applies this very same principle to those who are prophesying, and he says, “But if everyone is prophesying, then they are going to hear the secrets of their heart and they are going to fall down and say, ‘God is amongst you.’” Now I ask you, what is he contrasting here? He is not contrasting everybody praying in tongues together with people individually prophesying, is he? That’s how people interpret it. They say, “Everybody praying in tongues together, that’s wrong, and that’s what he’s talking about here. But everybody can prophesy.”
Now wait a minute, all together? In other words, if someone comes in and everybody is talking together, what do you hear? Nothing. You just hear people talking. It doesn’t matter what language they are talking in; the effect is the same. Do you see that? So what they were doing in Corinth was standing up one after the other and praying in tongues and addressing the congregation in tongues. Paul says, “You can’t do that. They’ll think you’re crazy.” You’ve got to have some interpretation.” But if you stand up and prophesy then they are going to hear and understand.
And so really here the Apostle Paul is not in any way talking about corporate tongues. He’s not saying you can’t do it; he is not teaching against it; and in fact the principles of this are established and it is established by those principles because when we gather together and share together and praise Him together and worship together, then it’s a good thing to do.
All right, now just a few words about actually starting to pray in tongues, because prayer in tongues is only for those believers who have been filled with the Holy Spirit who desire to receive the gift. But some people stumble at this point because they feel that, “Okay, you know, I am full of the Spirit of God but I haven’t spoken in tongues,” and often the barrier is this: They forget that this is a gift that God gives you to do, and they never step out, and they think that means that “God will make me do it. God will somehow control my tongue for me,” which, in fact, He won’t do that. You must submit to that and be willing to open your mouth and to speak.
And so one of the ways in which we can do this is by acknowledging that God wants to give us this blessing and by coming before Him and by saying, “Lord Jesus, I am ready for you to fill me with Your Spirit and release this gift in me,” and then in faith speak out as the Holy Spirit gives you an utterance. I say that because in all my years I’ve discovered that’s one of the major reasons why people don’t speak in tongues, because they just think, “Oh God’s going to make me do it,” rather than as it says in the Book of Acts, “And God gave them the ability and they spoke with tongues as the Holy Spirit enabled them.”