What Does it Mean to Speak in Tongues?

Is speaking in tongues for today? I think some correlating questions would be: Is healing for today? Are discernment and prophecy for today?

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My Experience with Speaking in Tongues

Encountering those who speak in tongues was never a strange experience for me. Then again, I grew up around it in a Church of God. There was rarely a Sunday that a very unfamiliar language didn’t echo from the pews. Now, I didn’t necessarily understand what it meant or even have the ability to do it myself, but I didn’t open my eyes wide in horror or make a beeline for the back door. Instead, I was fascinated with the passion that some people had during prayer time. And more often than not, I would intently listen and then keep about my business playing dolls or coloring pictures with friends.

That is until I received the gift of speaking in tongues, too.

When I was eight years old, my family moved from the only church I’d known. Shortly after I turned nine, I started attending the children’s service and continued experiencing this “foreign language phenomenon.” Only this time, it was through children my own age. While I may have been a believer, I knew they clearly had something I did not, and I was determined to get it.

To my delight, an altar call was given for that very reason—being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Instantly, I felt an intense pull in my heart and made my way to the front. Pastor Donnie awaited me, explained to me what was about to occur, and began speaking in his own heavenly language. All I was required to do was simply ask for the gift and receive it by faith. Within moments, I strongly felt the Holy Spirit upon me, and a fountain of new words waterfalled from my lips.

 

How is the Gift of Tongues Received?

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…Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine” (Acts 2:1-4; 13, NIV).

In the second book of Acts, after Jesus has ascended to heaven, we read about the Holy Spirit falling upon 120 people in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost, rendering them “drunk.” His presence is so heavy that they begin uttering words foreign to their native language.

However, they are not surprised by this. In fact, Jesus made it clear in Mark, chapter 16 that signs would follow believers, one of which is speaking in new tongues. This gift would be a signal to nonbelievers of the faith carried by those who utilize it.

Receiving the gift of tongues is simply saying “yes” to it. It’s opening your mouth and your spirit and removing your carnality, which can cause you to hesitate. It is believing that the Lord has given you a powerful tool and walking boldly in its use.

What is the Gift of Tongues and Why is it Useful?

There are three uses of tongues.

  1. The first use is the supernatural download of another natural language originally unbeknownst to the speaker.

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 their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:5-12, NIV).

Often, God will ask us to minister to those who do not speak our native language. When this happens, we usually have some sort of translation provided via a brother or sister in Christ, but nothing is impossible for God Almighty! He can immediately produce within our mouths new sounds we have never uttered before to speak directly to those He has called us to share the gospel with.

2. The second use of tongues is the ability to express whatever is in your spirit, maybe that which you are unable to explain in natural words.

For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit (1 Cor. 14:2, NIV).

Sometimes, we are led to pray but do not have any specific words about the situation for which we are to pray. Other times, we are not even given knowledge of the situation. We simply feel a call to intercession or heaviness in our spirit. When this happens, we can access our spiritual gift and allow the Holy Spirit to speak through us.

Speaking in tongues is the Holy Spirit in you speaking to the Father. It is a gateway of communication from the earth to the heavens. When we allow the Holy Spirit to speak through us, we know that His will is being prayed. It removes us completely out of the way so that the Father can have His.

3. The third use of tongues is the edification of oneself or the uplifting of the Body of Christ.

The rest of 1 Corinthians 14 explains that it is best for there to be an interpretation of these tongues so that the whole congregation hearing the utterances may be strengthened, encouraged, comforted, and instructed. Paul even warns against those who speak in tongues out loud without an interpreter and expresses that he would prefer prophecy over one who speaks in tongues without another to share the interpretation of the tongues.

In summary, the gift of tongues is a supernatural language used to pray or prophesy. It is specifically given to believers for other believers or nonbelievers. It can manifest in various ways and can edify oneself or the Body of Christ.

Compare it to a multitude of dialects. In the same way that there is American English or British English and Mexican Spanish or Puerto Rican Spanish, the spiritual gift of tongues is uniquely spoken by each recipient. And often, there is someone there for translation of the tongues if the words spoken are for the overall church.

Another way to understand the language is by considering various snowflakes. You will never see a replicated snowflake in all its intricate and dynamic glory. Similarly, you will never hear tongues spoken in the same way. That is because each person is special to the Holy Spirit, and He loves to identify our individual relationships with Him through the gifts He gives us.

 

Is Speaking in Tongues for Today?

I think some correlating questions would be: Is healing for today? Are discernment and prophecy for today? If these gifts are continuous, why shouldn’t the gift of tongues be? Even more than that, the Holy Spirit is neverending. If He constantly fills us, then His guidance within us doesn’t just disappear. His voice doesn’t cease speaking. He is always moving and does not change.

That being said, the Spirit’s outpouring of tongues has not ceased or changed either! And I believe that it is still a powerful weapon against the enemy, especially because the enemy cannot discern what is being spoken. This secret supernatural language mirrors our ability to hide the Word in our hearts (Ps. 119:10-11). It defends us against the wickedness and darkness of this world.

Though I am now an adult, I still experience the Holy Spirit’s prompt to pray in tongues when the time is right. It has built my faith and has fortified my prayer life. And even if He does not call me to speak for the congregation, I do believe there is still power in the gift He has given me to minister to others and worship Him.

If you have not experienced this gift yourself, I encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit to come upon you and simply receive everything He has in store for your prayer life. You never know the ways He may see fit to use you!

 

 

Featured Image by Devin Avery
In-Text Image by Jamie Street

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The views and opinions expressed by Kingdom Winds Collective Members, authors, and contributors are their own and do not represent the views of Kingdom Winds LLC.

About the Author

Becca is a gentle soul who seeks the best in the world and in others. She is easily touched by the beauty of books, music, and art. Though she aspires to write as eloquently as Emily Dickinson or Lang Leav, she hopes to make her own mark on the world one day. She dreams of leaving behind a voice that sparks creativity, imagination, hope, love, joy, and faith.