What's so important about speaking in tongues?

The Question:

Why is it SO important to "speak in tongues or "pray in the Spirit"? Why is it some people do and other people do not? Does it affect your relationship with the Lord?

- AR from Logan, OH


The Answer
Part 1: Tongues advantage
Part 2: Can tongues affect your relationship with the Lord?

Tongues Advantage (Part 1)

Before I answer, let me say that I have covered this topic in two other Straight Talk columns. In order to not cover the same ground twice, the related articles should be read first because this one is going to have a narrower focus.

"About Speaking in Tongues…" covers basic issues such as the nature of the gift and its use within the Body of Christ. "More on Tongues" discusses whether you need to speak in tongues to be saved (you don't) and some other misconceptions.

Now let's assume you have read both of these other articles and are ready for further clarification. What is so important about speaking in tongues? Is there an advantage? The apostle Paul thought there was an advantage. During his instruction in the use of the gift he said; "I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all…" (1 Corinthians 14:18) There must be an advantage or why would he be thankful?

One of the biggest advantages to praying in tongues is that the logical mind can be bypassed so the prayer can hit closer to the heart and will of God. Any time you pray the heart of God in a matter, the answer is pretty much a sure thing.

Let's break it down this way: a friend asks you to pray for healing for his dying grandfather who is 92. You agree to pray but now your mind gets going with all kinds of thoughts. "Well, he's old; maybe it's just his time to go." "I wonder if he is saved; maybe I should be praying for salvation rather than healing." "If he dies now after his wife knows about the prayer, maybe she will reject God. I better pray he is healed." "Why don't I just pray for a peaceful ending rather than healing since he's in so much pain?"

Praying in tongues alleviates all the analytical mind stuff. The truth is that we often don't know how to pray in particular situations. "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." (Romans 8:26)

In the prayer request mentioned above, praying in tongues can let God decide the best way to answer for the 92 year old grandfather. Tongues is purer than any natural language and is made holy when the Holy Spirit directs it. Our mind may not understand but our spirit rejoices to be one accord with the Spirit of God.

Next: Can tongues affect your relationship with the Lord?


Can tongues affect your relationship with the Lord? (Part 2)

You do not need to speak in tongues to have a close relationship with the Lord. After all, tongues is a gift and it is not a gift that every believer has. God does not withhold a gift and then penalize us for not having it. However, if you are one with the gift of tongues, you can use it to enhance your relationship. First of all, using each gift you have in the service of the church of Jesus Christ is an act of obedience. Obedience is a short cut to God's heart. So in that way it may make you closer.

Praying in tongues is edifying both to yourself and to the church. Many things can be "prayed through" more easily with tongues. There can be a deep sense of closeness and satisfaction when praying in tongues - like you are an arrow hitting the bull's eye.

It must also be stated that speaking in tongues can drive a wedge between you and the Lord if you use your gift to violate love. How can that happen? By a smug or superior attitude if you speak in tongues and someone else doesn't. If you think you are "better" because you have this gift. Remember what Jesus said; "But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant." (Matthew 23:11)

I want to make a final comment regarding your question. I may be wrong but I get the feeling that perhaps you do not possess this gift and you wonder what the big deal is. Perhaps others have thrown their gift around in a way that did not demonstrate love and you have been made to feel you are less spiritual.

I hope that has not happened to you but if it has I want to encourage you: please don't neglect seeking all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including speaking in tongues. It is a wonderful gift and you can ask for it. It is God's good pleasure to pour out gifts to his children. Ask in simple faith and expect an answer. Then when you receive it, don't forget to walk in love.

See more Straight Talk Questions and Answers.

Note: For more information on Tongues and all the other supernatural gifts read Holy Spirit Gifts - Building Blocks of the Church.

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