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 Why Speak in Tongues?

It's Benefits

John Hoole March 08, 2009

Lewis Hastings, a British explorer of the late nineteenth century, made a note in his log about some things his guide told him about Chimpanzees in Africa. He tells of the time he was in Angola, and every now and then he would see clearings where sticks had been carefully piles like someone was trying to make a good fire. Hastings asked his guide how these things came to be there, and why the sticks were so neatly arranged.

He was astonished by the answer. His guide said chimpanzees had gathered them. In Angolan, the word chimpanzee means "mock man." Hasting's guide told him the chimpanzees had seen men build a fire for cooking and for protection from wild animals. They were able to copy men's actions and were able to build nicely arranged wood heaps. A number of chimpanzees would gather around awaiting something to happen. Their wait was in vain, however, because they did not have the fire itself. His guide said they would sit for hours but could not start a real fire. The needed spark was absent.

John the Baptist, in Matthew 3:11 (NKJV) said:

11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

On the Day of Pentecost spiritual fire fell on the Church and believers were filled with the Holy Spirit. This is Scripture - this is history. Yet, today there are "mock men" who don't know how to start the fire and have never experienced the real fire, and yet, they try to tell people why we don't need the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and that there is no real benefit in speaking in tongues. Some say "God doesn't give the fire anymore." That is what I call chimpanzee school of theology.

The fire of God has been real in my life. I don't need someone to tell me God's supernatural fire does not fall any longer. The fire of God is real - and those who genuinely hunger and thirst will seek out the fire.

Over the years, I have had people ask questions like, "Should all Christians speak in tongues?" Or they say something like: "I don't deny that such a phenomenon exists, but actually I see no reason for it, no value in it." In other words,, why should one want to speak in tongues? What need is there for it?

The basic reason for such questioning, I am convinced, is the failure to comprehend the essential nature of speaking in tongues.


Tongues is transcendent praise to God. Speaking in tongues - what is sometimes called glossolalia - is an expression of praise of God wherein there is the breakthrough of usual speech limitations of one's native tongue into a higher and fuller giving of praise, blessing, adoration, and thanksgiving. It is to go beyond the most elevated of earthly expressions, even "Hallelujahs" or "Hosannas," - into spiritual utterance. To put it directly: it is the praise of God in a language given by the Holy Spirit.

If such transcendent praise is possible, would one not want to share in it? Would one not want to speak in tongues - yes, even sing in tongues, that is, to speak and sing by the Holy Spirit's inspiration? Why speak in tongues? Because it is a vehicle of praise par excellence for glorifying and extolling God.

Our praise of God, of course, should also sound forth as fully as possible in our native tongue. One's mother tongue - whether it be English, French, German or something else, is so much a part of one's whole being that it is the most natural vehicle of worship. For that reason we have hymns and anthems, whether sung liturgically or spontaneously, that may in human language declare the glory of God. And those who are enamored of God will ever seek ways to more fully worship in speech of their own. But, there comes - or may come - a moment when the level of natural speech is left behind and one enters the extraordinary praise of God in the language of the Spirit.

The Bible delineates enormous and valuable benefits that come with speaking in tongues. I believe there is great value in one's prayer language, as tongues is sometimes called. I will lead you through a dozen or more such benefits, with their Scriptural reference, and then come back and look at their value in greater depth. Some Scriptures give us more than one benefit of speaking in tongues. At other times, several Passages are needed to illustrate their value. The first I will list is of that nature.

1. When we speak in tongues we keep a commandment of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 14:15 NKJV

15 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.

The apostle Paul says we will pray in the Spirit as well as pray with our own native tongue. And he says later, "do not forbid to speak in tongues." And then, in summarizing all he has said, in verse 37:

1 Corinthians 14:37 NKJV

37 If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.

He is asking those who read these Passages to acknowledge that what he has written are the commandments of the Lord. Therefore, when we speak in tongues, we keep a commandment of the Lord.

2. Praying is tongues is a gift for communicating with God

Tongues is a new way to speak to God.

1 Corinthians 14:2 NKJV

2 For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God,...

The apostle Paul tells us of a sure-fire connection between two spirits, between the redeemed human spirit and the Living Father. Praying in tongues is instant contact with our Eternal Creator Himself. While I am praying in tongues, I'm talking to God - Period!!

3. Speaking in tongues enhances personal worship

1 Corinthians 14:16-17 NKJV

16 Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say "Amen" at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say?
17 For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified.

This verse tells us that if you or I are praying in tongues when others are near you/me, they will not know what you are saying, unless it is interpreted. But that does not negate that fact that you are blessing God with your spirit, and praising and thanking God in tongues, and doing it well.

Paul says praying in tongues is GOOD. He, himself, enjoyed this gift in his prayer life (1 Corinthians 14:18). Paul was thankful for speaking in tongues, and wanted every Christian to receive this experience (1 Corinthians 14:5).

4. When we speak in tongues we spiritually build an edifice of faith for our lives.

1 Corinthians 14:4 NKJV

4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself,...

I would ask every believer, is the edifice you are building a skyscraper or a shack? There is a God-given plan for how you can build yourself up and add to your faith. In its proper place, speaking in tongues assists to the building of a wonderful edifice of faith.

Jude 1:20 adds.

Keep you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit.

I will definitely expand this thought in a following lesson. I know I have not yet answered the question, "Is praying in the Spirit the same as praying in tongues?" Allow me at this time to say that I believe that "praying in the Spirit" is the same as praying in tongues, if not entirely, at least in part. But, most definitely, from 1 Corinthians 14:4, speaking in tongues will edify a believer. I will say more about that later.

5. When we speak in tongues we experience more of God's power while fulfilling His great commission.

Mark 16:15, 17 NKJV

15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;

Among other things, casting out demons and speaking in tongues should follow the lives of believers.

6. Our prayer language calls forth the secret truths and hidden things only known in the intimate places of Heaven.

In number 2, above, I didn't read all of the verse. Look at it again.

1 Corinthians 14:2 NKJV

2 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.

"He who speaks in a tongues...in the Spirit he speaks mysteries."

When the word "mystery" or "mysteries" is used in the New Testament, it means that what was formerly unknown or a secret is now being disclosed or opened. This verse is saying that he who speaks in tongues brings to light what was formerly unknown.

Here is how the Amplified Bible puts it.

1 Corinthians 14:2 AMP

2 For one who speaks in an [unknown] tongue speaks not to men but to God, for no one understands or catches his meaning, because in the [Holy] Spirit he utters secret truths and hidden things [not obvious to the understanding].

7. When we speak in tongues we convey the glorious acts of God.

Acts 2:11

We hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.

People may inquire about what is being said when someone speaks in tongues. God's Word declares that while they were speaking in tongues on the Day of Pentecost, they were speaking the "wonderful works of God." What a privilege it is to speak the wonders that God has done.

8. Speaking in tongues magnifies God

Acts 10:46

For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

This verse tells us of the outbreak of the Holy Spirit at the house of Cornelius, the Roman centurion. When I read verses like this, I am really puzzled by those who say speaking in tongues has no significance. Magnifying our God in this manner, or any other manner, is very significant. God has done so much for us through His Son Jesus Christ. Can we not utilize the manifestation of the spirit that God has designed for us to magnify Him? We should speak in tongues much.

9. Tongues is a great way to thank God

1 Corinthians 14:17-18 (NKJV) is written in the context of praying in tongues:

17 For you indeed give thanks well,
18 I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all;

Praying in the Spirit - that is, praying in tongues - does much in our communication with God. As we have already noted, praying in tongues will magnify God and tell of his marvelous works. They also convey our heart of thanksgiving to God. What better way to extend our thankfulness to our heavenly Father than to utilize what He has given us to express that gratitude.

10. Speaking in tongues is a literal "jump-start" in the Spirit activating an explosion of faith into every area of our life.

Jude 20 NKJV

20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,

11. Whenever we speak in tongues, we offer perfect prayer to the Lord.

When the Holy Spirit is praying through us, He never prays out of the will of God.

Romans 8:27 NKJV

27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

The Holy Spirit prays through us according to the will of God.

12. When we speak in tongues, we pray for things beyond our knowledge and comprehension.

Praying in tongues allows us to pray beyond what we can figure out ourselves. It takes us beyond the limitations of our finite, human minds. 1 Corinthians 14:14 tells us that when we pray in tongues, it is prayer that is not generated by our mind. "I will pray with my spirit and I will also pray with my mind."

Romans 8:26 NKJV

26 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.

I know there are those who will say this verse is not talking about speaking in tongues. And there are many people whom I respect that say it definitely is addressing speaking in tongues. I am inclined to believe it is, but regardless, whether speaking in tongues or in our native language, the Holy Spirit enables us to know what we should pray for and how we are to pray for it. It is not the result of your or my intellect, but of the Holy Spirit flowing a language in you and through you.

13. Speaking in tongues is a fulfillment of prophecy

Mark 16:17 NKJV

17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;

Jesus was speaking prophetically in this verse.

Acts 2:16-17 NKJV

16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;

The apostle Peter tells the people on the Day of Pentecost that what was happening was prophesied centuries earlier by the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-30).

Isaiah 28:11 NKJV

11 For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people,

God said 700 years before Christ came that He would speak to his people in other tongues. We will expand upon this in our next benefit.

14. Tongues is a sign OF the believer

Mark 16:17 NKJV

17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;

Speaking in tongues should follow those who believe. It is a sign OF the believer.

John 7:38-39 (NKJV) adds:

38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."
39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

We have studied this Passage in depth in an earlier lesson. There is no doubt this is talking about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that happened at Pentecost. That is when they first overflowed with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:4). Yes, tongues is a sign OF the believer.

15. Tongues will be a sign TO unbelievers

1 Corinthians 14:22 NKJV

22 Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers;...

We will address this verse more fully in a following lesson.

16. Praying in tongues is a gift for "singing in the Spirit"

1 Corinthians 14:15 NKJV

15 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.

Ephesians 5:18-19 NKJV

18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,
19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,


As we bring this lesson to a close, I want to do so by making three statements.

1. Speaking in tongues is not the hub of our theology - Jesus is !! Speaking in tongues finds its proper place in the church only as tongues relates to the centrality of Christ. Jesus is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.

2. Speaking in tongues is not a requirement for salvation. Faith plus nothing is the formula for salvation. The repentant thief was eternally saved by a simple act of true faith. The same is true for us all.

3. Speaking in tongues should in no way be viewed as a credential for spirituality. It does not represent the culmination of one's own accomplishments. Self righteousness should, in fact, be exposed, not fostered.

I end with a question: Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?

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