Why speaking in tongues matters more than you might think
I’ll never forget when I first discovered the power of praying in tongues. It was 1953, and I was a 19-year-old student at a Bible college in Portland, Ore. I drove down to Salem with some friends to minister at a church, and after the preaching ministry all of us went to the altar to pray.
As I was praying, the Holy Spirit began to move in a way I had not experienced. I could sense this was a sovereign move of God taking place and that I should let the Holy Spirit have His way. I sat down crossed-legged so I could be comfortable while I spent time praying continuously in tongues.
In my natural mind it was like I was listening to two different people carry on a conversation. My spirit would pray through my mouth for four to five minutes in a tongue that sounded like the romantic soft language of French, Spanish or Italian. The prayer was expressed in a pleading tone. After a short period of time my spirit language would change to a deeper, harder, more authoritative tone like an African, German or Russian language.
I could feel the switch from my spirit talking to God to God talking to my spirit. His was an instructive, commanding voice as one giving important directions. It felt like He was saying: “Watch out for this. Be careful of that. This is going to happen, and when it does I will lead you. Fear not.”
I didn’t understand the language in my natural mind, but my spirit conveyed to me the essence of what was being spoken. This continued for four solid hours.
About four months later there was a great upheaval in the Bible college. Five of our teachers left, and the students were in great confusion. We didn’t know if the president of the Bible college was in the wrong or the five teachers. I was fasting for days and praying for hours at a time asking God to reveal His will for me. He finally told me to not be afraid or overly concerned because He already had it all worked out for me.
He said: “You remember when you prayed those four hours, and you and I communicated in the Spirit? During that time I put into your spirit what you were to do. I gave you the wisdom and grace you would need in order to make the right decision and take the right action.”
Today the Lord might have said He “downloaded” to my spirit hard drive all the information and grace I would need from His Holy Spirit hard drive to navigate the situation. The more we pray in our spirit language, the more time and opportunity we give God to program our spirits to direct our thinking and actions.
When we pray in tongues, mysteries are being revealed to our spirit man. The apostle John declared that the Holy Spirit would show us things to come, bring all things to our remembrance, enlighten and empower us to glorify Christ, manifest His life, and do the works that Christ did (see John 16:7-15; 14:12,26). If we want to be built up in God and edify our spirits with the charge of God’s power, then we need to pray often in our spirit language.
The Greatest Gift
All works of God are accomplished by His Spirit and His Word. We can be filled with His Word by studying the Bible, memorizing Scripture and listening to anointed biblical teaching and preaching. We are filled with His Spirit when we are baptized in the Holy Spirit, which gives us the gift of being able to pray in unknown tongues, or a spirit language.
God the Father gave the world the greatest gift possible when He sent His son to die on the cross. But speaking in tongues is the greatest gift that Jesus could give the church because it activates God’s grace and power, and enables believers to live the life of Christ and fulfill their callings.
Receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit is like a person obtaining a computer who has used only a manual typewriter. I’ve used a computer to write the last four of my 10 books, and I probably know only 10 percent of my computer’s capabilities.
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