Let God do the Talking

Speaking in TonguesI have never spoken in tongues. And honestly, I have never wanted to. I had some pastor tell me that I didn’t want to because I was proud and didn’t want to look foolish in front of others. Maybe so, maybe so. But I’ll tell you what, I don’t think that looking foolish in front of others is doing a whole lot of good for the cause of Christ and the advancement of the kingdom. But that is a topic for some other series.

All I want to say is that if you speak in tongues, I am not trying to mock you or your prayer language in the rest of this post. I am only poking fun at the two examples below…

I am introducing my series called “Let Prayer Meetings Cease” by writing about several types of prayer that you might hear in a prayer meeting. Yesterday we looked at the “Magic Words” prayer. Today, we look at the prayer where people let God do the talking.

The “I Don’t Know What I’m Saying, So God Will Say it For Me” Prayer

I have sometimes been in prayer meetings where people clearly lose their train of thought, or they don’t really know how to pray for the issue at hand, and so rather than pause, or stumble around for the right words, or simply pray wrongly and let God sort it out (He doesn’t mind), the person instead starts to “speak in tongues,” thus trying to impress everybody with their spirituality.

And rather than type what it sounds like, I will give you an example from YouTube. Of course, this guy is preaching a sermon, but just imagine he is praying instead. You’ll get the idea. I actually feel bad for this poor pastor. It appears that he was told that the Holy Spirit would take over and start preaching through him, but for some reason, the Holy Spirit power never really “kicks in”  …unless 90% of a Holy Spirit Sermon consists of the words “Glory to God! Hallelujah!”

Oh, and I know this video is old. It looks like it’s from the 1980’s. But these kinds of sermons are still preached in countless pulpits across America today. In the religious environment in which I work, I hear sermons like this almost every week.

Speaking in Tongues Videos

The first is by Brother Barry.

And then there is this classic from Televangelist Robert Tilton:

I don’t know if you have ever been in prayer meetings where people do this sort of thing. It has always made me uncomfortable, and I often doubt that this is really what speaking in tongues was all about in Acts 2 and elsewhere in the New Testament. You can disagree, but I think it is always better to pray with words that both you and others understand.

Check back tomorrow for another type of prayer you might hear in a prayer meeting.




Comments

  1. says

    Is there a point to praying aloud with other people present if those people can’t understand what we’re saying? Should there not be an interpreter present, as Paul suggests? Yes, I know some would say God hears and understands, but God also hears silent prayer.

    I know a linguist who thinks and has seen what he describes as a gift of “tongues”, whereby some individuals pick up and learn to speak another language very rapidly, in a matter of days or weeks. He saw this in the country where he served as a missionary when Christianity was spreading rapidly.

    “Tongues” can be divisive, as in “the spiritual speak in tongues and everyone else doesn’t get the gift”. Some years ago we knew a guy who was probably the last guy we would ever expect to become a believer. But he did and we believed he was sincere. However, his church insisted that he couldn’t be a true believer if he couldn’t speak in tongues. He couldn’t, so taking their word that he was not really a believer, he returned to his old, reprehensible life.

    • Ant Writes says

      @Sam, all the gifts can be divisive, no? Paul says he speaks in tongues more than the Corinthians, but to desire prophecy MORE. Prophecy is seemingly less desirable, because they are usually hated, because they point out each other’s sins. We need ALL the gifts for the body to function properly. The church has propped up the gift of teaching for far too long. The pentecostals has propped up the gifts in general, with tongues being emphasized (I always saw tongues as wearing the tzitzit long to impress others) It’s just ONE gift to edify the body ONLY if there’s an interpreter. At the old church I ran, we had one lady who spoke, and a man in the back who interpreted. If he wasn’t there, she didn’t speak in tongues.
      There’s the right type, and there’s the wrong type.

  2. Clive Clifton says

    Jeremy, I think we have at last come to a point of disagreement. My opinion of ecstatic utterances was like yours. Have you heard the saying, being a fool for Christ. Poor old David loved God so much he abandoned himself to God in 2 Samuel 6 v 14, what happened to his wife the scoffer. Poor old Ezekiel, read what he had to do in ch 4. read the whole book. Read 1 Samuel ch 19 v 24 Saul lay naked all day and night on the ground as Gods Holy Spirit made him prophesy. Adam and Eve walked around naked with God in broad daylight, the next day they hide. Do you think God cares about our inhibitions, did He give them to us? no the devil did, to separate us from our intimate relationship with God.

    Unless we lose our inhibitions none of His Will and work will be done. Has he never told you to go and talk to a complete stranger and the mere thought of it has caused your bowels to do strange things like FART, No, maybe He already knew you would have a real problem with that so He gave someone else the opportunity to bless someone and be blessed in turn. When God lets us off the hook He does it because He loves us to bits, that does not mean he will give up on us and not give us other opportunities. Have you ever asked god to use you, beware what you ask for unless your willing to respond.

    Jeremy I love you, but please don’t restrict God working through you in whatever way He may decide, as it’s all to your benefit and His Glory.

    Here is my story right up to the present. When our Church decided to run the Alpha course I was asked to join a team to pray before and during the meetings for those who were attending. After the talk the then Vicar would come in and give us the list of those there that night and maybe a particular person who was close to accepting Christ. This went on for a number of weeks, I was the only man as praying is a womans thing isn’t it? anyway the ladies all prayed in tongues, not all the time, only after we had done specific prayers, I kept quiet at this time not understanding what it was all about, but I was not antagonistic towards it. One evening one lady Renuka stopped praying in tongues and said to me Clive the lord has told me He has put a tongue in your mouth and you need to say it, I thanked her and they continued. “silly woman I already have a tongue in my mouth” I thought. However she stopped praying again and said the same thing. By now I was getting embarrassed and really annoyed and told her I was not aware of anything, I decided that I would try and sneak out when their eyes were closed. They continued. Suddenly a word came into my mind Cuumara it kept repeating itself to me, I mouthed the strange word, suddenly before I knew it I uttered it out loud, Very Loud, then I said another word like buunara, I carried on for 30 minutes speaking not only the words the Angels use, the heavenly language, but German, Russian, Chinese everything I did not want it to stop, I have never felt so good in my whole life and it has never repeated itself. The ladies laughed all the time. Oh come Holy Spirit don’t leave us to live in our miserable lives any more.

    Ecstatic utterances are better than Steak, Roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings with thick gravy, better than a sun drenched beach with the waves crashing on the rocks, better than the greatest sex with your lover. I’ve calmed down a lot now, maybe I need to spend more time alone in noisy prayer,

    I also laugh in the Spirit, not as much as I used to, maybe because I don’t need it anymore. Sometimes I laugh in the Spirit with others who need to find release, so he uses me to help the River flow to break down the dams that have been constructed.

    I now dance in the Spirit. I started doing this at a conference last year and heard God say “dance for me” He had to be persistent so I eventually got up went to the back where no one could see and danced for Him, God I will do anything for you. I danced with abandon and when the worship was over I sat down. The next day at the conference he said dance for me, it did not take me as long, but as I got up He said “dance at the front”. The leaders had said at the beginning they had made space for those who want to dance or wave flags to come up. I walked to the front at the side, no one told me to sit down and as the worship continued I swayed in time and started to dance.

    Two men came up to me afterwards and said “that was wonderful I wish I had the courage to do it, don’t ever stop” women also came to me afterwards and said they loved my dancing. I don’t yet do it in my own Church, well I do in the pew. We went to the same conference this year and I danced again as the Spirit led me. I was dancing in the prayer ministry time and God said dance with him, I touched the man and said “dance with me to the Lord” he did and so did several others during that time.

    Thats enough for now. When God says GO never say NO as you may continue to loose out on what it will be like in Heaven, there you will no option but to dance to and with the Lord. But don’t worry you wont have to use tongues as they will no longer be required, they are His workmanship Here, on the unrepentant earth. All the gifts are for our benefit use them or loose them for yourself and others. Sing, Dance and utter Psalms to the Lord.

    This is the day that the lord has made, we shall rejoice and be glad in it. Life was created for partying, Jesus loved weddings, funerals, banquets with plenty of food, wine, dancing, laughter, rejoicing. I will let Jesus have the last word. Matthew 9 v 14 to 15 John the baptist disciples complained about the disciples of Jesus, thinking they were better, “why don’t your disciples fast” Jesus said “Do wedding guests mourn while celebrating with The Groom”.

    Your bother in Christ Clive

    • says

      Clive,

      Thank you for telling this wonderful story. It is definitely not something I have ever personally experienced.

      In the post, I am not saying such things cannot happen, only that I think it is abused and misused and faked sometimes.
      Would you agree?

  3. Kirk says

    These people do nothing but make everyone else think Christians are unintelligent and crazy. This is one of those issues that Christians need to separate themselves from completely by condemning it. I don’t think saying “Oh well I have never experienced it but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen” is good enough. Being “nice” about something so unbelievably….idiotic… just allows the ignorance to spread around. Not to mention the fact that nowhere in the Bible does anyone start speaking gibberish (except MAYBE when David was acting all crazy to fool people into thinking he was crazy).

    Just my opinion though.

    • says

      I am not going to condemn it, but I am not ready to embrace it either. I know many Christians who speak in tongues in this way, but have a great relationship with God, and are loving people in the community in wonderful, tangible ways.

      This is one of those areas where I try to practice the centered set approach I talked about in the previous series. As long as people seem to be moving ever closer to Jesus, then we can agree to disagree on some of these areas, and even discuss and debate these issues, but hopefully, we can continue to love each other and work together for the cause of the Gospel.

      • Kirk says

        I just feel like they cause nonbelievers to run for the hills. I’m definitely not saying these people aren’t good members of the community or not saved, (a lot probably are). But their actions DO cause others to completely abandon any thoughts of looking into Christianity seriously (I say this as someone with many non-believing friends.) Also, I’m saying to condemn the ideas, not the person (in case that was lost in my comment). If them acting like loonies causes other people to turn away from Jesus, it should be addressed.

        Honestly, I didn’t even know these types of people existed until I saw Jesus Camp, which was chilling to say the least.

        Disclaimer: These are all just my opinions and I welcome any challenges to my ideas.

        • Ant Writes says

          Well, if you understand organic church, it’s doubtful those things would happen! At the last house church I was at, only one woman spoke in tongues, and she had prophetic insight. We had a fellow from Colorado on a business trip and heard about the home church..no one knew him and she was praying in the spirit when she called out the sin he was doing the night before! (he called an “escort” to his hotel room)…he actually got angry and left….but she was right..but the house church broke up eventually (the “leader” was becoming a controlling “pastor”), and she joined IHOP. Oh well.

  4. says

    Hey, Jeremy. I had to give myself a few days on this one. I grew up in a pentecostal church. I have seen a lot of abuses in the church I grew up in. That said, I have prayed in tongues (I prefer to call it praying in the spirit) for more than 30 years. Your post triggered some emotional responses….hence giving myself a little time before responding. A couple of observations….

    Pentecostals can be snotty, stuck-up elitist snobs when it come to this issue. Did I get some toes? Seriously, they never come right out and say it from the pulpit, but it is understood that if you do no ‘speak in tongues’, you’re not filled with the Spirit…and your salvation is inferior, if even real.

    On the other hand, I had friends in school who were from a non-pentecostal denomination and they would tell me that ‘speaking in tongues’ was ‘of the devil’. That hurt. That is a different form of denominational elitist snobbery.

    So, as with all the gifts of the Spirit, this one can be misused, abused and even faked. And the environment I grew up in encouraged faking it to fit in (not overtly, but by pressure to conform). This is wrong. However, it is also wrong to accuse someone of being influenced by the devil for something you don’t understand. Both sides use their stance on this to be divisive.

    Personally, I value very highly the gift of being able to pray in the Spirit. It is a gift – the Holy Spirit helps me pray when I don’t know how to pray or even what to pray. Often, when I feel stuck on what I need to pray about, I begin praying in the Spirit, then after a few minutes, the understanding of what I prayed will follow and I will gain insight into what is going on in my heart. But I don’t always get understanding…it still is a very personal and direct thing with God and me. And I would not give it up for anything. However, I also would not pray that way in front of someone who did not understand what I was doing. That’s just rude, actually….

    Finally, I am adamantly apposed to using ‘speaking in tongues’ as some sort of litmus test to determine someone’s spiritual maturity. I know people who pray in tongues that are far more immature than others who never want to go there. I also do not believe it is something that ‘must’ be present as evidence of being filled with the Spirit. I know people who are so obviously filled with the Spirit but do not want to ever ‘speak in tongues’. It is a gift. It is not a requirement. I wish both sides would just let it be a personal thing and not a religious thing.

    My 2 cents. :-)

    • says

      Katherine,

      Thank you for the very kind and gracious reply to what was a hastily and negatively written post. These initial four or five posts have all been rather negative. Not exactly what I wanted. I am sorry about that.

      Your comment is very kind and insightful. Thank you very much. I do agree that there is a lot about prayer and communication with God in the Spirit that I do not understand.

      I have met many who seem to take a very balanced approach to it, as you are doing here. Thank you very much.

      I think in my post starting tomorrow, I can get back on track with some of the positive ways of praying, and how churches of all types can allow prayer to lead them into missional involvement in their community.

  5. says

    Hey Jeremy, I am loving your posts, they are challenging and written with a great sense of love and grace.

    I’m a recovering pastor who still speaks in tongues but I have to agree that people often relate to the gifts of the Holy Spirit with more of a superstitious magic mentality than one of faith and submission.

    I have been challenging everything I have believed in and want to discover what God had in mind when He wrote the New Testament rather than what I am told to believe.

    Looking forward to sharing with and learning from you my brother.

    Blessings :)

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