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What is the Gift of Tongues?

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The Holy Spirit’s gift of tongues is God’s spiritual language of love. This gift helps us in our weaknesses and fears when we cannot express our thoughts and concerns into words or prayers.

The spirit comes to help us in our weakness.

For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly,

The Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way

That could never be put into words.

And God who knows everything in our hearts

Knows perfectly well what he means,

And that the pleas of the saints

Expressed by the spirit are according to the mind of God. 1 Cor. 14


Even as babies we make sounds that become the basis for language to establish a relationship and a communication with parents. This prayer language of the Holy Spirit helps us to communicate and respond to God’s Word being spoken to us. Rich in sounds and syllables but un- intelligible to the rational mind without the gift of interpretation the sounds express God’s personal love and concern for us.

Jesus promised all believers they would be able to speak in new tongues (Mark 16:17)

I thank God that I speak with tongues more than any of you all the same when I am in the assembly I would rather say five words with my mind to instruct others as well than ten thousand words in a tongue. (1 Cor. 14:18-19)

Most Christians are not aware of the twenty – five Charismatic gifts listed in the New Testament that are freely offered to all for their spiritual life. They are “without understanding “(Hosea 4:14)

This gift is the gateway to the other spiritual gifts. Tongues challenges us to submit our intellect to the gift of faith and trust in the Holy Spirit’s guidance rather than us following our own personal opinions and desires. (1 Cor.12:8-10)

Paul describes four forms of tongues. (1 Corinthians14)

  1. Praying in tongues ( praying individually or as a group)1Cor 14:2
  2. Singing in tongues (prayer sung individually or by a group ) 1Cor 14:15
  3. Speaking publicly in tongues can be a prophetic message from God that may need to be discerned by the community.(1Cor 14: 27-28)
  4. Tongues as a “proof for unbelievers “. The unbeliever hears a word or language that only he understands that helps him to believe this message from God for his or her conversion. ( 1Cor 14:22-23)

The first two forms of tongues help us to praise God and to receive the blessings He has for us. We can choose to use this gift of tongues or not to use them. When we pray for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit these gifts will be released for the enrichment of our personal and spiritual development. (1 Cor.14:4)

The other two forms represent God communicating with us for the welfare of the community. These prophetic words are spoken to the community when they are interpreted by another gift of the Holy Spirit called the interpretation of tongues.

An interpretation differs from a translation because it gives the sense or understanding of the tongues without being a word for word translation.

A person who interprets the tongues will receive some understanding of the prophetic words being spoken through the tongues. Other people in the community can also receive some understanding of the prophecy to enable the community to have a more complete understanding. The final rule is that the community accepts the prophecy and discerns the words of the prophet for its validity at this time. This community discernment becomes the safeguard for the community. The community also has the responsibility of encouraging the prophet to share what he has received from the Lord.

Praying in Tongues for unbelievers is an evangelisation gift to enable us to bring the Good News to other cultures. Unbelievers are challenged about the reality of God in their lives when they know the person speaking in tongues does not understand their culture, dialect or language.

“If an unbeliever comes in and you all prophecy he will find himself analysed or judged by everyone speaking; he will find his secret thoughts laid bare and then fall on his face and worship God , declaring that God is among you in deed. “ 1 Cor. 14:24-25)

We can pray in tongues at a prayer meeting or privately throughout our daily activities. Like any spiritual gift if you do not put it into practise it will not grow and develop. It is the door to the other spiritual gifts for us to grow and develop in the spiritual gifts.

For further reading about this subject I recommend the book Receiving the Gift of the Holy Spirit by Rev. John H. Hampsch C.M.F. Queenship Publishing Company Goleta CA 93116