The Bible tells us that the enemy comes as an imposter and seeks to discredit the things of God. That is why we are warned that, “Satan masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). One of the ways he does this is by tainting rich and life-giving aspects of our relationship with the Lord. We need look no further for an example than the use of spiritual language.
Understanding Spiritual Language
While the book of Acts gives many examples of Jesus followers speaking in tongues (Acts 2:41, 8:5-25, 10:47, 11:17, 16:31-34, 21:20), it’s easy to understand why many are uneasy about it. Some are concerned about being manipulated to speak in tongues, while others have seen prayer language used in an unbiblical context and would rather leave the topic alone. Before looking at how tongues can be used, it’s important to dispel some of the mystery behind it. Speaking in tongues or using a spiritual language means that your prayers are in another human language or a heavenly language. Keep in mind that:
- A person can be full of the Holy Spirit and not pray in tongues.
- Praying in a prayer language doesn’t make one believer more mature, experienced, or seasoned than another believer.
- Tongues is something the Lord makes available to all of us, and it can be as natural as other prayers we pray in English.
- Just like any supernatural experience, Jesus encourages us to not rejoice in the experience but that our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
The Bible talk about four different types of tongues. Two for public ministry and two are for our private walk with the Lord. This week, we’ll cover using using tongues in our personal prayer lives. Check out last week’s blog for thoughts on tongues in public ministry.
Tongues in Our Personal Prayer Life
Tongues for intercession
We don’t always know what’s going on across the world, but the Holy Spirit does. Using a spiritual language to pray for someone you have never met allows the Spirit to intercede for us.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express (or expressed in words). And he who searches (knows) our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:26-28 (NIV)
Tongues for self–edification
Praying in a spiritual language during personal times with the Lord is a way of creating intimacy in your relationship with the Lord. Use your spiritual language for:
1. Prayer and praise
Paul tells us that he prays with his spirit (tongues) and his mind. If you are going to pray in this Spirit, it is important to know that no one can understand you because you are praying in the Spirit. Paul puts forth the confines that our spiritual language is for personal use in our quiet place and is only to be used in public if it is interpreted or is one of the 6,909 languages across the earth as a sign to unbelievers.
Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 14:1–2 (ESV)
The person that speaks in tongues does not speak to man but to God. Paul views tongues as a form of prayer and praise, but in a language that the speaker does not understand. This is speech in a language the speaker does not know, and that sometimes does not follow the patterns of any known human language (1 Cor. 13:1). Paul sees this gift as a means of expressing prayer or praise to God (14:2, 28) in which the speaker’s human spirit is praying even though the speaker does not understand the meaning (see 1 Cor. 14:2, 11, 13–19, 23).
For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.
1 Corinthians 14:14–18, 39 (ESV)
2. To build yourself up
How do you build yourself up? Praying in the Holy in the Spirit. Praying in Holy Spirit is truly edifying and a wonderful grace from God to His children. The Word also tells us that it is part of our spiritual armor.
The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.
1 Corinthians 14:4 (ESV)
The word used here is commonly translated as “edifies or builds up” which means to literally “build a house.” We are the temples of the Holy Spirit, and when we pray in tongues we are enlarging the dwelling place for the Spirit, giving Him more room to occupy. When we pray in tongues, we enlarge our ability to contain His presence and power in our lives. The word edifies means to build up an infrastructure or build yourself up.
and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
Ephesians 6:17–18 (ESV)
But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit
Jude 20 (ESV)
Let Your Spirit Pray
Some people may say, “I don’t have that gift. If God decides to give me the gift, then He will.” It is important to note that we are talking about a grace that everyone can pray. In 1 Corinthians 14:14–15, Paul says:
“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.”
The word “if”, which means I choose. It’s a decision you make and a choice you have. Why would Paul give us instruction on how to and when to speak in tongues if it is uncontrollable? Isn’t it about time you let your spirit pray? It’s by faith that we open our mouth in your private time and yield your spirit to the Lord. When you are alone, put on worship and yield your tongue to the Lord and let your spirit pray.