Benefits of Praying in Tongues (2)

Another benefit of praying in tongues is that it will help you receive self-edification in the Lord.

Before I elaborate on this benefit, I’ll briefly explain what the Bible says about using the gift of tongues to minister to a congregation as opposed to using tongues to minister to yourself. Then, I’ll discuss the connection between being God’s temple and the necessity of being continuously edified (built up).

Writing on the gifts of the Spirit, Paul said, “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church” (1 Corinthians 14:4, NKJV). Here, Paul speaks of two kinds of edification: a) edification for the church as a whole (which occurs through prophesying to the church, i.e. inspired speaking, teaching or preaching; and b) self-edification (which occurs when you minister to yourself by praying in the spirit).

This means there is a time to edify the whole congregation (when you’re called to minister to the group), and there is a time to edify yourself (when you’re praying by yourself, just between God and you).

Paul is saying if you’re called to minister to the congregation in the form of a message, a song or a prayer, you’re allowed to speak in tongues, but on condition that you or someone else in the congregation can interpret your tongues, so that everyone in the assembly can understand you and be edified.

However, if during the service you’re not ministering to the assembly, you’re allowed to pray (speak) in tongues, keeping it between God and you. In Paul’s own words, “if there is no interpreter, let him [the one speaking in tongues] keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God” (1 Corinthians 14:28). This applies to all other times when you’re engaged in personal prayer. In this series, I’m addressing this latter use of the gift of tongues, i.e. praying in tongues during your own personal prayer time.

To help us understand why praying in tongues is important for the believer, I’ll now point out the link between temple and edification.

In the New Testament, especially from Pentecost onward, the Bible gives us a complete understanding of what constitutes God’s temple (or dwelling place) on earth. Previously, under the Law of Moses, God’s temple was a physical structure made with human hands. First, it was the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 25:1-22) or Tabernacle. Concerning the Tabernacle, God told Moses, “let them [the Israelites] make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8). Later, Solomon built a temple which housed the Tabernacle (1 Kings 8:1-6). But, God never wanted to dwell in structures made by human hands.

The Tabernacle was God’s way of (temporarily) accommodating the weakness of the Old Covenant until Jesus came and ushered in a new and authentic way of worshiping God. Therefore, the Old Covenant tabernacle (and temple) was a shadow of the real thing to come (Hebrews 9:1-12). As the same passage states, Jesus brought in a “greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation” (Hebrews 9:11).

Yet today, some still believe they can build physical structures (“church,”  “tabernacle” or “sanctuary”) in which God would dwell. In some places, a part of the church building is called “sanctuary,” which is treated with extra reverence as though God’s presence over that spot was special. This reveals a serious misunderstanding of the New Covenant. Under the new covenant, God does not dwell in any structure made with human hands. God’s holy presence remains inside the believers, not where the believers choose to gather.

Believers could gather under a tree, in a cave or on an airplane, and God wouldn’t care. Speaking before the Jewish authorities, Stephen declared, “the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands” (Acts 7:48). The only temple of God on earth is the individual believer or the group of believers (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19-20). God’s temple is the people, not the building. God’s sanctuary is the people, not a particular spot in a building. Jesus told us to worship the Father in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), but we’re still trying to tie God to physical structures and locations. Is it any wonder that we seem to lack the power and the fervor of the church described in the Acts of the Apostles?

Being born again, you’ve become the glorious temple of God. Yet, there’s room for you to grow as a temple. God wants you to go from glory to glory, non-stop. A man-made temple is static. It’s meant to remain where it is; it’s not designed to rise and grow, for there’s no life in it. But in your case, you’re a living, breathing sanctuary of God. You are magnificent; you are beauty.

That’s not surprising, for you are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). If the best architects and designers in the world teamed up, they couldn’t fathom the skill, the detail and craftsmanship that went into putting you together as God’s temple. You’re designed to grow upward, ever rising and expanding.

Jesus referred to His own body as a temple (John 2:19-21). He told the Jewish leaders that if they destroyed “this temple” (His body), He would raise it up in three days, and things happened exactly as He had said. The devil thought he could silence Jesus by keeping Him in the grave, but he was wrong. As Peter announced on the Day of Pentecost, “it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him [Jesus]” (Acts 2:24).

Just as satan tried to stop Jesus, he’ll try to stop you or limit your positive influence in the world. As Andrew Wommack likes to say, “If you don’t bump into the devil, it means you’re both going in the same direction.”

Attacks come against buildings and man-made temples. Earthquakes, strong winds, storms, missiles, tornadoes and even humans can be a threat to buildings. That’s why several buildings are made to withstand these forces and others are heavily guarded. Recently, fire threatened the famous Notre Dame in Paris. In the history of the Jews, we find instances of threats against their temple. The first temple of Jerusalem was attacked and destroyed around 587 BCE by Nebuchadnezzar. The second temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70.

What does this mean for you?

As a Christian, you are the temple of God and the pride of heaven. But at the same time, you’re the enemy’s target. Therefore, you need to be aware that just as there are threats against physical temples, there are spiritual forces of darkness seeking to tear you down or limit your upward progress.

So many things in life can come against your success, your peace, your health, your business, your family and your dreams. Every day, the typical news you hear is negative and uninspiring: news that breed fear, panic, hate, frustration, division, despair, grief, doubt and unbelief.

Even your own friends, relatives or co-workers can be a source of negativity; they can turn against you, discourage you and push you down. If you’re not spiritually strong and diligent, these forces can steal your joy and limit your ability to go further in life. You need all the help you can get, and the earlier you appreciated the power of praying in tongues, the better for you.

When he addressed the issue of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul was dealing with the church body as a temple that needs to be in a constant state of upward growth and expansion. In his Letter to the Colossians, he wrote that Christ is “the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God” (2:19, KJV). God’s temple is designed to increase and be continuously edified.

Similarly, God wants the individual believer to be built up and always increase. That’s why He has made available to all His children the gift of praying in tongues for their self-edification. 

Of all the gifts of the Spirit, speaking (praying) in tongues is the only one that comes with a built-in capability that allows the believer to build himself up without waiting for others to edify him.

We love our families, friends and fellow believers. But the truth is, you can’t (and shouldn’t) always depend on them to be there for you. At some point, you need to be able to motivate yourself, stir up yourself and build up yourself in the Lord. Praying in tongues will help you do that; it has power to lift you up above anything the enemy has sent to slow down your progress. No wonder the devil has created so much controversy and doubt about the gift of tongues to get Christians to back off.

In conclusion, God never intended for you to be stagnant in life. You are God’s glorious temple. Rivers of living water flow from within you (John 7:37-39). Therefore, God wants you to flow and grow with dynamism. Praying in tongues is not a panacea for all of a believer’s challenges. I believe, however, that if every believer prayed in tongues every day, they would go further and higher in life.

God willing, in my next post I’ll talk about another benefit of praying in tongues. Until then, keep rising.

Ogoe

Benefits of Praying in Tongues (1)

This is a follow up to my previous post, “Praying in Tongues: Why Bother?”

Today, I’ll share with you some of the benefits of praying in tongues. My prayer is that you’ll be encouraged to pray in tongues often, preferably daily. And if you don’t speak in tongues yet, my prayer is that you soon will.

Before I go into the benefits of praying in tongues, let me say a word about the nature of prayer.

Praying is an act of worship. Therefore, when you’re at prayer, you’re worshiping; and you address your prayer to whoever you deem to be your God, in a Christian’s case the God of Jesus Christ. All prayer is worship, but not all worship is prayer.

Prayer is intended by God to be an activity of your spirit.

Knowing the relationship between prayer, worship and the spirit, Jesus said, “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24, NKJV). This means there are worshipers and there are true worshipers. God isn’t looking for worshipers; there’s plenty of them already. He’s looking, rather, for true worshipers.

The truth is in the spirit realm, and those who interact with God based on spirit (invisible) realities are true worshipers. True worshipers don’t base their reality (or worship life) on what can be experienced with the natural senses: location, space, time, sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, etc.

God is spirit; so are you. Therefore, He’d rather you pray to Him in the spirit. Fortunately, praying in tongues is praying in the spirit. As Paul says, “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays . . .” (1 Corinthians 14:14). You’re at your best when your spirit is praying, because at that point you are a spirit praying in the spirit to a Spirit (God).

That said, here are some benefits of praying in tongues:

First of all, praying in tongues expands your capacity to pray. By “capacity” I mean two things: (a) the range of issues you can cover in prayer and (b) endurance, i.e. how long you can (joyfully) sustain yourself in prayer without becoming exhausted. Natural languages (Twi, English, Spanish, German, etc.) have a limited range of vocabulary, expression and nuance. No matter how fluent you are in a language, you’ll face limitations.

When you pray in a natural language, the limitations become even more evident, especially if you’re praying spontaneously. As someone once told me, there’s only so many verbs, nouns and adjectives available for you to use in prayer. Try praying in a natural language continuously and spontaneously (no interruption) for just five minutes. Invariably, your mind begins to search for the right words, the right grammar and punctuation, and how to stay coherent.

Prayer becomes a chore when it feels like you’re brainstorming to present an essay or a speech. Because of the limitations of natural language, many settle for a few words and hastily conclude their prayer with “Amen!’ (although they could go further). Others rely on predetermined, ‘canned’ or memorized prayers and repeat them over and over.

The good news is, when you pray in tongues, you don’t have to deal with these limitations. Because your spirit prays directly to God using spirit language, you don’t have to worry about what to say or how to say it. Once your spirit takes over, your natural mind (the flesh) gets out of the way. At this point, the Holy Spirit supplies the utterance and inspiration (Acts 2:4), and your spirit speaks through your voice. Because your spirit is praying, you can be sure that you’re covering a lot of issues your (limited) natural language can’t cover.

Additionally, when your spirit prays, you get refreshed and don’t get exhausted easily. Therefore, you can spend longer periods with God. Sometimes you don’t realize you’ve been praying for hours, because it feels like you’ve been praying for only a few minutes. That’s why praying in tongues is such a powerful tool.

When you pray with your natural language, you rely heavily on your natural mind to support you by looking for what to say (not directly related, but see Matthew 10:19-20). That process can wear you down, and that’s why many can’t pray spontaneously beyond a few minutes.

But when you pray in tongues, you put your natural mind on stand-by mode as you switch over to spirit mode. Because it’s on stand-by, your mind doesn’t have to work hard to supply words and meaning and coherence; instead, it rests while your spirit does the work. The only part of you that’s involved in this process is your voice, which serves as a channel for your spirit to speak.

God gave us the gift of praying in tongues to support our prayer life, because He knows the limitations of the flesh. The night before His death, Jesus “came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak’” (Matthew 26:40-41).

Your natural mind is part of your flesh; it has limitations. There’s only so much it can do for you in prayer. This is why when you rely on it, you soon get tired (even bored), and you can’t wait for the prayer to be over so you can go do something more exciting. If you want to go far in prayer, you need to fly on the wings of your spirit, and the gift of tongues is given to help you do that.

To conclude this section, let me share with you my own experience of limitations in prayer before I received the gift of tongues.

My weakness in prayer got exposed through contact with the Catholic Charismatics. Although I disliked the Charismatics and wished the Lord would drive them out of the Catholic Church (see my post entitled “Speaking in Tongues: My Testimony”), there were a few (positive) things about them I couldn’t deny. They seemed to have a deep longing for prayer (spontaneous prayer, of course). When they prayed, they looked so energized; they could go on for so long, but they looked as fresh as ever. Above all, they seemed to enjoy prayer in a way that I didn’t see in people outside their group. That made me curious.

I had the experience, a few times, of being present at their prayer meetings. The one leading the prayer would announce a prayer topic and invite them to pray. Instantly, everyone would start to pray out loud and spontaneously. From what I observed, they made prayer look easy and exhilarating. They could pray uninterruptedly for several minutes.

Obviously, I would pray along. But I noticed that I got stuck after about two minutes. I would run out of words, and there was nothing more I could say. These people, however, went on and on as if they were possessed. At times, I’d look around to my left and right; everyone was on fire praying while I had long stopped. I’d quietly recite the Lord’s Prayer or the Hail Mary. That was the only way I could keep up with them.

I always wondered, “What do these people have in them that I don’t have? Why can they endure so long in prayer, be so enthusiastic and not feel tired? Why do I get stuck but they keep going strong?” Later, when the Holy Spirit filled me and gave me the ability to speak in tongues, I understood why. From that point, I could pray more freely (and for long) without feeling stuck. Even today, I feel so grateful for the gift of tongues.

God willing, in my next post I’ll talk about another benefit of praying in tongues. In the meantime, if you have the gift of tongues, please pray in tongues daily. If you’re yet to speak in tongues, I encourage you to ask the Father for it (Luke 11:13) and expect to pray in tongues. If you need someone to support you, reach out to a friend who already speaks in tongues.

Daddy God loves you!

Ogoe

Praying in Tongues: Why Bother?

Since the beginning of the 20th century much has been written about praying in tongues, either in support of it or against it. Today, praying in tongues continues to generate controversy within the Body of Christ. Those who object to praying in tongues often fall into the camp of cessationists who believe that most, if not all, of the spiritual (miraculous) gifts mentioned in the New Testament ceased with the death of the Apostles. I beg to differ. I don’t see how anyone can read the New Testament and arrive at such a conclusion.

Faith in God’s willingness to give us the spiritual gifts is what may have ceased among Christians, but the gifts themselves haven’t ceased. Having been involved with Charismatic spirituality for about seventeen years, I’m aware that abuses do occur regarding use of the spiritual gifts. But this doesn’t mean that the spiritual gifts have ceased or are no longer relevant. On the contrary, if there ever was a generation that needed the spiritual gifts the most, it is ours. The Holy Spirit, as in the days of the Apostles, is still in the business of distributing spiritual (miraculous) gifts to equip and build up the Church.

What I intend to do in this series is add my voice to the existing conversation. I’ll keep it simple. I’ll share insights based on the Bible as well as insights from my personal experience of praying in tongues. I’ll limit myself to addressing the practice of  praying in tongues, specifically the private prayer of the believer. My hope is that what I share here will shed extra light on the subject and inspire more Christians to welcome and use the gift of praying in tongues.

Before I get into the benefits of praying in tongues, I think you’ll appreciate the value of this gift better if we go over certain basic truths about who God is, who you are in Him and how you were designed to function. It’s as follows:

You are a spirit. Therefore, the spirit world is your natural habitat. The spirit realm is your headquarters. You’re at your best when you function in the spirit and from the spirit. That’s how God designed you. Unfortunately, from our infancy, most of us have been conditioned to function predominantly within the confines of space and time and what our natural senses can perceive. The truth is, there are many levels to what we call “reality.” As God’s child, when you operate in the spirit, you’re operating at God’s level of reality, which is the highest form of reality.

You also need to understand that things in the spirit are superior to things in the natural world. Therefore, spirit realities can influence and override natural realities. For example, for every disease in the natural world, there’s a cure in the spirit world. The spirit world is a world of unlimited resources and infinite possibilities. The more you operate from your spirit (rather than from your natural senses), the more you expand your range of access to spiritual blessings.

Your power source is in your spirit. Consequently, your overall success as a child of God depends on how well you allow your spirit to influence your thinking and your decision making.

God is a spirit (John 4:24). The Bible calls God, “the Father of spirits” (Hebrews 12:9). God is a spirit and He gives birth to spirits. We, His children, are spirits (John 3:6). This means God brought you forth from the same ‘divine substance’ which makes Him God.

Here’s a summary of the main points from this introduction:

You and God have a lot in common. A key point which stands out is that God is spirit and so are you. This means God prefers to interact with you on a spirit-to-spirit level. Likewise, He prefers that you interact with Him based on realities of the spirit (John 4:23-24).

God approaches life from a spirit perspective, and He wants you to do the same. When you and God are on the same page, i.e. looking at things from a spirit perspective, success is inevitable. The Good News is, God has freely made available to you enough tools to help you succeed in this endeavor. This is where the gift of praying in tongues comes in; remember, an effective prayer life is (absolutely) essential to your growth and your relationship with the Father.

With this foundation in mind, I believe you’ll better appreciate why God has given us the ability to pray to Him in a spirit language, i.e. in tongues. In my subsequent posts, I’ll begin to talk about the benefits of praying in tongues.

Until then, may God strengthen you with might in your inner man. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ogoe

Speaking in Tongues: My Testimony (Pt 1)

Speaking (praying) in tongues is one of the most contentious issues among Christians. What follows is my testimony of how I went from hating tongues to speaking in tongues.

I was baptized a Roman Catholic when I was two months and I remained a Catholic until March of 2015. With the exception of one or two people, everyone in my immediate family was a practicing Catholic. My aunt, Agnes, was the staunchest of them all. This was the woman who adopted me and raised me from when I was seven. She was well versed in Catholic doctrine and we knew her to be a relentless defender of Catholic orthodoxy. I followed her footsteps.

With delight I read the several Catholic books, magazines and tracts Agnes brought home. By the age of fifteen, I had a strong foundation in Catholic history, doctrine and apologetics.

While I enjoyed my growth in Catholicism, there was a phenomenon in my beloved parish which disturbed my soul. It was the Charismatic Renewal. I despised them (I don’t think they knew it). Within me, I believed they were from the devil, sent to infiltrate the Catholic faith and corrupt it with Protestant/Pentecostal practices. I observed them carefully and noticed that they didn’t care about the things that were dear to a true Catholic: devotion to Mary,  the Rosary, Confession, the Mass and the Pope, to name a few.

I disliked the Charismatics for their obsession with the Holy Spirit and the Bible. Not once did I find them pray a ‘Catholic prayer’ at their prayer meetings. They always prayed spontaneously. They sang and danced to Protestant/Pentecostal songs. I hated their practice of praying in tongues and delivering people from evil spirits. I believed all of that was of the devil. At best, it wasn’t a Catholic thing to do, and any religious practice that wasn’t Catholic was, in my opinion, not worth imitating. Every chance I got I debated the Charismatics with one goal in mind: to prove them wrong and win them over to the true spirit of Catholicism.

But God was about to open my eyes. I didn’t see it coming; but it did happen. From my childhood years, I wanted to be a Catholic priest. The opportunity came in 2000 when I entered the seminary (St. Paul’s Catholic Seminary, Accra, Ghana). I thought it was a ‘safe place.’ But, lo and behold, the Charismatic Renewal was in the seminary, too! Second year seminarians were required to join at least one of the on-campus societies. Initially, I joined the Pax Romana group. A few months later, I joined the Charismatic Renewal also (sounds unbelievable!).

Here is how it happened.

One day, I visited a friend of mine in the seminary. On his desk, there was a book whose title drew my attention: Deliverance from Evil Spirits by Francis MacNutt, a former Catholic priest. I borrowed the book and read it. In the book, MacNutt often referred to the anointing of the Holy Spirit (baptism of the Holy Spirit) and how it equips people with the power of God. After this, I found another book in the seminary library which talked about how some Catholic saints practiced exorcisms in ancient times. The content of these two books made me curious.

Moreover, I knew that the Charismatic Renewal was present in nearly every parish. If I was going to be a priest, I needed to understand the beliefs and inner workings of the Charismatic Renewal. I knew priests who had bitter confrontations with the Charismatics and who harbored deep disliking for the group. I didn’t want to be in that situation. Therefore, I decided I would join the group on campus. I didn’t know what to expect. Everything “Charismatic” was so foreign to me. However, I expected to get to know them enough to be able (at least) to live with them in peace.

To be continued in my next post. 

Stay joyful,

Ogoe