Sometimes I Don’t Pray In Tongues

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Let’s talk about “tongues”

A fast disappearing part of the life of the Church in most nations 

A very controversial and often misunderstood experience 

A very important and powerful part of our spiritual life and a trigger to walking in supernatural power and releasing the Holy Spirit to move and minister

A main part of what allows us to call ourselves “Spirit-filled” Christians

I am going to go real basic to get us started …

Jesus is speaking to His disciples who, at this point in time are not born again (saved)

Because Jesus has yet to die and be raised from the dead there is no way to be forgiven and become born again

John 14: 15-17 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

The Holy Spirit is “with you”… Present tense

He is with every person ever born on the planet and His task is to bring them to the foot of the Cross and lead them to faith in Christ – a saving faith

The task of the Holy Spirit – the way He accomplishes this work He has been assigned – is found in John 16

John 16:7-11 “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

If a person responds to this ‘conviction’ – a response from the depths of their heart – responds  with godly sorrow they will then repent and become born again

2 Corinthians 7:8-10 “For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief (sorrow), so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief (sorrow) produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

Worldly sorrow – Sorry you got caught … sorry you are now suffering the consequences

Godly sorrow – Sorry you have offended God who is holy and regret that you have gone your own way which leads to separation from God (Proverbs 14:12)

Then the Holy Spirit comes to live in you – in your spirit (heart)

This experience happened for Jesus’ disciples in John 20 just after Jesus was raised from the dead

John 20: 21-22 “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”

Now they are born again – new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Now they have the supernatural ability to develop a personal, in-depth, love relationship with God the Father and Jesus the Son

Romans 6:23b “The gift of God is eternal life”

John 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”

They are now ambassadors for the Kingdom and ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18, 20)

Their task is to “go into all the world and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19-20)

So: The Holy Spirit is with people and then in people when they encounter Jesus, become born again, and begin to develop a personal, heart relationship with Him

Begin to unwrap the gift of ‘eternal life’ He deposited in your spirit

BUT, Jesus then tells them they need to wait…before “going into all the world” they need to wait

Luke 24:49 “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

This is very important and we see further clarification in the Book of Acts

Same author as the gospel of Luke – Luke the doctor

Acts 1:5 “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

This is when the Holy Spirit comes “upon” you (with – in – upon)

Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

This happens for the original followers of Jesus on the Day of Pentecost — the Jewish holiday celebration of the “harvest”

Acts 2:1-4 “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

Now you are born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit and empowered to go out and make more disciples and thus bring in “the harvest” for the Kingdom

And it is here that the Church is first introduced to “speaking in tongues” 

But, before I jump into that it is good to note that when you are Baptized in the Holy Spirit you have deposited within your spirit nine supernatural gifts of the Spirit to enable and empower you to be an ambassador of the Kingdom and a minister of reconciliation

These gifts are how you “fish for men” – the bait you use when fishing (Matthew 4:19)

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 NASV “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.”

Nine gifts …

Power gifts:

Gifts of Healing

Working of Miracles

Special Faith

Revelation gifts:

Word of Knowledge

Word of Wisdom

Discerning of Spirits

Inspiration gifts:


Speaking in (public) Tongues

Interpretation of (public) Tongues 

To note: These tongues are not the same tongues as your own private prayer language

Private prayer language – a love language between you and God your heavenly Father

Public gift of tongues with interpretation – a ministry gift

Jesus starts His ministry after being baptized in the Holy Spirit

Mark 1:9-11 “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

He ministered using 7 of the nine gifts:

Power gifts:

Gifts of Healing – Mark 1:34

Working of Miracles – Mark 3:1-6 and 6:30-44

Special Faith – John 14:10

Revelation gifts:

Word of Knowledge – John 4

Word of Wisdom – John 21

Discerning of Spirits – Matthew 9:4

Inspiration gifts:

Prophecy – Luke 19:41-44

Speaking in (public) Tongues – No record

Interpretation of (public) Tongues – No record

He came to “seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) and used the gifts of the Spirit as His fishing bait to grab people’s attention

As we follow Him and become fishers of men (Matthew 4:19) and we use these gifts as bait when fishing

On top of these gifts we have the private prayer language which Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 14

Praying in the Spirit

Singing in the Spirit

We could word these as: Praying with your spirit and Singing with your spirit

As we read the Scriptures pay close attention to the different words … “speak” and “pray”

“Speak” = Gift of Tongues needing interpretation

“Pray” = Does not need to be (cannot be) interpreted

A teaching overseas: You can interpret your own prayer language. A heresy!

1 Corinthians 14:13-19 “Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. 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. Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.”

So, over and above the nine Gifts of the Holy Spirit we have the supernatural gift of praying and worshipping (singing) in tongues (in the Spirit)…

This includes:

Praying from your spirit with the help of the Holy Spirit in a language you have never learned – powerful gift for when you don’t know what or how to pray

Singing from your spirit which releases the Holy Spirit to accomplish a number of things in and through you and in any gathering of believers

Note: Praying and singing in the Spirit are spiritually powerful and the Bible lists a number of things that they release and accomplish. 

Let me note a few things:

1> Speaking in tongues (private prayer language) became a sign of the baptism in the Holy Spirit in 1901 in Topeka, Kansas and 1905 in Azusa Street (California)

It was their experience that as people were baptized in the Holy Spirit they spoke in tongues 

They actually thought that this indicated the country and people group that you were to go to as a missionary

But became “a sign” that you had received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit

In the book of Acts when people received the baptism in the Holy Spirit they often spoke in tongues

Because of Topeka and Azusa we assume this is speaking in your private prayer language

However, it could be speaking in tongues (prophecy) that needs to be interpreted

We make the same assumption in the story in Acts 19:1-6

And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all.”

Because of Azusa Strret people assume this “speaking in tongues” is your private prayer language and not public tongues needing interpretation

Question: Why do we need a sign?

Should we not pray and believe that God answered and baptized us with the Holy Spirit when we ask Him to?

After all, you prayed and believed that because you prayed you became born again

Not often accompanied by some big, earth-shattering sign that it happened

Luke 11:9-13 “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

So, really we should not look for a sign – receive by faith – step out in faith

November 9th, 1976 I was saved (born again)

February 9, 1977 I was baptized in the Holy Spirit

I did not speak in tongues for almost three months after the evening when I received the Baptism

But I flowed in Gifts of Healings, Discerning of Spirits, Prophecy, Word of Wisdom, Word of Knowledge, and Special Faith

2> This language you can pray and worship in can be heavenly or earthly

1 Corinthians 13:1 “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

3> If you function in public tongues it will be a different language than your private prayer language

It is a public and not your “private” love language between you and God

4> If in a service God uses you to bring a message in (public) tongues then it will need to be interpreted

If no one moves in the gift of the interpretation of tongues then it reverts back to you to give the meaning of your message

It is an interpretation and not a translation … so not word for word but just give us the bottom line of what God is communicating to us at this time – the gist of the message

5> Sometimes in a service someone will get extra emotional and speak loudly in their personal prayer language

This person needs to be spoken to and asked to enjoy the presence of God in a quieter way

Issue is: Often the congregation thinks it is  message in public tongues and then someone else speaks and they think that this second person is interpreting the message in tongues

Really just an emotional tongues outburst and then a prophetic word

6> Some people teach we are to seek the Giver and not the gifts – wrong and not biblical

1 Corinthians 13:13-14:1 “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.”

7> Some teachers teach that Romans 8:26-27 is about praying in the Spirit when it is not

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Praying in tongues is a language and thus has words …

8> The more you use this gift of tongues the easier it will flow and the more powerful it will become in your life as you become comfortable in hearing yourself speak in a language you have never learned

You should reach the point where you are comfortable praying in tongues in a prayer time when others can hear you

You should reach the point where you are comfortable singing in the spirit in a public service when the worship allows it and you are moved by the Holy Spirit

9> There are some simple things to do to release and adjust your tongues experience

a> If you are nervous and don’t want to work with this is public then sing in the spirit when having a shower … worship in the shower but in your prayer language

This often releases it so the language flows and is fuller

b> If your language has only three or four words to it – Give it opportunity to grow into a full language by adding a different letter to one of the key words you have

It is like “priming the pump” 

Just working to become comfortable hearing yourself speak a language you never learned

c> If you have a lot of sounds (clicks) then slow your speaking down as most times you are nervous and speaking too fast. Slow down and pronounce the words and the clicking will go away


1> Tongues can be a sign of the Holy Spirit coming upon us

Tongues and the gift of prophecy can be an indication that the Holy Spirit is upon you in power.

Acts 19:6 “And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.”

2> Speaking in Tongues is for building yourself up spiritually

1 Corinthians 14:4a “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself …” 

Edifies = builds up, charges, and strengthens in a spiritual sense 


3> Speaking in Tongues allows you to speak with God in a special way

Directly from your spirit to God who is Spirit (John 4:24) and thus by-passing your mind altogether

1 Corinthians 14:2 “For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.” 

1 Corinthians 14:14 “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.”

Amplified Bible: “My spirit (by the Holy Spirit within me) prays.”

4> Speaking in Tongues reminds us of the Holy Spirit’s presence in, upon, and around us

John 14:16-17 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever –   the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  

Luke 24:49 “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Acts 1:8a “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…”

5> Praying in Tongues helps keep our prayers in line with God’s will

1 John 5:14-15 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.  

1 Corinthians 14:13 “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful.”

6> Praying in Tongues enables us to have our prayers directed by the Holy Spirit through our spirit and so we can pray for things that are unknown to us but are on God’s heart at the moment.

7> Praying in Tongues stimulates and builds faith

Jude 20 “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.”  

8> Praying in Tongues brings spiritual refreshing

“Times of refreshing in the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19)

9> Tongues is a great way to give thanks

1 Corinthians 14:15-17 “So what shall I do? 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.  If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying?  You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.”  


10> Speaking in Tongues brings the tongue under subjection

James 3:8 “…but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison”  

11> Speaking in Tongues opens the door to the spiritual realm and makes us more spiritually sensitive

12> Speaking in Tongues helps us to connect with the ‘spiritual realm’ and thus release and flow in the gifts like Prophecy, Word of Wisdom, and Word of Knowledge.