Over the years, I’ve had people ask me questions about being filled with the Spirit and praying in tongues. I have compiled a few of those questions and answered them below. I pray that you will find the answers informative and that they will encourage you in your walk with the Lord.
Q: How can I receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit?
A: Acts 1:8 promises that “. . . you shall receive powerwhen the Holy Spirit has come upon you; . . .”. Jesus states in Luke 11:13, “How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” So, the Word tells you that when you ask, be ready to receive. Tell God that you do receive His gift. Thank Him for the baptism of the Holy Spirit and believe His Word. Once you believe that you receive, then by faith begin to speak out loud in syllables and sounds that aren’t English. This will sound strange in your mind, you may think, “This can’t be the Holy Spirit!” But Romans 8:7 tells us that our fleshly mind opposes the things of God. If this happens, simply make the decision to trust the Word. Acts 2:4 says that “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Q: Is the gift of tongues scriptural? Would you please give me some Scripture references?
A: Yes, the gift of tongues is scriptural. It is found in Acts 2:4 (see question above) and 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14. Tongues is more certainly of God. As you read the book of Acts, you will see many instances and references to the operation of this important gift from God. First Corinthians 14:39 states, “Therefore, brethren, . . . do not forbid to speak with tongues.” This same chapter even provides us with a scriptural order in operating in the gifts of the Spirit. When a message in tongues is given to the church, an interpretation must also be given. It is possible that several people can receive the interpretation for the message in tongues; but in order to eliminate confusion, only one and at the most two people are to give an interpretation.
Q: If tongues is a real language as spoken of in Acts, why do people who minister overseas have to have an interpreter to translate?
A: When we pray in tongues, the Holy Spirit prays through us (Romans 8:26-27). What may at first seem like mumbo-jumbo is in reality a heavenly language which neither our earthly minds nor Satan can understand. In my own experience however, the more you pray in tongues, the more you can begin to recognize certain phrases and sounds. Sometimes, I ask for an interpretation and God tells me through my spirit what I am praying (more about this in an answer below). I have also received reports from many missionaries who have gone to foreign countries, preached in tongues, and the people have understood. So tongues is as valid today as it was in Acts 2:6, but it is as the Holy Spirit directs. God can use tongues, but He can also use an interpreter.
Q: Is there a difference in the “prayer language” in the book of Acts and “tongues” in 1 Corinthians 14?
A: There is a difference between tongues and a prayer language. A prayer language is personal, direct intercession/petition/communication to the Father from the Holy Spirit within us. This builds or edifies us personally (Jude 20). A public tongue must be accompanied by a supernatural interpretation. This is the equivalent of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:5).
Q: I am a born-again believer and know that I am filled with the Holy Spirit, but I do not speak in tongues. My question is, can you be Spirit-filled and not speak in tongues?
A: The answer to your question is found in Mark 16:17 when Jesus states, “Thesesigns will follow those whobelieve . . .they will speak with new tongues.” It’s very clear here that the signs Jesus lists in verses 17-18 will accompany those who believe. The scriptural pattern in the book of Acts beginning with the 120 in the upper room is that those who received the baptism of the Holy Spirit manifested it with the evidence of tongues. This, however, does not necessarily mean that you are not Spirit-filled. I have met several people who by faith received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and later manifested tongues. But I believe that tongues will always be manifested in those who are baptized in the Holy Spirit if they are open to all God has for them. Speech is a mechanical operation used either by our mind or spirit. Most people, when properly instructed on how to yield the instrument of speech, will receive their language.
Q: How can I find out what I am saying in tongues?
A: Many of the early Christians must have asked this question as well because Paul made sure he addressed this point in his first letter to the Corinthians: For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful” (14:14). The Bible tells you that you spirit knows what you are saying, but your mind does not. So, the only way you can find out what you are praying by the Spirit is to ask the Lord to give you revelation so you can interpret what you are praying. Nonetheless, I have found that it is important not to get caught up in trying to figure out what I am saying, but it is important to be consistent in prayer and to trust the Holy Spirit to pray that perfect prayer through me. Sometimes I will pray with the Spirit and then I will be impressed of the Lord to interpret what I have said. In this way, I find out what the Holy Spirit has been praying through me and my understanding is then enlightened. Another place in Scripture says we speak mysteries, but 1 Corinthians 2 tells us that the Spirit reveals these mysteries as we pray in the Spirit. So, claim His promise to show you by revelation what you are speaking.
Q: Must I first confess my sins and repent before I use my prayer language?
A: When we pray in the Spirit (tongues), we have immediate access to the throne of God. The Holy Spirit Himself is praying through us as we pray in the Spirit, and there is no sin in the Holy Spirit. In times of emergency, the very first thing we should do is pray in the Spirit. Romans 8:26-27 says:
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
The Holy Spirit knows our weaknesses and our infirmities, so He makes intercession for us through our prayer language. He prays a perfect prayer and God hears His own Spirit as quickly as you hear your own voice when you speak. It is also important to understand that because you have become righteous through Jesus Christ, you stand in a place before the Father through Jesus. Certainly, there is a time and place for us to confess our sins, but this is only necessary as the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins.
Q: How can I grow from devotional tongues to the gift of diverse tongues?
A: Your devotional tongue was given to you when you were baptized in the Holy Spirit. It is a part of your prayer life and can be used at your will. However, the gift of diverse tongues is an operation of the Holy Spirit through an individual and may be used only as the Holy Spirit wills. This gift is for the edification of the body of Christ and must be accompanied with the gift of interpretation.