When you stop to think about it, isn't it strange that we even have to make a case for whether or not there is any value in a gift that comes from the hands of God? Would God ever give us a bad gift, a gift that would be detrimental to us and not good for us? All the gifts of the Spirit listed in the New Testament, including speaking in tongues, are God's idea, not man's idea. We dare not look down on or treat with contempt any of God's gifts. But because the gift of tongues has become a center of controversy, and because tongues seem to have become a divisive issue as to their value or importance, I have included below some things to consider concerning the value of speaking in tongues. These are from the writings of Paul in chapter 14 of his letter to the Corinthian believers.


So let us see what value the Word of God places on speaking in tongues. We can group all Paul has to say about the value of speaking in tongues around the following ten words:




These are all found in I Corinthians 14 with the exception of the first one, which is in Chapter 12:1.




“Now concerning spiritual gifts, I would not have you to be ignorant.” What value could there possibly be in speaking a language, even if it is supposed to be a form of prayer, if you don't know what you are saying? This question only arises in the minds of those who suppose that something only has value if it can be understood and explained. How could anything have value if it is not reasonable, logical, and explainable?


We are not unwise to embrace and enjoy such things, for if we did not, we would not participate in electricity in its mysterious workings, or fly in a supersonic jet, or enjoy the song of the mockingbird. We may even find it hard to accept our physical bodies, so magnificent in their capabilities and functions that the Psalmist cried out, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made!" The fact is, we accept and embrace and enjoy many, many things everyday that we do not fully understand, even things that we would call mysterious.


Since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the meetings on Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California at the turn of the last century, there has been much discussion among theologians and among Christians in general about the validity of speaking in tongues. None of the spiritual gifts have caused as much excitement and aroused as much controversy as speaking in tongues.


Some are calling this phenomenon, "The Tongues Movement." It is no surprise due to the powerful impact speaking in tongues has on people, whether they believe in it or not! Almost any of the other spiritual gifts Paul mentions in his first letter to the Corinthians are easier for the average Christian to accept than speaking in tongues. I think it will help to recall a prophecy Jesus gave about these strange and unusual tongues. We cannot deny that, for many, it is easier to receive the words of Jesus on this matter than the words of Paul or anybody else. Consider the following words of Jesus: "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues, they will pick up snakes with their hands, and when they drink any deadly poison it will not hurt them, they will place their hands on the sick, and they will get well." (Mark 16:15-18) NIV


Why should it be thought strange for Jesus to prophesy something that actually came to pass and is recorded for us in the book of Acts, in the writings of Paul, and in the annals of church history? Some might say, "But Jesus just said "new tongues" and not "unknown tongues" so this probably means they learned new languages as they traveled and entered new countries? But please note that all five things Jesus prophesied he called "signs" and were clearly considered to be in the realm of the supernatural, so why would not the "new tongues" also be supernatural language and not just learning to speak a known language?


Nearly all of these things that Jesus prophesied in Mark 16 took place in the life of one single follower of Jesus . . . the apostle Paul. In Jesus' name he cast out demons, he spoke with new tongues, he picked up a deadly viper and was not hurt, he laid his hands on the sick and they got well. And in the history of Christian missions over the centuries, believers have consumed poisonous food and drink without ill effects. The words of our Lord Jesus on the subject of unknown tongues are very important, and we cannot afford to ignore what he said about this. He prophesied that these things would happen, and they did happen, and they are happening today, including speaking in tongues.


Let’s look at Paul's letter to the Corinthians, chapter 14, and see what he says about the value of speaking in tongues. If speaking in tongues has no value whatever, it should not be done anywhere in the Body of Christ. Why should we keep up a practice that is very controversial and troublesome while it has little or no value whatever? On the other hand, if the Word of God clearly points out the value of this practice and actually encourages us to speak in tongues, we should not lightly pass it off as some form of wild fanaticism.


We need to keep in mind that Paul wasn’t intending to tell the Corinthians that they shouldn’t be speaking in tongues, for he specifically states the very opposite position in verse 39. "Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophecy and do not forbid speaking in tongues." In verse 5 he says, "I would like every one of you to speak in tongues." and in verse 18 he says, "I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you." If Paul is speaking the mind of God on this matter, we must hear what he has to say and live our lives in the light of this revelation. 


Whatever my view of speaking in tongues, it should not come in conflict with that of the apostle Paul; how can we receive any of his counsel as the word of God and the will of God for us, if we cannot accept what he says to us concerning spiritual gifts? We cannot pick and choose which parts of Paul's writings are from God, and which are his own ideas.


Conclusion: There is value in speaking in tongues, because God would not give the Church, the Body of Christ, a gift that has no value.




"Anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God." (Verse 2) When I speak in an unknown tongue I am speaking to God and not to men. I am communing with God in the spirit. I am saying something to God that he understands, though it is a mystery to me. Paul gives another name to speaking in tongues in verse 14. He says, "When I pray in an unknown tongue my spirit is praying." Many times, as I have been praying with my spirit, I have been impressed to stop and interpret what I am praying. At times it is a revelation from the Lord giving direction to me in areas where I have needed specific guidance.


If all the books in Christendom were brought together with each topic in a separate pile, do you know which topic would have the biggest pile? The topic of PRAYER! Prayer is the channel of our access to God. We come into the Kingdom of God through prayer. We ask for and receive things from God through prayer. We praise the Lord through prayer. We keep up a constant communion all through the day through prayer. The fact that Paul calls speaking in tongues PRAYER is no small matter! Perhaps the greatest value praying in the spirit is that it is impossible to pray amiss when we allowing the Holy Spirit to pray for us and through us. Rather than putting a lesser value on praying in tongues, we should put a greater value on it for this very reason. Not only is it flawless prayer, it is also prayer that enters into areas of life where we are not even aware there is a need for prayer. 


Conclusion: There is value in speaking in tongues because there is value in prayer.


"Anyone who speaks in a tongue . . . utters mysteries." (Verse two) NIV In verse 14 Paul says that when he prays in an unknown tongue his understanding is unfruitful. He did not know what he was saying, but he was confident that God knew, for he used the word "mysteries." This word in the Greek speaks of secret things that are hidden to the eyes of some but revealed to others. Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, and revealed them to little children." (Luke 10:21)


There are many such things in the Kingdom of God that are hidden from the eyes of the proud and arrogant, but revealed to the humble, the broken, and the child-like. Some of the best gifts God has for his children are passed over by the masses because they are not willing to stoop low enough to pick them up. The evangelist Dwight Moody said that he used to imagine that the best gifts God had were the ones you had to climb the highest to get. He said the longer he lived and walked with Jesus, the clearer it was to him that the best gifts are the ones you have to stoop the lowest to obtain. "The mysteries" here in verse 4 sometimes refer to prayers that we pray in the spirit for others, when we do not know what to pray for in our own language. We see this more clearly in Romans 8:26, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will."


How often this prayer language has helped me while praying for our children and grandchildren! I know that when I call their names out before the Lord and pray for them in the spirit, I am interceding for them for just what they need, because the Holy Spirit knows and will use me to bring that very thing before the throne of grace for them. You may say, "But how do you know you are praying for just the thing they need at that moment?" I know by faith in the Word of God in Romans 8:26, "The Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." 


Conclusion: There is value in speaking in tongues, because there is value in interceding for others as you are led by the Holy Spirit.




"He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself. (Verse 4) NIV


When I speak in an unknown tongue I am building myself up in the spirit. The word "edify" means to build up, to strengthen, to encourage, to help, to bolster, to confirm. I need all the help I can get in my walk with the Lord. We are in warfare! We are dressed for battle and the war is raging. If speaking in tongues will bring strength that wouldn't be mine otherwise, I would be unwise not to avail myself of such an advantage. If you have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, you can speak in tongues any time you want to. The next time you begin to feel down, depressed, worthless, worried, fearful, anxious, or troubled, by faith open your mouth and begin to pray, but not in your own language. You will begin to experience the strength there is in this gift to bring you personal edification. It will build you up in your faith. "But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit." (Jude 20)


Consider two remarkable instances of the powerful effect praying in tongues can have to strengthen, to edify, to heal, and to empower us for sharing the love of God with others. The first is shared by Dr. Jim Buck in his book entitled Prayer Therapy: The Healing of the Whole Person: 


If indeed one speaks to God and edifies himself when he speaks in a tongue, how can this be used therapeutically? A case in point concerns a 22-year-old woman named Sarah, who was diagnosed by her psychiatrist as being catatonic schizophrenic for the past six years of her life. The psychiatrist had recommended to Sarah's mother that the state mental hospital be considered because of her hopeless prognosis. Sarah came to me heavily medicated and sat in waxy rigidity as I viewed her the first time in my office waiting room. I introduced myself and extended my hand to greet her, but she sat like a statue and stared blankly through me. Her mother told how, as a 16-year-old, she was an outgoing young lady, who was Spirit-filled and had a lovely singing voice. She explained, in front of Sarah, how a friend had betrayed her at age 16 and how this had triggered the onset of her depression and catatonic reaction. She had not spoken a word in six years! 


I sensed that though there was no outward sign, Sarah was nonetheless hearing all that was said. I saw her for weekly sessions for six weeks, trying everything I knew to get a response, but to no avail. On the seventh visit, I asked the mother to allow her daughter to sit alone in the counseling session with the door cracked so she could hear from the waiting room. I sensed the Holy Spirit directing me not to make eye contact with Sarah, but to sit to the side as I looked out the window. 


I began speaking in a soft tone, "Sarah, I know you can hear me and that you are fearful of people hurting you. That's why you haven't spoken for six years. But I also sense that you want to be healed and that you are learning that I will not allow anything to hurt you. I know you feel you can't trust me or anyone else after being hurt by your friend, but you can trust God. He's the only one that can bring you real healing, so let's just look to Him. I'm going to look out this window so you can relax. I hear you have a good singing voice, so if you would like to join in while I praise God, please do. The Bible says you can sing with your spirit and you can pray with your spirit, so let's just do that. Father, fill us with your Holy Spirit and as we praise, let Sarah feel again the fullness of Your Spirit within her overflowing with Your joy, We just praise You now."


I sensed that though there was no outward sign, Sarah was nonetheless hearing all that was said. I saw her for weekly sessions for six weeks, trying everything I knew to get a response, but to no avail. On the seventh visit, I asked the mother to allow her daughter to sit alone in the counseling session with the door cracked so she could hear from the waiting room. I sensed the Holy Spirit directing me not to make eye contact with Sarah, but to sit to the side as I looked out the window. 


I began singing quietly in my prayer language and was aware that Sarah remained unresponsive. This continued for about 20 minutes as I continued singing prayerfully. I opened my eyes and realized that Sarah was still sitting in silence; however, I sensed a breakthrough was at hand. 'Sing with me if you want to Sarah,' I gently encouraged. Again praise flowed from my heart through tongues, though a little louder this time. Suddenly, I heard the frail voice of Sarah singing in her prayer language! I was excited, amazed, and overflowing with praise. The more we sang with eyes closed, the louder we became. I could hear Sarah's mother weeping in the other room and then joining in the singing in the Spirit. 


We sang continuously for about 15 minutes and then just sat in the awesome silence of the presence of the Lord. Finally, I said cautiously, "Sarah, do you know what the Lord just did?" There was no response for about three minutes, then I heard her say clearly, "Yes." The catharsis of singing prayerfully in the Spirit proved to be the therapy of the Lord to set this captive free. Romans 8:26 confirms this experience when it states; "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." That word, "groanings" when studied in the Greek, is a true description of praying in the Spirit, or praying in tongues. 


Dr. Clark Peterson of Tulsa, OK is a brain specialist and was doing research on the relationship between the brain and praying in tongues. He made some amazing discoveries. Through research and testing, He found that as we pray in the Spirit (our heavenly language) there is a specific activity that begins in our brain. As we engage in our heavenly language, the brain releases two chemical secretions that are directed into our immune systems giving a 35 to 40 percent boost in the immune system. This promotes healing within our bodies. Amazingly, this secretion is triggered from a part of the brain that has no other apparent activity in humans and we don't use it. It is only activated by Spirit-led prayer and worship. We need to pray in our prayer language more that we ever have before speaking in a soft tone, "Sarah, I know you can hear me and that you are fearful of people hurting you. That's why you haven't spoken for six years. But I also sense that you want to be healed and that you are learning that I will not allow anything to hurt you. I know you feel you can't trust me or anyone else after being hurt by your friend, but you can trust God. He's the only one that can bring you real healing, so let's just look to Him. I'm going to look out this window so you can relax. I hear you have a good singing voice, so if you would like to join in while I praise God, please do. The Bible says you can sing with your spirit and you can pray with your spirit, so let's just do that. Father, fill us with your Holy Spirit and as we praise, let Sarah feel again the fullness of Your Spirit within her overflowing with Your joy, We just praise You now." 


The second instance where speaking in tongues proved to be of great value as an edifying, empowering experience was in the life and ministry of Jackie Pullinger, a British missionary to the old Walled City of Hong Kong. After two years in the city, she had seen very little results from all her labors. Then she met a Chinese couple who had received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and prayed in tongues. She was drawn to them because she saw something in them that she did not have and that she desperately wanted. She talked with them and they invited her to their house and led her into the baptism in the Holy Spirit. She spoke in tongues for the first time. 


Here is her testimony: I sat down and they laid their hands on my head saying over and over again in pidgin English, "Now you begin speaking, now you begin speaking, now you begin speaking." But nothing happened; they thought I was going to burst into the gift of tongues and it had not worked. The idea of a new language in which you could speak fluently and express all the thoughts of your heart to God was wonderful. But I thought that it was something that you had to be rather advanced and spiritual to get. I shut my mouth firmly. If God was going to give me this gift, then He was going to do it, not me. But they kept saying, "Now you begin speaking, now you begin speaking." I was acutely embarrassed and began to get cross with them. I felt hotter and hotter and more and more uncomfortable; here I was not speaking in tongues and they were going to be so disappointed that nothing had happened. Eventually I could not stand it any longer, so I opened my mouth to say, "Help me God," and it happened. As soon as I made the conscious effort to open my mouth I found that I could speak freely in a language I had never learned. It was a beautiful articulate tongue, soft and coherent in that there was a clear speech pattern with modulated rise and fall. I was never in any doubt that I had received the sign that I had asked for. But there was no accompanying exultation. I had imagined being lifted up into praise and glory but it was most unemotional . . . I was very glad that this experience had not happened to me in front of British people. 


As I got to the door they said, "Oh, you can expect the other gifts of the Spirit to appear now," but I did not understand what they meant. She goes on to tell how she expected more power and miracles in her walk and her ministry, but was deeply disappointed: I was still rushing round the Walled City, going to some kind of Christian meeting every night, trying with every ounce of my being to help people, but nobody seemed to have been helped. I felt cheated. 


Then I met Rick and Jean Willan, a young American couple who were new to the mission work in Hong Kong. I went to see if I could be of some help to them and the very first question Jean asked me was, "Do you pray in tongues, Jackie?" I was shocked by Jean's American forthrightness. No English person would be that direct. "Well, no actually. I haven't found it that useful. I don't get anything out of it so I've stopped." It was a relief to discuss it with someone. But Jean would not be sympathetic, "That's very rude of you," she said, "It's not a gift of emotion. It's a gift of the Spirit. You shouldn't despise the gifts God has given you. The Bible says he who prays in tongues will be built up spiritually, so never mind what you feel, do it!" Then she and Rick made me promise to pray daily in my heavenly language. They insisted that the Holy Spirit was given in power to the Early Church to make them effective witnesses to the risen Christ. Then to my horror they suggested we pray together in tongues. I was not sure if this was all right since the Bible said that people should not all speak in tongues aloud at the same time. They explained that St. Paul was referring to a public meeting where an outsider coming in would think everyone was crazy; we three would not be offending anyone, and would be praying to God in the languages He gave us.


I could not get out of it. We prayed and I felt silly saying words I did not understand. I felt hot. And then to my consternation they stopped praying while I felt impelled to continue. I knew already that this gift, although holy, is under our control; I could stop or start at will. I would have done anything not to be praying out loud in a strange language in front of strange Americans, but just as I thought I would die of self-consciousness God said to me, "Are you willing to be a fool for my sake?" I gave in. "All right, Lord, this doesn't make sense to me, but since You invented it, it must be a good gift, so I'll go ahead in obedience and You teach me how to pray." After we finished praying Jean said she understood what I had said, God had given her the interpretation. She translated. It was beautiful; my heart was yearning for the Lord and calling as from the depths of a valley stream to the mountain tops for Him. I loved Him and worshipped Him and longed for Him to use me. 


It was in a language so much more explicit and glorious than any I could have formulated. I decided that if God helped me to pray like that when I was praying in tongues, then I would never despise this gift again. I accepted that He was helping me to pray perfectly. Every day--as I had promised the Willans--I prayed in the language of the Spirit. Fifteen minutes by the clock. I still felt it to be an exercise. Before praying in the Spirit I said, "Lord, I don't know how to pray, or whom to pray for. Will you pray through me, and will you lead me to the people who want you?" And I would begin my fifteen minute stint. 


After about six weeks I noticed something remarkable. Those I talked to about Christ believed. I could not understand it at first and wondered how my Chinese had so suddenly improved, or if I had stumbled on a splendid new evangelistic technique. But I was saying the same things as before. It was some time before I realized what had changed. This time I was talking about Jesus to people who wanted to hear. I had let God have a hand in my prayers and it produced a direct result. Instead of my deciding what I wanted to do for God and asking His blessing I was asking Him to do His will through me as I prayed in the language He gave me. Now I found that person after person wanted to receive Jesus. I could not be proud. I could only wonder that God let me be a small part of His work. And so the emotion came. It never came while I prayed, but when I saw the results of these prayers I was literally delighted! 


Conclusion: There is value in speaking in tongues because there is value in being edified, strengthened, and built up in our most holy faith.




"I would like every one of you to speak in tongues." (Verse 5) NIV


We have to read the 14th chapter of I Corinthians with an unbiased mind. If you come to this chapter with a prejudice against unknown tongues, or the "Tongues Movement" you will find some verses with which to build a case for a negative view of speaking in tongues. There are definite safeguards that Paul sets forth for the proper use of this gift. He also makes a contrast between the gifts that build up the whole body of Christ, and the gifts that build up the individual believer, but never does he advise that speaking in tongues be abolished or in any way diminished. It has its own proper place in the daily walk of the Spirit filled believer and must not be relegated to the realm of the "unimportant." 


Everything Paul has to say about speaking in an unknown tongue puts this gift in a very good and positive light. The only things he says that may seem to be of a negative nature about speaking in tongues is when he is admonishing those who do so to make sure they do it at the right time and in the right way. One translation of verse 5 says, "I wish you all spoke in tongues." Can you say, "If Paul, speaking in the Spirit, says he would like me to speak in tongues, then I would like to speak in tongues?" That is the spirit of submission to spiritual authority that every believer should have. God gave the apostles to the church so that we could profit from their revelation, experience, and wisdom. Since Paul admonished the Corinthian believers to speak in tongues, affirming that he spoke in tongues more than any of them and that he wanted them all to speak in tongues, we can safely say that this practice is a desirable one for all believers. That includes you and me. 


At the close of each of Paul's letters he usually gives many admonitions to the saints of things to do and things not to do. If I truly believe the New Testament is the Word of God, I will not be quick to disqualify any one of these admonitions as simply something the apostle Paul said. I will receive it as something the Holy Spirit is saying to me through Paul, and that I need to submit to what he is saying because it is not from Paul, but from our Lord Jesus himself.


Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." If I really believe that, I must seriously consider this word "I wish you all spoke in tongues." as a word from the Lord. Is it the word of man or of God? I must decide. It is my firm conviction that it is the wish of God as well as the wish of the apostle. I would go further and say that it was God's wish that inspired Paul to write that wish down and send it to the Corinthian church. If I am truly broken and open toward the Lord, I will take it to heart and enter into the blessing of this wonderful gift of spirit led prayer uttered in a heavenly language. 


None of God's gifts are to be despised! They are all good. No, they are not just good, they are GREAT! Do not reject ANY of God's precious gifts! We will never know what we have forfeited if we do. It has been my observation over a period of many years that those who are not open and receptive to the gift of speaking in tongues are usually not open to any of the other supernatural gifts. On the other hand, those who begin to move in the gift of speaking in tongues are usually active in other spiritual gifts, such as prophecy, word of knowledge, healing, exorcism, the prayer of faith, and flowing powerfully in other gifts of the Spirit as well. 


Conclusion: There is value in obeying a clear word from God even if it is given in the form of a wish.




“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful." (Verse 14) NIV


The Greek word translated supplication simply means "a petition, a request, or a prayer." When I am speaking in an unknown tongue, I am exercising my faith in several areas: first, I believe this is truly a gift from God and that when I do this something is happening in the spirit realm that would not happen if I did not pray in this way. 


According to this verse, when I speak in an unknown tongue, my spirit is praying. I know this only by faith. I can know it in no other way except through revelation. 


"When I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays . . ." I need to be clear in my mind about what is happening when I pray with my spirit. At times you will read "praying in the Spirit" (with a capital S) and at times "praying in the spirit" (with a small s). Why would that be? It is because when I am praying with my spirit, I am also praying in the Holy Spirit. When I pray in tongues it comes from my spirit, not just from my mouth, and it is energized, directed, and enabled by the Holy Spirit dwelling in my spirit. 


Does this kind of prayer have value? Yes, indeed! Prayer is the most powerful force on earth. And this kind of prayer is the most powerful and effectual of all since it is not mixed with my finite notions and feelings. It is perfect since I am motivated wholly by the Spirit of God. John Wesley said, "God does everything he does through the prayers of his people and he does nothing without them." I believe he was right! The wonderful thing about praying in tongues is that you cannot possibly pray outside the will of God. It is the Holy Spirit praying through your spirit, and He knows where prayer is needed most as well as how to pray and how much to pray. 


When Paul said, "When I pray in tongues my spirit prays", the word he used for "pray" in the Greek was the same word that is used when Jesus said: ". . . pray to the Father in secret, and the Father who sees in secret will reward you openly." (Mt. 6:6) NIV When I pray, I come before the throne of God to make requests for myself or others, depending on the mercy of God and his love and power to grant my requests. The word "pray" is actually two words in the original language: "pro-sucomai". "pro" means "toward" or in the direction of, and "sucomai" means "to wish or desire." So the full meaning of the word PRAY is "to direct our wishes toward God." These could be very selfish or they could be wishes and desires that are fully in accord with the will of God. The advantage of praying in the spirit, is that we always pray according to the will of God. 


One may say that the disadvantage of praying in this way is that we do not know what we are praying for, and therefore we cannot know if or when the desire is granted. When I give myself to the Holy Spirit to be used in intercession, I must also give up my right to know all the good that is accomplished through my prayer ministry. I can always pray in faith that I am praying in the will of God, and that I am not only praying for needs all over the world, but that I am also interceding for the needs of my own family, friends, ministries, churches, jobs, and everything else that pertains to my life and my walk with the Lord Jesus. 


Sometimes I will pray in the spirit holding certain needs before the Lord. While I am praying in tongues, I am at the same time thinking about the urgent matter that I want to lift up to the Lord. I have found this to be a very effective and delightful way to pray. And I also believe these prayers have been answered over and over again in my life and ministry. For example, it my son has had an accident on his job and is recovering in the hospital, I will hold the request for his healing before the Lord as I pray with my spirit. The experience of Jackie Pullinger confirms this also. She testified that before she would begin her 15 minutes of praying in tongues each day, she would confess that she did not know what to pray for or how to pray, but she also asked the Lord to lead her to people who wanted to hear the good news of God's love. This was precisely what the Lord began to do in her ministry. So it is good to hold before the Lord some need or desire and pray in your prayer language about it. You do not know what you are saying, but you do know what you are praying, and you can know when God answers that prayer. Let us also continue to pray in tongues when we do not know what we are saying or what we are praying for. The Holy Spirit will use us to pray for all saints, as well as for all our own needs and concerns. 


Conclusion: There is value in Sprit-directed prayer even when I do not know what I am saying or what I am praying.




"I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind." (Verse 15) NIV


The King James version uses the word "understanding" instead of the word "mind." I think that is a better translation. "I will pray with my spirit and I will pray with my understanding also. I will sing with my spirit and I will sing with my understanding also." (KJV) 


Notice the expression, "I will." Prayer is a matter of the will and not of the emotion. You can will to pray or you can will not to pray either in your own language or in a spiritual language. You can pray in tongues with the same amount of emotion as you do in your own language. Sometimes we have a lot of emotion and sometimes very little. God does not gauge the sincerity of our prayers by the amount of feeling we are able to generate. The one thing that makes prayer work is faith, not feeling, and faith comes through hearing from God. Praying in tongues is no more an exercise in emotion than in any other type of prayer. This is one of the hardest lessons I ever learned about walking in the Spirit. I can decide to pray with my spirit or I can decide not to pray with my spirit. It is a matter of the will and therefore it is a matter of faith and has nothing to do with the realm of the emotions. 


Some think that when a person speaks in an unknown tongue he is caught up in some kind of ecstasy and has no control over himself. That was my thinking for a long time. With all my heart I wanted to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to have the power of God on my life and ministry, especially when I would see how wonderfully God used those who were filled with the Spirit and moved in spiritual gifts. So, I began to seek the baptism in the Holy Spirit at the age of seventeen. 


Five years later I was still seeking. Then one day God got through to me with these words from a little book whose name and author I do not recall: "You can receive the full blessing of Pentecost just as you received Jesus as your Savior, by faith. My battle ax is Galatians 3:14, 'That they all might receive the promise of the Spirit by faith . . . ' Just as you received forgiveness from the hands of a dying Savior, you can now receive the fullness of the Spirit from the hands of a living Savior, by faith." 


For the first time in all those five long, dry, weary years of begging, crying, praying, pleading, fasting, reading, attending meetings, tarrying, seeking, knocking, asking and asking and asking, the light was finally turned on in my spirit. Now I knew how to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I could take it by faith just like I took Jesus as my Savior, by faith. 


I laid the book aside and walked to a mountain near our home where I used to go and pray. On my way to the place of prayer I said, "Lord, I have asked you ten thousand times to fill me with your Spirit, but I have never yet prayed and then thanked you for hearing my prayer and for giving me what I asked for. Today I am going to ask one more time, then I am going to do something I have never done before. I am going to take the gift by faith and give you thanks for filling me with the Spirit. If I do not speak in tongues, that will not matter. If I do not feel your presence, that will not matter. If I do not hear anything, or sense anything, or have an emotional experience or anything else, it will not matter. I will take it by faith in your word alone." 


When I arrived at the top of "Prayer Mountain" I knelt down and prayed, "Lord, you said if we ask you for anything according to your will, you hear us. And if we know that you hear us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of you. I know it is your will for me to be filled with the Holy Spirit, for you have commanded me to be filled with the Spirit. In Ephesians 5:18 you said, 'Be not drunk with wine . . . but be filled with the Spirit.' So, Lord, right now, in the name of Jesus, I am asking you now to baptize me in the Holy Spirit. I now receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit! Thank you for hearing my prayer and for filling me with your Spirit. Amen!" 


At that moment I knew God had heard my prayer, and that I had received by faith what I had asked for. I had a settled assurance that the transaction had been completed. I had received it even though I did not speak in tongues, or fall down, or cry, or laugh, or leap, or dance, or go into a trance, or see heaven opened, or anything at all out of the ordinary. One thing I did have that I never had before. I had confidence. I had a rock hard, settled, certainty that I had taken the gift from the hand of my Father by faith and that I did not have to ask for it again. I now had the blessing. I had it by the surest evidence of all . . . faith! And the Lord bolstered my faith by reminding me of the words of Luke 11:11, "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" NIV 


A few days later I was alone in my car on my way home from classes at California Baptist College in Riverside, California. As I began to pray and commune with the Lord, I felt such a surge of joy and such a powerful sense of God's presence that I burst out in praise to the Lord, but not in my own language! 


I was a member of a Baptist church at the time and as far as I knew, all my friends were opposed to speaking in tongues or any other "sign gifts." No one knew that I had had an experience of speaking in tongues, not even my wife, Joni. She had developed an unfavorable opinion of Pentecostals and was not very open to anything that could be labeled "Pentecostal." So when I had this powerful experience, I decided not to tell her or any of my friends about it. In a sense I became an "underground Pentecostal." 

There were times when I was all alone this wonderful feeling of joy in the felt presence of God was almost overwhelming. At such times I would begin to speak in other tongues. I felt that it would be wrong for me to do this without this high level of emotion. I thought it would be sacrilegious. It just would not be right if I simply decided to speak in tongues and did it. It had to be initiated by the Holy Spirit, and I reasoned that when I felt God's presence strong enough it would be okay to speak in tongues. I thought that if I did it without this special sense of God's presence it would just be me and not God at all. This was about as far as I went for the next 12 years, with very little growth in understanding about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I was attending a fundamentalist church at that stage of my life and such things as "sign gifts" were totally out of the question. If I had openly tried to move in spiritual gifts of this nature, I would have been invited to leave and go join another church. 


Then, through reading a book, Face UP With a Miracle by Don Basham, I learned that I could speak in tongues anytime I wanted to. I could speak out loud or softly. I could start and I could stop. I was in control. When I tried doing that I had that wonderful, transforming experience in my office one day which led to life in a different dimension! I was pastor of a fundamental Baptist church at the time. I was sitting in my office reading Basham's book, when there began to well up in me a powerful urge to throw off every yoke that was binding me to tradition and to begin to experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit with complete liberty. I wanted to see more of the power of God in my own life. I wanted to see miracles happen. I had no scriptural reason to accept the teaching that in our day we have a different kind of Christianity than Paul, Peter, John and the early Christians had. And if Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, we have every right to expect the same things to happen in our day as happened in their day. We are living in the same age of the same Church and the same Holy Spirit is still present to fill and empower God's people! 


So I laid the book aside and stood to my feet there in my office, no one there but Jesus and me. I lifted my hands and began to worship God in other tongues. Through the teachings of Basham's book I had learned that, after receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit, I could pray in tongues anytime I wanted to. I didn't have to wait for a strong sense of God's presence or some kind of emotional upheaval. I could start and I could stop. I could pray loud or I could pray softly. "The spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet." (I Corinthians 14:32) 


For some time I stood praying in tongues with my hands raised to God. When I stopped and started to sit down and read some more of the book, it seemed the Lord spoke to my spirit, "No. . . Continue!" I obeyed the impulse and began again to pray in tongues, and as I continued, I began to feel something. I felt that I was being lifted up into an atmosphere of the pure presence of God. I felt like a vessel being filled with the water of life. It was like the breath of God blowing upon me, refreshing me down into the depths of my being. It seemed that God had opened the windows of heaven and poured out upon me an ocean of pure love, joy and power! The room was filled with the awesome, felt presence of God! 


As this wonderful fountain from heaven kept pouring into my soul, I found myself taking deep breaths and pouring out my heart to Him in praise and adoration, both in tongues and in English. It was such a glorious experience I did not want it to subside. At least I was determined that I would continue to praise until this fresh baptism was complete. It was such a powerful visitation that I literally staggered around in my tiny study and I felt no shame. I knew by experience for the first time why the disciples on the day of Pentecost were accused of being drunk on new wine. I was staggering around my office like a drunk man! 


In the midst of this powerful baptism in the Holy Spirit I was reminded of Charles Finney's account of receiving such an outpouring on the day of his conversion. In his autobiography he relates his experience: "As I turned and was about to take a seat by the fire, I received a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost. Without any expectation of it, without ever having the thought in my mind that there was any such thing for me, without any recollection that I had ever heard the thing mentioned by any person in the world, the Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul. I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love for I could not express it in any other way. It seemed like the very breath of God. I can recollect distinctly that it seemed to fan me like immense wings. 


"No words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart. I wept aloud with joy and love; I do not know but I should say I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart. These waves came over me, and over me, and over me, one after the other, until I recollect I cried out, "I shall die if these waves continue to pass over me." I said, "Lord, I cannot bear any more! yet I had no fear of death. 


"How long I continued in this state, with this baptism continuing to roll over me and go through me, I do not know. But I know it was late in the evening when a member of my choir (for I was the leader of the choir) came into my office to see me. He found me in this state of loud weeping, and said to me, 'Mr. Finney, what ails you?' I could make him no answer for some time. He then said, "Are you in pain?" I gathered myself up as best I could, and replied, "No, but so happy that I cannot live!" - Charles G. Finney, p. 20, Flemming H. Revell-1876 


As these same waves of which Finney spoke in his testimony were washing over me, I remembered also in the biography of evangelist Dwight L. Moody, how he had described his experience as waves of electric love as he too had reeled under a powerful baptism in the Spirit while walking down a street in New York City. He had cried out to God for this blessing for a long time before he finally received it. After he received it he said his ministry changed overnight. He said that instead of scores of people being saved under his ministry, now there were hundreds. The same supernatural power attended Finney as long as he stayed under that anointing. The day he received his baptism he left the law profession and started witnessing for Christ full time. Almost every person he spoke to that day came under a powerful conviction of sin and gave their lives to Jesus. Now I understood what these men had received and I wanted to receive the full force of it, so I just continued to praise God in tongues with my hands lifted to the Lord. I left my study and walked out into the sanctuary. I continued to walk up and down the isle of the sanctuary with my hands lifted up, speaking in tongues. I was glad no one was around to witness what was going on. 


I continued in this way for several more minutes, then I felt the Lord spoke to me to stop speaking in tongues and begin to prophesy. It was like I saw a vision on the wall of the church behind the pulpit. On the left I saw a desert wasteland and on the right side I saw a fruitful garden and I heard these words as I opened my mouth and began to prophesy. I knew it was a word from the Lord to me: "My son, consider not the applause or the censure of men, for I have called you into a life of fruitfulness and you shall not fear man. If you are willing and obedient you shall eat of the fat of the land, but if refuse and rebel, you shall suffer loss. I am with you and as you follow me and learn to move out in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, I will multiply you exceedingly and you shall find fulfillment. But if you refuse to follow the light that I have shed upon your path, you will experience drought and a barren land with no water in it. Behold, I have set before you an open door and no man can shut it, for you have a little strength and have not denied my name. Go, therefore, and fear not to share with others what I have shared with you this day, for this is the rest wherewith you may cause the weary to rest and this is the refreshing that I long to pour out upon my people, says the Lord." 


As these words of admonition and encouragement flowed from my lips, it was as if I were sitting by and listening to my heavenly Father speak to me using me as His messenger. I do not mean that I had no control of myself or of my speech. But as God put thoughts in my mind, I spoke them out and then found another thought behind that one until the message was complete. I felt strength flow into me through what God had spoken to my heart. 


I discovered later in my study of these things that in almost every instance in the Bible, when God would pour out His Spirit on someone, they would begin to magnify God and prophesy. When I left my church that afternoon, I knew that I could not continue to conceal my belief in the baptism in the Holy Spirit and in the operation of the gifts of the Spirit including the so-called "sign gifts" that my denomination had labeled . . . "no long necessary." 


My joy and excitement exploded! I felt like a new person. SUCH A REFRESHING! I knew that things would not be the same in my life and ministry after that wonderful outpouring. I knew that I would have to share with Bob Jr. what had happened to me, but at the time I didn't know exactly how. 


A few days later, while browsing in a Christian Book Store, I found a cassette tape by Don Basham on how to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. It was a simple and powerful teaching that God had used to help many into the fullness of the Spirit. After I listened to it, I took it to Bobby and said, "Bobby, there is a baptism in the Holy Spirit and it is scriptural to call it a baptism. You've got to hear this tape!" 


He took the tape and set up his recorder by his bed to listen to it after he went to bed. The spiritual explosion that had just occurred in my own life was about to go off in Bobby's life. 


I had often wondered why our church took such a strong stand against miracles. We were very vocal and outspoken that the Bible is the Word of God, and that all the miracles in the Bible really happened just as they are recorded, but we taught a dispensational theology which affirms that miracles are no longer needed and that it would be wrong to seek miracles or signs of any kind in our day. The scriptural texts that were used were the ones where Jesus scolded the Pharisees for asking for a sign saying, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign." (Matt. 12:39) 


The fact that Jesus and his disciples and the early church moved and ministered in a powerful miracle working ministry didn't seem to carry any weight at all. We were never taught to pray the prayer of the early church: "Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus." (Acts 4:29) God wonderfully answered that prayer, for it goes on to say: "After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." (Acts 4:31) 


As I read the book by Basham, my desire to see the miracle working power of God demonstrated in my ministry became the cry of heart. My great desire was not to speak in tongues. It was for power to witness, to teach, to preach, and to evangelize in the power of the Holy Spirit. I really didn't care whether I spoke in tongues or not. On the other hand, I didn't want to miss out on anything God had for me. 


The other thing that troubled me about not speaking in tongues was the fact that all who received that blessing in the book of Acts spoke in tongues or prophesied as soon as they were filled with the Spirit. I did want to receive the Holy Spirit in exactly the same way they did, so that Satan would never be able to come to me and say, "You did not receive the same experience the early Christians did. If you had, you would have spoken in tongues as they did." It was obvious that speaking in tongues was a part of the experience of the early church whenever the filling of the Spirit is recorded in the book of Acts." 


First Instance: In the upper room on the day of Pentecost when they were filled, they spoke in tongues . . . "On one occasion, while he {Jesus} was eating with them, he gave them this command: 'Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'" (Acts 1:4-5 NIV) 


"When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and (all of them) began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." (Acts 2:1-4) The "all" is implied, for all were filled and "they" (all) began to speak in tongues. There was not even one of those who were filled who did not also speak in tongues. For me, that was a very strong reason for asking God to give me the same experience that he gave them, including speaking in tongues. You may say, "But you did not speak in tongues when you received the baptism on Prayer Mountain that day." 


No, I did not, but I received it two days later after I believed I had received it. The reason I had not received before is because I had never exercised my faith to receive. I had to stop the endless cycle of asking, begging, pleading, hoping, and never believing His promise. When I asked and then followed the request with a simple "Thank you, Father, for hearing and answering my prayer," I did speak in tongues and prophesy, and many other gifts of the Holy Spirit became active in my life and ministry. 


Second Instance: Peter preaching in the house of Cornelius . . . when they were filled, they spoke in tongues. "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, 'Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have."' (Acts 10:44-47) NIV 


Later, when Peter was explaining to the leaders of the church in Jerusalem how the Gentiles had received the gospel and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit he said: "As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."' (Acts 11:16) NIV 


As Peter stood there in the house of Cornelius and witnessed this outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles that had interrupted his sermon, he thought of Jesus' words, and he understood them for the first time. He said, "then I remembered." He had already connected the words of the prophet Joel with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost in the upper room for he quoted them to the skeptical crowd that day: "Fellow Jews and all of you who are in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. (Acts 2:14-18) Peter connected this event and the one in the upper room with Jesus' promise of a baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire. 


Third Instance: Paul in Ephesus . . . when they were filled, they spoke in tongues. "While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?' "They answered, 'No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.' "So Paul asked, 'Then what baptism did you receive?' "'John's baptism,' they replied." Paul said, 'John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.' On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all." (Acts 19:1-7) 


It does not say they all spoke in tongues but it is strongly implied because it says "they spoke in tongues and prophesied . . . there were about twelve men in all." It is not too far-fetched to think the pronoun "they" referred to all twelve men. One can receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit without speaking in tongues, but everyone who has received the baptism in the Holy Spirit can speak in tongues if he so desires, and Paul's strong admonition is, Go for it! Jump in! Just Do It! You do not have to speak in tongues to know that you have received the fullness of the Holy Spirit. You can know by faith. But if you seek and desire to be released in this gift, you will see the benefits in your walk with Jesus and in your ministry to others. 


Someone may object to the thought we can all speak in tongues, citing Paul's word, "Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?" 1 Cor. 12:29-30 (KJV) Paul was opening up the whole scope of spiritual gifts encouraging believers to "covet earnestly the best gifts." (I Cor. 12:31 KJV) No, not all are apostles, or prophets, or teachers, or miracle workers, etc., but that does not do away with Paul's admonition to "desire spiritual gifts, which would include speaking in tongues." (I Cor. 14:1) 


I had always thought that when I spoke in a tongue I would be totally out of control and would not be doing anything. God would come and take over my body, my mouth, my tongue, my will, my self-control, and if I had anything to do with it at all, it would not be of God; it would not be the real thing. I was glad when I learned that the unknown tongue was something that I could initiate and control, and that I did not have to wait till it just "happened to me." I could choose when to use this gift. 


Conclusion: There is value in praying with my spirit, for such spirit led prayer is perfect intercession and perfect praise.




If you bless {praise} with the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted {unversed in spiritual gifts} say the 'amen' at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? For you are giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified. (Verse 16-17 NAS) 


Throughout the fourteenth chapter of I Corinthians, Paul is trying to encourage the use of spiritual gifts for the edification of the whole Body of Christ. He is very clear that it is through the use of these gifts that the Body builds itself up as every part does its particular job. When we come to these verses we see the same emphasis. Paul is concerned that spiritual gifts be used to help others. At the same time he is revealing to us some of the purposes of the gift of tongues and they are all very positive. For example, in the verse above Paul says that one who speaks in a tongue is blessing or praising God and that he is giving thanks "well" (acceptably or admirably). This reveals to us that when we are praying in tongues we are at times praising and giving thanks to God in a praiseworthy manner. The error that Paul is correcting is not that of speaking in tongues; it is speaking in tongues at the wrong time and in the wrong place. 


One of the greatest blessings in my own experience with the gift of tongues is that of being released so completely from having to form reasonable, logical, and sequential words and being set free to sing and pray to my God without being hampered or hemmed in by anything. I am free to wing my way to the heights of glory in a language that flows directly from my spirit, led by the Spirit, through my mouth and out to the heart of God! When I pray with my spirit, I am fluent! As one who struggles with words, it is no small blessing to suddenly become fluent! When I pray with my spirit, I do not stagger or stutter or bog down for loss of words. Some prayers are too heavy for words! They cannot be carried on the backs of any language! They can only be expressed in the language of the Spirit of God Himself! This is where tongues enters the picture. This is soaring in the realm of spiritual power that can devastate strongholds, uproot, pull down, and destroy demon fortresses, and establish the Kingdom of God in the earth. 


There is a difference in feelings and words. Some feelings are very hard to put into words. Have you ever felt this overwhelming love for God and longed for the words to express that love? That is the time for bursting forth from the depths of your spirit in a language that God understands because He is the one that enables us to speak it out. One day I was praying for my missionary friend, Hobart Vann. I asked the Lord to show me what to pray for. Then I said, "Lord you know where Hobart is right now and you know exactly what he needs, so please meet all his needs and bless him real good!" 


When I stopped praying I began to think, "Why doesn't God do that anyway? Why does He have to wait till I pray to do what He already wants to do for Hobart, and is fully capable of doing? Why should I ever need to pray for Hobart Vann again? God loves him more than I do and he has all the resources of heaven and earth at His fingertips. He is able to channel His provision to Hobart to meet his every need. I was perplexed and disturbed! 


Over a period of time the Lord began to show me why we have to pray before He can work. He reminded me that he had given to Adam the commission to "take dominion" over all of creation. We were created in the image of God with power to colabor with Him. He gave us the privilege of using the word of faith to create and to form and to reform things in this world. He also made us free moral agents with the right to choose to love and obey Him, or to disobey and walk away from Him. If it had been otherwise, we would have no power of choice. We would have been like robots, programmed to love God, and therefore it would not be love at all since we would not be capable of not loving and obeying him. God was not interested in making a race of robots. He made us like himself with the ability to love, to think, to decide, to create, to will, and to do. This is why He put the tree in the garden. If there had not been a choice to obey or disobey, there would have been no possibility of functioning morally in a moral universe. God considered it worth the risk to make man with this capability because otherwise we would have been just so much machinery and not children of God. 


But how does this enter into the realm of prayer? Prayer is man's invitation to God to come and work with him. It is also God's invitation to man to come and work with Him. God's wisdom says that He will not overrule in the affairs of men unless someone invites Him to do so. Satan stole man's dominion and became "the god of this world." Adam forfeited all of his dominion to Satan, but when Jesus came, he took it all back and once again delivered it into the hands of the people of God, the church. Jesus said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth. YOU GO, THEREFORE . . ." (Matt. 28:19-20) Jesus has given the church authority to govern in the affairs of men through access to the Throne of Grace, by PRAYER! Conclusion: There is value in thanking and praising God in your prayer language, but do it privately, not in the public meetings. 




"I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you." (Verse 18) Paul spoke in tongues a lot! No one could say what he said unless he spoke in tongues a lot. He was confident that no one in the Corinthian church spoke in tongues as much as he did. Not only did he make use of this gift more than anyone else, he was thankful that he did. Paul thanked God that he spoke in tongues! Does that say anything to us as to what our attitude should be toward those who speak in tongues a lot? 


This passage also gives us instruction as to when and where Paul spoke in tongues so much. It was in his personal devotions to God in his private prayer life. He said that when he was in the fellowship of the saints in church, he would rather "speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue." (Verse 19) But that did not cancel out what he had just said about being thankful that he spoke in tongues more than anyone else. He was giving them instruction as to how and when and where to flow freely in the gift of tongues. 


Can I identify with Paul in my attitude about speaking in tongues? Am I thankful that I speak in tongues? Do I speak in tongues frequently? Or is this something that I do very infrequently? And if you do speak in tongues a lot, do you feel good about that? I believe one of the reasons Paul was such a dynamic and fruitful man of God is because he constantly edified himself spiritually by praying in the Spirit. As I have said earlier, it has been my observation over many years of ministry in the Body of Christ that those who pray much in the Spirit are usually also flowing powerfully in other spiritual gifts. 


This is not to say that speaking in tongues is the cornerstone of all the gifts, or the most important one. But to disqualify or despise one of the gifts of the Spirit, the only one that we can use continually, anytime day or night, may be the reason why some of the other spiritual gifts are not operating in our lives. 


Moreover, as we consider what Paul said about tongues in First Corinthians fourteen, how can we neglect this gift and ignore the values that he places on it? Obviously, Paul did not write this chapter to extol the virtues and values of speaking in tongues, but rather to explain more fully the place that spiritual gifts have in our lives, and how they are to be exercised both in private and in the public gatherings of the Body of Christ. 


He begins his teaching on spiritual gifts in verse one of chapter twelve with the words, "Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant." When he was made aware of the misuse of some of the gifts, especially the gift of tongues, he had to explain more fully the ways of the Lord in the assembly of the saints when it comes to the exercise of spiritual gifts. Some have read these admonitions and concluded that the gift of tongues was not worth the risk, and abandoned the pursuit of spiritual gifts entirely. This was never Paul's intention. His purpose was to teach them how to use these gifts, not to advise them to discontinue them. And in the process he has revealed to us some of the reasons why he spoke in tongues and why he wanted other believers to do the same. Let's take an overall look at Paul's wisdom and insight about speaking in tongues: "Anyone who speaks in tongues . . . speaks to God." (Verse 2) "Anyone who speaks in tongues . . . utters mysteries." (Verse 2) "Anyone who speaks in tongues edifies himself." (verse 4) "I would like every one of you to speak in tongues." (Verse 5) "If I pray in a tongue my spirit prays." (Verse 14) "I will pray with my spirit . . . I will sing with my spirit." (Verse 15) When I pray with my spirit, I am giving thanks well. (16-17) "I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you." (Verse 18) "Tongues, then, are a sign . . . for unbelievers." (Verse 22) "Do not forbid speaking in tongues." (Verse 39) Yes! I will embrace Paul's attitude toward the gift of tongues! 


Conclusion: There is value in the gift of tongues or Paul would not have practiced it or recommended it to others. 




"Tongues, then, are a sign . . . for unbelievers." (Verse 22) Jesus prophesied that tongues would be one of the signs that would follow those who believed in Him and who would go into all the world to fulfill the Great Commission: "These signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will . . . speak with new tongues." (Mark 16:17) 


All the signs mentioned in Mark 16 are said to be active in those who believe, and who are actively carrying out the command of Jesus to preach the gospel to every creature; not just those who believe in Jesus as the Savior, but those who also believe what He said about these miraculous signs. In Jesus' name they would cast out demons. This is one of the signs that would convince the unbelievers that the God we serve is the true God. Just as Elijah was used of God to demonstrate the awesome power of the presence of God, so are we called to go forth with a message and a demonstration of the power of the living God whom we represent. In Jesus' name they would lay hands on the sick and they would get well. This is happening with more frequency as the church is being brought back to the basic simplicity of the early church. It is not insignificant that the words are so constructed in Mark 16. This is actually saying that when we speak in tongues, we do so in Jesus' name! Jesus said, "These signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they shall . . . and then he gives the list of five signs which are all done in His name. Speaking in new tongues is in the list. 


When we think of signs, in New Testament language, we are thinking about supernatural manifestations that give authenticity to a person or a message. Consider the following passages: 


"This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit . . . " (Heb. 2:3-4) 


"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know." (Acts 2:22) 


It is clear from the above, and many other passages of scripture, that speaking in tongues is a supernatural sign, and not just a God-given ability to learn a foreign language, as some have thought. While that is definitely an accomplishment, it does not fit the New Testament definition of a sign that follows those who believe. 


The first time tongues were a sign for unbelievers was on the day of Pentecost. When all the believers in the upper room began to speak in tongues as the Spirit enabled them, it was the sign that drew the people together and amazed them and piqued their interest, giving Peter a wonderful opportunity to preach Christ to them, resulting in the conversion of about three thousand people: "When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language . . . Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, 'What does this mean?'" (Acts 2:1-5, 12) 


There have been many instances in the history of missions, especially since the Azusa Street outpouring in Los Angeles in 1904, of Spirit-filled believers who have spoken in tongues and were understood by those who heard, even though those speaking in tongues did not know what they were saying. Tongues are indeed a sign for unbelievers, but let is not forget the other things Paul enumerates in this chapter. When we add them all up, there is something in this gift for the Body of Christ, and there is also a power within this gift to get the attention of the unsaved and open their hearts to God. Conclusion: There is value in every spiritual gift that results in the conversion of the unbeliever and the edification of the believer, including speaking in tongues. 












































VALUE of SPEAKING in TONGUES [Robert Fitts] ~ BOOK          16

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