I have been praying in tongues for about fifteen years. But the past few years especially, the Lord has been highlighting the importance of this valuable gift in a greater way. If you already have this gift, I encourage you to use it often. If you’re a believer and you have not received the gift of tongues, I encourage you to pray and seek God to receive it.
There are various purposes for the gift of tongues, and one of them is praying in the context of personal devotion. The apostle Paul clearly describes this in 1 Corinthians 14:18-19: “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” Paul must have spent a lot of time praying in tongues! And in this passage, he is referring to tongues in private, not public.
At a recent leadership meeting for our church, we were having a time of intercessory prayer. The Holy Spirit was moving in our midst, and several of us were going back and forth from praying in English to praying in tongues. This is quite common for us to do, but as the prayer time was winding down, one of the leaders began to describe an unusual experience he had.
He told me that every time I was praying out in tongues, he was understanding exactly what I was praying. He would hear the words in his mind in English as I was praying in an unknown language. He described what was being prayed as I was speaking in tongues, and we were all in awe. Most of our agenda got set aside that night as we continued to pray and worship our great God!
This experience has further encouraged me to continue to pray in tongues on a regular basis, even when I have no idea what is being prayed out or spoken. Below are three practical ways that you can maximize the gift of tongues in your personal prayer life.
1. Incorporate tongues into your daily devotions: Once you have received the gift of tongues, it is something you can do at will. Notice how Paul describes it: “What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15, emphasis added). The context of this passage is speaking in tongues, and notice that Paul talks about it as a choice he makes (He says, “I will…I will…”).
Every day during my quiet time, I exercise the gift of tongues. Sometimes it is as I am entering into God’s presence with thanksgiving and praise. Other times it is as I am interceding for people. I will often pray in tongues as I am meditating on portions of Scripture. I encourage you to incorporate tongues into your regular times of devotion and prayer.
2. Set aside time to specifically pray in tongues: Along with incorporating tongues into your regular devotion times, you can set aside specific amounts of time daily to do nothing but pray in tongues. I started doing this about a year-and-a-half ago, and I have not turned back.
Pick an amount of time–15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, whatever the Lord leads you–and do nothing but pray in tongues. You may have no idea what you are praying, but the Holy Spirit is interceding according to the will of God (see Romans 8:26-27). (Check out this article that describes four reasons to pray in tongues regularly).
3. Pray in tongues as you do other things: One of the great things about speaking in tongues is that you can do it as you engage in other activities. Praying in tongues actually bypasses our mind, allowing us to be involved in other things as we do it: “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful” (1 Corinthians 14:14).
Pray in tongues as you are driving in your car, doing work around the house, taking a shower, mowing the lawn, or other activities. This is a great way to maintain a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) as we go about our day.
I believe that praying in tongues is more important than we realize. If we have been given this gift, it is not simply so that we can feel good about ourselves that we have received it. It should be put to use. Pray in tongues often, even making a discipline out of it, and see how the Holy Spirit will work in your life!