What is speaking in tongues?

Is speaking in tongues from God? Or is it occult? What does the Bible say about speaking in tongues? Find out now!

speaking in tongues

Is speaking in tongues still for today? What does the Bible say?

Speaking in tongues is a very hot item among christians. Many have sincere questions and concerns about this gift of the Holy Spirit. In this article you will find clear answers to the most frequently asked questions about speaking in tongues. I also share an amazing experience I had, where the Holy Spirit started speaking through me in Ancient Hebrew, to point a seeking Jewish young man to Jesus Christ.

I hope you will enjoy this article. It may change your life…

Speaking in tongues is praying… with your spirit

According to the Bible speaking in tongues is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that enables us to no only pray with our mind, but also pray with our spirit. It is first of all a supernatural prayer language.  The apostle Pauls makes it clear that we can pray with both our mind and our spirit:

‘I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.’ (1 Corinthians 14:15)

Every person can pray with his mind. You don’t need God for that. However, praying in the spirit is made possible by the Spirit of God. He gives you a supernatural, godly prayer language that elevates your prayer life to a higher level.

praying in the spirit is speaking in tonguesYou will pray with words that your mind didn’t think of but are given by the Holy Spirit.

This will make your prayer very pure because it is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Moreover, your prayer is especially powerful because the Spirit will pray things through you that you would never have thought of with your human mind. Your prayer isn’t limited by unbelief, ignorance or wrong doctrines.

‘For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries.’ (1 Corinthians 14:2)

Praying in tongues will give your inner strength and adjust your spirit to the Spirit of God. This gift is mainly meant for a person’s own walk with God.

‘One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself.’  (1 Corinthians 14:4)

The apostle Jude says that praying in the Spirit doesn’t only strengthen your inner being but it also keeps you in the love of God:

‘But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God.’ (Jude 1:20)

Is speaking in tongues for today?

Many Christians have been influenced by the doctrine that the gifts of the Spirit are no longer for this time and age. This comes from a doctrine called ‘dispensationalism’. According to dispensationalism we no longer live in a time where the gifts of the Spirits are operating. However, this doctrine cannot be found in the Bible.

There is no evidence that Jesus Christ or any of the apostles state that the gifts of the Spirits were only temporary.

The apostles even encourage in their letters to the Christians to desire the gifts of the Spirit:

‘Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts.’ (1 Corinthians 14:1)

‘Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues.’ (1 Corinthians 14:5)

Millions of Christians worldwide pray in tongues. Many renowned Christian leaders experience the gifts of the Spirit. It would be foolishness to say that the gifts of the Spirit are no longer of this time.

fear of the holy spirit and speaking in tonguesIs speaking in tongues occult?

Many Christians have become afraid of speaking in tongues due to the influence of dispensationalism. They reason like this: ‘If the power of God is no longer at work in this time, that means that every supernatural act must be of the devil.’ As I mentioned earlier, that is a serious misconception and goes directly against the clear biblical teaching.

The Bible emphasizes that the gifts of the Spirit are given to the church to build us up spiritually.

‘But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift… for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.’ (Ephesians 4:11)

‘There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.’ (1 Corinthians 12:6)

It is true that Satan also works miracles and people who are possessed by demons can speak in demonic languages as well. This is however not a valid reason to discard the powerful blessings God wants to give us. That is the most foolish thing you can do.

When you are in a battle, would you throw away your own sword just because you see the enemy is wearing a sword too?

Moreover, if we know Satan can produce demonic languages within occult religions, we as children of God should even be more powerful in the gifts He gives us. It is then that we will not fearfully flinch from the darkness, but chase away the darkness in the victorious power of Jesus Christ.

Speaking in tongues in the spiritual battle

The apostle Paul says that our battle is spiritual and we need to use the spiritual weapons.

‘For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.’ (Ephesians 6:12) 

‘For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.’ (2 Corinthians 10:4) 

sword of the spirit is speaking in tonguesPrayer is the most important weapon in the spiritual warfare

It is for a good reason that the Spirit of God gives us the gift of praying in tongues. Praying in the spirit is a powerful weapon in the warfare against the spiritual darkness. You pray perfect prayers given by the Spirit of God.

So it is by growing more powerful in the gifts of the Spirit that we are enabled to be a victorious Body of Christ.  Without the power of God our life with God is mere theory. That is why the apostle Paul says that the power of God is much more important than human words.

‘For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.’ (1 Corinthians 4:20) 

Criticism concerning speaking in tongues

I have been walking with Jesus Christ for decades and have been at Christian meetings, weekends, conferences and camps of very different Christian groups and have read an enormous amount of Christian publications

But in all those years I have seldom heard somebody teaching about speaking in tongues.

I have heard a lot of criticism and fear of speaking in tongues. If you look on the internet for information on this subject you will find many articles that want to keep this gift out of th church. I noticed that the people who criticize speaking in tongues are ones who do not have personal experience in speaking in tongues and are not in the position to have any sensible comment on it.

I believe that there is only one subject that benefits from keeping God’s powerful weapons out of the hands of his warriors, and that is Satan, the spiritual enemy of God’s people.

speaking in tongues is a gift from the holy spiritSpeaking in tongues is a good gift

The Bible says that God is totally, totally GOOD and that everything that comes from God is also totally, totally GOOD:

‘Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.’ (Psalm 107:1)

‘Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.’ (James 1:17)

So you don’t have to be afraid of the gifts of God because they are good and perfect.

Jesus Christ knew that people are sometimes afraid of the supernatural that comes from God and that’s why He said that there is no reason to be afraid when we pray for the holy Spirit:

‘Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, 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?’ (Luke 11-13)

Speaking in tongues is the fire of heaven

The apostle James writes in his letter that the tongue of a person is set aflame by the fire of the demonic underworld (=Gehenna). That is why people so often speak negatively and destructive.

‘So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.

For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.’ (James 3:5-8)

Did you know that your tongue can be set aflame by the demonic fire of the underworld?

That is extremely serious because our words determine our life, says the Bible.

‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.’ (Proverbs 18:21)

speaking in tongues is the fire of heavenBut what happened during the outpouring of the holy Spirit? Fire from heaven came down on the tongues of the people and they began to speak words of God by the heavenly fire.

‘And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. (Acts 2:2-4)

God’s heavenly fire will ensure that we do not speak negative words but words that will praise God:

‘For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God.’ (Acts 10:46)

Our tongue rules our entire body and controls our existence, says the Bible. That is why it is extremely important to learn how to let our tongue to be burning with the fire from heaven so our ship of life will not be sent to abyss but towards the glory of God.

Receiving the gift of speaking in tongues?

In the Bible speaking in tongues is a result of being filled with the holy Spirit:

‘And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.’ (Acts 2:4)

In the Bible there are two ways for people to be filled with the Spirit. On the one hand, you notice that the Spirit of God just came upon the people after listening to the gospel:

‘While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God.’ (Acts 10:44)

laying on of hands to receive speaking in tonguesFurthermore the Bible shows that laying on of hands is used to pass on this gift of the Spirit.

‘Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit.’ (Acts 8:17)

‘And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.’ (Acts 19:6)

‘Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.’ (1 Timothy 4:14)

The biblical advice for Christians want to be fulfilled with the Spirit of God would be to: go to Christian fellowships where there is a powerful movement of the holy Spirit. And let trustworthy, sincere Christians pray for you while laying on hands.

How often do you speak in tongues?

In the Bible the holy Spirit is being compared to a river, a fire, a wind etc. those are organic, spontaneous moving elements. A river flows constantly and never ends otherwise it would be a stagnant pool. Fire stirs and dances and moves constantly. Wind is always in movement, it goes everywhere and causes everything to move… That is how the Spirit of God is and so are the gifts of the Spirit. God always wants to sing and pray through us wherever we are.

praying tongues to worship

He wants to move in our life, every day, in a natural way so his presence fills us wherever we are and whatever we are doing.

I think the biggest mistake many make is that they only use the gifts of the Spirit when they are among other Christians. Speaking in tongues is meant to build us up spiritually every day. I pray and sing all day in tongues. Of course not all the time but for instance when I’m doing the dishes, driving in the car, doing gardening. At those moment I sing relaxed in tongues. It is a river of nonstop prayer and praise in the Spirit. It keeps me spiritually afresh and strong. When I’m hurt, it can strengthen and comfort me and when I’m struggling God can use is to empower me.

God doesn’t want to be present in our church services. He wants to fulfil our daily lives.

So let the river flow in your life. Ask the holy Spirit to fill you and lead you and then relax. Learn how to move spontaneously with the Spirit, without frenetic response. Just let it well up and flow spontaneously.

Is speaking in tongues loud or silent?

The bible says that the hundreds of disciples that were filled with the Spirit spoke in a loud tone in tongues:

‘And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.’ (Acts 2:4)

Many Christians pray very carefully and silent in tongues. That is not wrong, but it is not the only way this gift can be used. It is also important to dare to be bold.

There are moments where the Spirit starts to sing or pray very loudly through me.

Those are the moments when I experience that the power of God strongly increases in me. I can feel his flows of power very strongly in my body. If I then pray for people they are touched by the Lord in an incredible way.

It is remarkable how loud people can be during a football match or at a party and how timid they become when God is involved. I believe there will and need to be more boldness when it comes to the Spirit of God. Not to impress people but to to let the holy Spirit have his way.

speaking in tongues fireSomething special happens when you pray in tongues freely bold and loud. You could compare it to a cutting torch. When opening the gas tap just a little bit there will be a small flame. When you open de gas tap fully, a blazing flame will emerge.

The blazing flame isn’t always necessary. However there are times that it is necessary and at those moments it is important that you are able to let the fire of the Spirit burn loud and freely.

Americans are all over the world renowned for their big mouth. But don’t let it be that you can only be loud when speaking words that come from the flesh, but be loud and powerful in the Spirit! The gifts of the Spirit have been snowed under in the church for too long. It is time to wake up and to learn how to battle in the Spirit.

The difference between praying and speaking in tongues

A lot of Christians have a hard time when they hear somebody pray in tongues during a service. They think of the bible verse where Paul says that when someone speaks in tongues in a service there should be interpretation.

What those people don’t seem to understand is that Paul is speaking about people who stand up during a service and address the congregation while speaking in tongues.

They don’t pray in tongues but speak in tongues to the people. That is of course very ineffective unless there is interpretation of the message. Praying in tongues however isn’t meant as a message for people and therefor doesn’t need interpretation.

When I am leading a service there will often be moments that the Spirit of God leads me to pray in tongues for a short while. I don’t do that in the microphone but redirect the microphone away from my mouth and direct myself to God. It is during those moments that I notice the Spirit of God is strengthening me inside and tuning me to what God wants to do.

The result is that a couple of moments later I am able to speak a powerful message for the people, in a language they understand.

speaking in tongues prayerThere is a substantial difference between speaking in tongues to people and praying in tongues to God. In the congregation of the Corinthians there were apparently people who thought it was weighty to stand up and address the congregation in tongues. That is of course nonsense and that is what Paul speaks about in his letter. He doesn’t want to obstruct praying in tongues but encourages the Christians when addressing the congregation to prophesy as well so the fellow believers will actually benefit from it.

“One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:4)

Control and surrender

One of the biggest strongholds of darkness in the church today is the spirit of control. Satan isn’t afraid of Christians who are strictly monitored. However, he is scared to death of believers who learn how to move in the freedom of the Spirit. Because that is when the power of God can move.

The key to experience God is surrender

This is how you receive speaking in tongues: by putting the control of your tongue in His hands. That can be quite a struggle because we like to be in control ourselves. That is our security and power. Letting go and giving Him control is a complete different story.

Speaking in tongues and spiritual maturity

If you can pray in tongues, are you spiritually more mature than a person who doesn’t speak in tongues? No, it is just like the other gifts of the Spirit, a GIFT OF GRACE (charismata in Greek). God gives the gift of the Spirit from his grace, not because we earned them.

The display of the gifts of the Spirit is not an indicator for someone’s spiritual maturity.

I know Christians who don’t speak in tongues and are spiritually more mature than others who do pray in tongues. Alongside the gifts of the Spirit there are also the fruits of the Spirit: love, peace, joy, self-control, humility, gentleness, faithful etc. (See Galatians 5) The presence of the fruit of the Spirit is an indicator of someone’s spiritual growth, the gifts aren’t.

Is speaking in tongues the ultimate answer?

If the gifts of the Spirit are that important are they the ultimate answer to our needs? Although by writing this article I want to give the gifts of the Spirit more room under Christians, it is very important to mention that the gifts of the Spirit are not our goal.

worship jesus christOur focus should always be on Jesus Christ

The gifts of the Spirit are for sure a wonderful, powerful way to proclaim Jesus Christ in our midst. If we keep our heart in the right place and keep everything focused on Jesus Christ, the gifts will bring forth tremendous blessings. However, when the gifts of the Spirit become our goal, they will not bear the full fruit God intended it to.

Jesus Christ gives the gifts to reveal himself. Jesus Christ is our answer, He is our salvation. The gifts of the Spirit are there to make Him public in our midst, in our life and in the world around us.

Speaking in tongues and the abuse of power

The gifts of the Spirit are extremely powerful and can a person a lot of power over another person. That is a big danger of the power of God. It is therefore very important that we always keep our heart in love, humbleness and compliance.

Unfortunately there are leaders who abuse the gifts of the Spirit to control others.

Watch your own heart and motivation. Do you want to pray in tongues to impress people with your spirituality? Or to acquire power over others? Or do you want to pray in tongues because you long for God and want to bring his love to people? That is a big difference. Watch your heart, let the motivation be love, nothing else. When we live in love, we live in God. If not, we don’t.

Remarkable experience with speaking in tongues

One day I had a visitor, an English speaking Jew from Russia, to whom I tried to explain the importance of the Bible. This young man was involved in New Age and didn’t really respect people who read the Bible. For three hours I did everything in my power to convince it, but it was useless.

He thought he was more spiritual than me and thought it was weak I needed the Bible to get to know God.

All my attempts to explain that God gave the Bible to know Him the right way, instead of making up your own images about God, were futile. He was beyond all doubt. I was at the end of my wits and I proposed to ask God together to tell us the truth. He agreed.

It was Friday evening and it was the beginning of Sabbath, so he prayed a prayer from a Hebrew prayer book. When I started to pray, he looked around clearly not interested. I started to pray in my own language but I felt that the holy Spirit wanted me to pray aloud in tongues. I raised my hands and started to pray freely and boldly in tongues. Meanwhile I look to the face of the Israeli young man….

amazed by godHe stared at me with eyes wide open… ‘Oh, something is happening here’, I thought.

I carried on and experienced how the Spirit of God flowed, my whole body vibrated with heat under the power of God. When I got the impression it was enough, I stopped. It was silent for a moment while I watched my visitor from Russia. He started hesitatingly: ‘Do you.. have any idea… what you just said?’ ‘Uhm, no’, I said. ‘I prayed in tongues. That is a prayer language the Spirit of God gives to people who commit themselves to Jesus. It is my spirit communicating with God’s Spirit’, I explained. He was surprised from the top of his head to the sole of his feet.

‘Well’, he said, ‘you just spoke a language that hardly anybody still knows. For about 90 percent you spoke a very ancient form of Hebrew’.

‘That is a specific kind of Hebrew that is only spoken by some rabbis and they only use it when they speak about God. It is a holy language.’ It was my time to be perplexed. Wooow… I didn’t know that. The impact of this all was that this young man suddenly respected me. His pride disappeared right away. ‘So you do hear God’s voice…’, he said amazed. ‘I wish I was at your spiritual level’. That was an astonishing turnaround. In answer to that I could point to Jesus Christ as the only way to the Father and to the Bible as God’s book that shows us who Jesus and the Father are.

In conclusion: we need the Spirit!

dove holy spiritI hope this bible study helped you develop a longing for the gifts of the Spirit. It is very important to understand the letters of Paul to the Corinthians correctly.

He didn’t want to stop the gifts of the Spirit but wants to help Christians to experience as much fruit as possible through the gifts of the Spirit.

He doesn’t say: stop praying in tongues, but emphasises: ‘Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues.’ (1 Corinthians 14:5) Paul’s advice to the congregation is to prophesize more so the people understand God’s message, is being abused by many leaders all over the world to completely banish speaking in tongues from the congregations. But that is not what Paul intended!

Let us learn to surrender ourselves deeply to the Spirit of God so God’s redemption can flow freely and many people can be deeply set free by Him.

‘As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.’ (1 Peter 4:10-11)

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Author: David Sorensen

About the Author David Sorensen

David Sorensen had a dramatic encounter with God, which completely transformed his life. He decided to spend the rest of his life showing others show real God is and how much he loves us. David's desire is that people would learn how to experience God as the most beautiful reality there is.

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