I was 18 years old and a student at the Youth with A Mission (YWAM) Discipleship Training School in Kona, Hawaii. I had quit drugs the day I flew to the DTS, and God was working deeply within me in the program as I pursued Him desperately. The fog of addiction had recently vanished, and I was praying and asking for "more" of God. I honestly didn't know what "more" of God meant, even though we sang songs about it, but I craved His presence and read anything I could about Him, absorbing all the teaching and services offered.
One day we were on work duties, and I overheard some international students talking in their native language and I said, "I wish I could speak another language." Just then a woman from New Zealand asked me, "Do you speak in tongues?"
"No," I answered.
Immediately, she laid hands on my cheeks and prayed for me to receive the gift of tongues and encouraged me to ask for it in prayer. I didn't know fully what tongues and other spiritual gifts were, but I thought if that was the "more" I was asking for, then I wanted it. I read through most of the New Testament nightly and saw it in the Scripture but was never taught about it and had not seen it before. I'd had dreams since I was a kid, and it was through a series of dreams that I knew I needed to get right with God, which led me to YWAM, but I had little instruction on spiritual gifts and the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
Later that day my cheeks were on fire, and I had vivid dreams from God. My roommates had told me the next morning after the missionary from New Zealand prayed over me that while I slept, my cheeks were a fiery red. They knew God was doing something in me. I was excited and hungry for more of God, diving into prayer and spiritual habits. I was on an adventure with Him, and over the course of a few weeks, He spoke to me through visions, dreams and prophetic utterances through other people. I asked as many people as I could about spiritual gifts, and I asked for tongues each time I prayed.
Then, on the night of Nov. 14, 1998, I went to Sam, who was my small-group leader, and explained everything God had been telling me during those weeks and how I was asking for tongues.
He listened and then asked, "So you want tongues?"
I answered, "Yeah, whatever that is."
Then he said, "I believe God will give it to you now." He then told me to stand up and lift my hands, and ask for the spiritual gift of tongues. He explained that the Holy Spirit might speak to me or show me a word or phrase in a language I didn't know, and he said I was to speak out the word or phrase the Holy Spirit gave me, repeating it and receiving more. I was excited, and in my mind, quickly asked God to forgive me of any sin. Sam then laid hands on me in prayer, and I asked God out loud, "God, will you give me tongues, in Jesus' name?"
In an instant, the Spirit of God gave me a single word in tongues to speak out, and as I repeated it, more words erupted through me. The power of the wonderful Holy Spirit enveloped me as what seemed like waves of electricity and what I can only describe as God's love and power washed over me. It seemed as though a spotlight exploded out of my mouth as I spoke in tongues, with my arms and hands surging with tremendous currents of electricity as the waves of power washed over the rest of my body as I loudly spoke in tongues, feeling immersed in His Spirit.
Over the course of several hours, there were three huge waves of power, with many smaller waves in between. As one large wave ebbed away, Sam had me thank God in English but ask for more. Each time I asked more, words in tongues emerged. My prayer for "more of God" was answered as I laughed, cried and worshipped Jesus, the baptizer in the Holy Spirit.
A journal entry from that night sheds a little more light on my encounter but also reveals my youthfulness and vocabulary from the drug culture I recently left: "It was so amazing, so indescribable ... I was shaking and focusing and began to speak and almost fell over so Sam sat me down, and my body was so gone if that makes since [sic], my mind was going out of my mouth which was moving and speaking yet I controlled it. My arms were tingling and I wanted so much more, the second and third flows were the most amazing." I was truly transformed that night.
Sam told me to pray in tongues every day, which became a personal conviction of mine. After this encounter with the Holy Spirit, I had a boldness to share the gospel, a spiritual hunger for His power and a commission to lead others to Him.
I have seen many people baptized with the Holy Spirit over the years, with each person's encounter being unique and special. It's always awe-inspiring to see Jesus baptize them in His Spirit. Some people speak in tongues for the first time for less than a minute, while others go longer. Some may feel power surge through them, while other people feel nothing. There are some who need the laying on of hands for an increase of faith and agreement in prayer, and others who go to their prayer closet and report to me later how God baptized them with His precious Spirit. I have asked myself why this is the case having no solid answer besides the experience being scriptural truth. But I think God gives each of us the Spirit baptism in the way we personally need to receive it. Each story is incredible, and I love seeing God answer their prayer for "more."
In Luke 11:13 Jesus said, "If you then ... know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" If you want more of God in your life, or if you want to receive the incredible baptism with the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues, simply ask, knowing that He will answer by blessing you and giving you more of Him because He is a great Father who loves you.
This article originally appeared in the Message of the Open Bible Magazine.
Jared Laskey is starting Destiny Open Bible Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and is a contributing writer to Charisma. He lives to see Jesus awaken this generation to the power of His Holy Spirit. You can follow him on Twitter @jaredalaskey, or contact him through his website, firebornministries.org