Why I Don’t Apologize for Speaking in Tongues

by | Jun 23, 2010 | Blogs, Fire in My Bones

Instead of
denying or downplaying this misunderstood spiritual gift, we should have the
courage to embrace it.

Last week after I
taught a class on the Holy Spirit at a ministry school in Pennsylvania, a
22-year-old guy from Maryland asked if I could pray with him. He had heard me
share how I was baptized in the Holy Spirit at age 18, and he wanted the same
experience. He was especially intrigued by the idea of speaking in tongues—something
he had never done even though he was comfortable around other classmates who
had this spiritual gift.

This young man,
Eric, understood that he already had the Holy Spirit. (We can’t be born again
without the Spirit entering our hearts and quickening Christ’s life in us.) But
he knew that Jesus offers us more—that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a
second experience in which the fullness of God’s divine power saturates us and
anoints us for supernatural ministry.

 Eliminating
the gift of tongues can have a direct impact on the miraculous flow of
the
Spirit’s anointing in the church. You might as well flip a breaker
switch and
turn off all the lights
.”

I explained to
Eric that when I prayed for this blessing many years ago, God did not force
anything on me. We don’t “have” to speak in tongues, and God certainly doesn’t
make us move our mouths against our will. We open our mouths, but it is the
Spirit who gives us this unusual heavenly language. Glossolalia makes no sense in the natural—it actually sounds like
gibberish—but the Bible says praying in the Spirit strengthens us profoundly
(see 1 Cor. 14:2,4).

I laid hands on
Eric in the back of the auditorium and asked Jesus to fill him with divine
power and to release the Holy Spirit’s language as a manifestation of the
overflow. Nothing dramatic happened at that moment, but I told Eric to remain
expectant. I’ve learned that oftentimes the release of the Spirit comes easier
when people are not distracted by crowds. I encouraged my new friend to go home
and pray some more.

A couple of days
later I received an e-mail from this brother, letting me know that a small
miracle had occurred in his life. He wrote: 
“Thank you for praying for me to
speak in tongues. That night was interesting because phrases started to
pop into my head.  I was determined.  I began speaking the phrases
and by the next night I was speaking in tongues as I was falling
asleep. Now, every moment that I am not worshiping, praying, eating or
speaking to someone, I am practicing this gift. Praise God!”

Many of us fall into the trap
of downplaying the phenomenon of speaking in tongues, even after we have
received the gift ourselves. We may consider it divisive (and it certainly can
be when it is abused) or we’re embarrassed because it seems weird or fanatical
to our unbelieving friends or family members.

Yet when I read the apostle
Paul’s comments on the issue, I realize that glossolalia was a key component of the New Testament church. No one
can deny that. Not only did tongues play a fundamental role on the day of
Pentecost when the church was born, but this strange gift also fueled Paul’s
personal zeal. He wasn’t bragging when he wrote: “I thank God I speak in
tongues more than you all” (1 Cor. 14:18, NASB). He most likely prayed in
tongues for hours at a time. He knew he couldn’t carry out his extraordinary
ministry without a private devotional life that was soaked in supernatural
prayer.

That’s also why he wrote: “Do
not forbid to speak in tongues” (1 Cor. 14:39).  He knew that even though some people might be tempted to misuse
this gift (and this is usually why people restrict it), we must never, never,
never shut it down.

Eliminating the gift of
tongues can have a direct impact on the miraculous flow of the Spirit’s
anointing in the church. You might as well flip a breaker switch and turn off
all the lights. Tongues does not make us holier than anyone else, and if we
don’t exhibit love and Christian character it becomes a useless gift comparable
to a noisy gong (see 1 Cor. 13:1). But when stewarded properly, and tempered
with humility, this seemingly insignificant grace of the Holy Spirit becomes an
invisible atomic weapon.

I am not saying we should
showcase tongues in church gatherings, scream at people in tongues or make
people feel like misfits if they haven’t experienced the gift. When the
Corinthians put tongues on the platform and turned their meetings into chaotic
circus sideshows, Paul rebuked them sternly. But the same apostle who warned
his followers not to flaunt tongues in public also spent countless hours
praying in tongues privately—because it is a vital source of spiritual power
that we must not neglect.

The young man I met in
Pennsylvania has a strong call on his life to reach others for Jesus, and he
will be more effective in ministry now that he has added this misunderstood
spiritual weapon to his arsenal. I pray you, too, will discover its value.

J. Lee Grady is contributing
editor of Charisma and author of the
new book The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale.
Follow him on Twitter at leegrady. Learn more about his ministry at themordecaiproject.com.

 

 

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