All You Need to Know About Speaking in Tongues

Shyju Mathew

"Experience the Word of God, in the power of the Spirit."

February 19, 2012

This entry is part 20 of 30 in the series Featured Bible Study: 30 Christian Basics

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Before we look at how to receive the gift of speaking in tongues, allow me to quickly take you through what speaking in tongues – otherwise known as “the unknown tongues” – means.

The promise of our Lord to His disciples – They shall speak with new tongues (Mark 16:17) – was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when cloven tongues-like fire rested upon the disciples, and “every man heard them speak in his own language” (Acts 2:1-12). This is the first recorded instance of speaking in tongues when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:4).

The gift of tongues that came with an ecstatic burst of worship is definitely understood to be a fulfillment of the prophetic Word of Joel 2:28 which says: And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.

Has Speaking in Tongues Ceased?

One of the most contentious debates today is whether speaking in tongues has ceased. On the contrary, the Lord told the disciples that they shall speak with new tongues.

And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues (Mark 16:17).

And from the epistles of St. Paul, it is evident that this prophecy does not refer to Acts 2 alone. We read in 1 Corinthians 12:10 that in the apostolic Church, spiritual gifts included that of tongues:

to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues  (1 Cor. 12:10).

Different Tongues

1 Corinthians 12:10 clearly states that there are different kinds of tongues as well as the interpretation of tongues. This explains how visitors from various countries were able to recognize the tongues that were spoken; as recorded in Acts 2.

So it is possible that some tongues may be a language from another continent, or it could be an unknown language that only God can understand. At times – depending on the need – the Holy Spirit allows people to interpret it as a word of encouragement or prophetic direction.

Can I Speak in Tongues in Public?

This argument comes from the Apostle Paul’s perspective. He suggests that those who speak in tongues should pray that he may interpret it so that people might understand what is spoken (1 Cor. 14:13). Notice that he says: Pray that he may interpret it.

And if he could not do this, he would not excel in his gift to the edification of the church. This is essential so that there may be order in the service and that it does not cause unnecessary commotion with people trying to speak in tongues when the ministry of the Word is happening.

However, that does not nullify the fact that in speaking in tongues, he edifies himself (1 Cor. 14:4). The same Paul goes on to clarify and say in 1 Corinthians 14:18: I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.

How Does God Move Through the Gift of Speaking in Tongues?

1. We just read in 1 Cor. 14:4 that speaking in tongues edifies one’s spirit man. The Holy Spirit grants the gift of speaking in tongues to educate, empower and enlighten our walk with Jesus.

2. Mark 16:17 states that speaking in other tongues is supposed to be a sign of those who believe. I can’t find a greater reason to speak in tongues than in knowing the fact that Jesus gave that as a gift to those who believe.

3. When you believe in Jesus and accept Him, He wants to fill you with the heavenly language of Heaven.

4. Acts 2:4 refers to the Spirit giving utterance. Paul also mentions how he prays in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit uses the gift of tongues to pray through you. For instance, to warn about dangers that lie ahead, what to avoid, and all kinds of issues that our eyes, ears and hearts do not perceive. These are some of the types of prayers that the Holy Spirit says through us when we speak in tongues.

5. You are declaring the unknown into the Spirit realm. 1 Corinthians 14:2 For he that speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not to men, but to God: for no man understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. Sometimes we don’t need to understand everything God is doing but when we pray in the Spirit, we are declaring the mysteries of God.

How to Receive the Gift of Tongues?

Now, it is very clear in the Bible that it is the Spirit that gives you utterance. In others words, it is not something you can make up.

Here are some practical steps that can help you in receiving the gift of tongues:

1. Obedience to God. Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).

2. Ask! Tongues belong to those that have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Yes, it starts by being hungry for God. If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him? (Luke 11:13).

3. Stop thinking about what to say. One of the greatest hindrances to the operation of this gift happens when the person wishing to speak in tongues keeps on wondering what to say. I have noticed that people who use a lot of thinking to comprehend tongues find it harder to receive it. You need to stop thinking, pondering and planning; and simply believe that you will open your mouth and the Holy Spirit will fill it.

4. It comes from within. What many people don’t realize is that the Holy Spirit gives them the speaking utterance from within them. You may or not feel anything in your body, but it flows from within your belly. It’s simple: 1 Corinthians 6:19 says, What? Know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? So it is not something that comes from around you or above you. When you have Jesus inside you, the Holy Spirit dwells in you, and you need to let it overflow from within you.

5. Believe. Remember Jesus said this is for those who believe. It is good if someone can pray for you but no one needs to lay hands. You will receive it if you believe it. So why don’t you ask the Lord and begin to allow the Holy Spirit to give you the utterance from within you right now!

6. Let go! Some get the first words easily, and then they start to ponder and wonder if it is really from God or if they are making it up; which hinders them from receiving the overflow. It can be normal for you to wonder what you are saying, but do not let that stop you from speaking it. Continue speaking by faith and it will overflow.

7. Practise it. Just like any language, you will need to speak it often. You may not lose the language, but it is possible for you to lose the confidence to speak it. While traveling; when you wake up; whenever possible; make it a practice to speak in tongues.

If you have already asked the Holy Spirit for tongues, allow me to pray for you to be filled with the gift of speaking in tongues now. If you believe, you can receive this as you pray with us here.

Dear Father,

I pray with this reader who is believing to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Thank You for Your Word says that You desire to fill them more than their desire to be filled. Thank You because there are no barriers to receiving the blessings of God. And I pray right now, in the Name of Jesus, be filled with the Holy Spirit and receive the gift of speaking in tongues right now.

Be loosed in Jesus’ Name! Be fruitful and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit; in Jesus’ Name!
Thank You, Father, for hearing our prayer.

In the Name of Jesus we pray, Amen!

Now, continue to yield yourself unto the Holy Spirit to grow in this gift. There’s more to come!

Question: How and when did you receive the gift of speaking in tongues? What was your greatest hindrance and how did you overcome it?

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