One of the most controversial and, sadly, most misunderstood gifts of the Holy Spirit is praying in tongues. I am convinced that there is so much antagonism aimed at this gift because of the incredible power it releases into our lives. In the same way that many reject the prophetic ministry because of abuses, misuses and bad experiences, the same approach has been taken—perhaps in greater extremes—toward praying in tongues.
Tongues Is a Controversial Subject That Requires Our Attention
At the end of the day, we need to be honest with ourselves and honest with the biblical text. This unique gift of the Holy Spirit actually announced the birth of Christianity on the Day of Pentecost. It was highly prized by the man who wrote the majority of the New Testament (Paul). It equips believers to communicate with God on a unique level and empowers us to effectively live the supernatural life. In short, it would make a lot of sense that the enemy would tirelessly fight against something that has such strong potential to pillage his expansion of darkness in our lives and on the earth.
Corey Russell, a senior leader at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, wrote the book and curriculum The Glory Within not simply as a teaching on the subject of tongues, but as a summons to experience the power of a Person—the Holy Spirit. In the past, many books and teachings have emphasized tongues in almost a robotic way. What was intended to be a source of supernatural power and a catalyst for deep intimacy with God has been reduced to a mere theological position in many charismatic churches.
Speaking in Tongues Is More Than a One-Time Experience
The Glory Within makes the powerful point that tongues is not some spiritual merit badge we receive when we are baptized in the Holy Spirit, use it for a season, and then put it out to pasture. Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke comments on the gifts of the Spirit, emphasizing that “they are not badges of honor but tools for the job.” The gift of tongues is something that the apostle Paul deeply cherished, and he provided nearly an entire chapter of instruction on it in 1 Corinthians 14. This is not a call to place an inappropriate emphasis on tongues, as many have done in the past; it is, however, an invitation to re-evaluate where we stand on its purpose, relevance and present-day power in our everyday Christian lives.
In fact, Corey took the additional bold step and developed a DVD-based Bible study focusing on how a lifestyle of consistently praying in tongues significantly benefits your Christian life. It is not spooky. It is not exclusive to the super-spiritual. It does not even signify elevated spiritual maturity. Tongues is a gift. It is a tool. It is powerful, available and absolutely life-changing. However, many receive this gift at one point in their lives and taste its power, but they never actually make it a part of their normal Christian lives. This is why Corey invites all readers and participants to “throw their badges in the trash.” Yesterday’s encounter with God cannot sustain us for today. Yesterday’s touch is insufficient for today’s trials.
Do You Really Know Who Lives Inside of You?
In these powerful resources, Corey takes you on a journey, revisiting some of the most familiar and yet misunderstood topics on the Holy Spirit: Do we really understand that God lives inside of us? In the introductory sessions about the Person of Holy Spirit—who He is, what He does, and His purpose in the life of the believer—you will be absolutely awestruck. I am convinced that if we really get a clear revelation of the fact that the Genesis 1:1 God—the One who said “light be” and light was—lives inside of us in the Person of Holy Spirit, it would become impossible for us to change the subject. We would devote our lives to discovering how to see the living God accurately represented in the earth through our lives. You will be inspired and encouraged as you discover who it is that decided to take up residence in your spirit—and what He wants to do through you!
5 Ways Praying in Tongues Will Change Your Life Forever
Based on The Glory Within, here are five ways that praying in tongues will change your life forever.
1. Praying in Tongues Gives You Supernatural Understanding of God’s Mysteries
"For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries" (1 Cor. 14:2, NKJV).
Corey describes the Holy Spirit as the Google, or “search engine of heaven.” God is mysterious, yes, but the Spirit who knows everything about the mysterious, expansive, glorious God is the same Spirit who lives inside of you! And furthermore, He wants to reveal mysteries to you about God, His will, your life and the circumstances you are facing.
How do we access this revelation? Communion with the Holy Spirit on His level—in His language. Remember, Paul defines Holy Spirit as the One who “searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets” (1 Cor. 2:10, NLT). As you pray in the Spirit, you will discover things that were previously mysterious and unknown will start coming into greater focus and clarity.
2. Praying in Tongues Grants You Access to Other Revelatory Gifts of the Holy Spirit
"For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit ... to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues" (1 Cor. 12: 8, 10, NKJV).
Praying in tongues actually unlocks other revelatory gifts of the Holy Spirit in your life, namely the word of wisdom, word of knowledge, prophecy and discerning of spirits. Remember, you are not praying on a natural dimension, but rather engaging on a purely spiritual one. Don’t be surprised if, while praying in tongues, the Holy Spirit gives you supernatural insight about something, leads you to pray for people and unlocks clarity over people, situations and even regions, enabling you to effectively pray for and break off the spiritual strongholds that are influencing them.
3. Praying in Tongues Opens Up the Bible in a New, Living Way as You Read It
"However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak" (John 16:13).
For some modern believers, reading the Bible can feel like a life-draining experience. It’s not just history. It is not a mere record of facts. Scripture isn’t just stories. The same Holy Spirit who inspired the writing and assembly of the Holy Scriptures lives inside of you. He wants to guide you through the Bible, make the words jump off the page, give you understanding on confusing matters, empower you to apply God’s Word to your everyday life, share prophetic promises with you and help you discover your role in God’s unfolding story. Corey describes praying in tongues as a way the Holy Spirit “shines a flashlight on Scripture.”
4. When Praying in Tongues, You Are Speaking Directly to God
"For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God" (1 Cor. 14:2).
As you pray in tongues, you have a direct line to the president of the universe. Sometimes while praying in our native languages, we have the tendency to veer off and get distracted. We may start complaining. We may start going through the routine laundry list of prayer requests—and by the time we are finished reading them off to God, we feel more burdened than refreshed (because we actively thought of every single one of those circumstances as we listed them off in prayer). Tongues keeps us talking directly to God, praying in agreement with His perfect will (Rom. 8:26-28).
5. Praying in Tongues Empowers You to Engage Spiritual Warfare From the Position of Victory
"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit" (Eph. 6:18).
Praying in tongues is not some magic formula that guarantees us some free and easy lifestyle of health, wealth, prosperity and all of those fixings. Jesus assured us that in this life, we will experience tribulation (John 16:33). In the same passage, the same Jesus declared that He has overcome the world. Victory has already been secured at Calvary.
In times of trial and assault, it is easy for us to become weary in the place of prayer, often not knowing what or how to pray. Praise God for the Holy Spirit! Paul reminds us "for we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us" (Rom. 8:26). When in the heat of spiritual combat, it is easy to start praying prayers that agree with the size of the attack, emphasizing the problem rather than focusing on the size of the blood-bought victory that Jesus purchased at the cross. Praying in tongues empowers you to agree with God’s victorious battle plan for your life and your circumstances, no matter what is going on around you. It does not deny reality; it simply positions you to agree with the higher truth of Scripture: Victory has been purchased, and it is yours through Jesus Christ.
Tongues Reveals the Wisdom of God
Again, praying in tongues does not make you a better Christian. It does not instantly elevate you into spiritual superstardom. There are many believers who speak in tongues but live like the devil. However, tongues is a relevant and available gift to believers today. Why tongues—something that seems so foolish, uneducated and ungraspable to our natural human minds?
Keep in mind that you are dealing with the King of the universe who arrived on Planet Earth in a manger surrounded by farm animals. He is the holy God who died the death of a criminal on a Roman cross to make atonement for the sins of the world. Our God is the One who deals in wisdom that is so infinitely superior to what our natural minds can comfortably wrap around that, at first glance, such methods appear downright foolish. Birthing His church with wind, fire and speaking in tongues would be another such demonstration of God’s otherworldly wisdom. But consider the words of the apostle Paul"
"But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence" (1 Cor. 1:27-29).
Just because our minds cannot understand the whys of God’s ways, that does not give us permission to ignore them. Tongues is surely a mystery, but at the same time it is a powerful gift that will not only enrich your personal prayer life but will bring you into deeper intimacy and communion with the Holy Spirit.
If you are looking for a solid, biblical approach to the topic of praying in tongues, I encourage you to look into Corey Russell’s The Glory Within curriculum. It is ideal for Bible studies, small groups and church classes. Corey’s approach is fresh, nonthreatening and completely motivated by love. Whether you are looking to go to the next level in developing a lifestyle of praying in tongues or you would like to have more clarity about the topic, The Glory Within will be a blessing to you.
You can visit Corey Russell's website at www.coreyrussell.org.
Larry Sparks is the author of Breakthrough Healing (Destiny Image, 2014). He is a conference speaker, blogger, columnist and host of the weekly radio program Voice of Destiny (www.thevoiceofdestiny.org). Featured in Charisma magazine and on CBN’s Spiritual Gifts webcast, Larry is also founder of Equip Culture—a ministry that equips believers with the tools and resources to live victoriously through the supernatural power of God. Subscribe to his blog at www.lawrencesparks.com. Follow him on Twitter @LarryVSparks.
Draw closer to God. Experience the presence of the Holy Spirit every month as you read Charisma magazine. Sign up now to get Charisma for as low as $1 per issue.
Has God called you to be a leader? Ministry Today magazine is the source that Christian leaders who want to serve with passion and purpose turn to. Subscribe now and receive a free leadership book.