Is There Really Such a Thing as Prayer Tongues?

This will be the beginning, along with a few questions which are to follow in the upcoming chapters, of the most contentious sections of this study. I use the word contentious because this topic can cause a discussion to degenerate into what I would call a battle royal. This is a wrestling term meaning a no-holds-barred fight until only one contender remains.

I believe the reason many of us become argumentative concerning a doctrinal perspective is because this is what we have been taught. In other words, this is all we know. Anything that we hear which is contrary to our learned belief system is considered by us to be false doctrine. And the person conveying it is considered to be a false teacher. Let me give you an example of a struggle I had concerning one of the teachings of the Catholic Church, which resurfaced when I became a born-again Christian.

The following is a chronology of my former Catholic faith.

When I was a baby, I was baptized in water, which according to Catholic theology causes a child or adult to become a child of God or a son of light. First comes repentance, if referring to a child on behalf of his/her parents’ repentance for him/her, and then comes water baptism which effects the forgiveness of sins by the intermediary of the person of the Holy Spirit. Water baptism with the reality of the Holy Spirit causes a person to enter into the kingdom of God. This is according to them the baptism that now saves us. The sacrament of water baptism is the sacrament of regeneration. The child of God is now freed from the power of darkness, is liberated from sin, and is brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God.

At age 7, I attended catechism, which helped me to become aware of the basic truths of this faith. A further receiving of instruction prepared me to receive certain of the 7 sacraments, which are ceremonies that point to what is sacred, significant, and important. Following such, I received my first communion, which is when the bread and wine nourishes the attendant with Christ’s literal body and blood for his/her transformation into His life.

Later on, between the ages of 8-12, I was confirmed. This is a sacrament in which the Holy Spirit is given to those already baptized in order to make them strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ. In this respect, the Holy Spirit shows up twice, initially for salvation and later for the Christian’s walk with God.

Eventually, I became an altar boy for a brief period of time. I went to church on Sunday, on occasion went to confession, observed the 6 days of obligation throughout the year, and lastly participated in the requirements of the two church fasts of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

One of the teachings which resonated with me was that a Catholic was to keep the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are as follows:
Exodus 20:1-17
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

Many years later after having become a born-again Christian, I began attending a non-denominational church. Every once in a while, I would hear the word commandments such as in accordance with the following verse.

Acts 1:2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:

Immediately, I would think that what this verse was saying was that Jesus through the Holy Spirit had given the Ten Commandments to the apostles whom he had chosen. But what this word commandments really meant in this context was the following.

Before Jesus ascended, these were the commandments which He conveyed to them.

a. To remain in Jerusalem for the promise of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 1:4-5 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

They were to wait in Jerusalem so that they could receive the indwelling Spirit.

b. To preach the gospel to every creature.
Mark 16:14-15 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

They were to travel everywhere on the earth and make a public proclamation of the gospel (the good news) to every person.

c. To teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Suggested Reading: Matthew 28:1, 5-7, 19-20
Matthew 28:19-20 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in (into) the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

After the disciples received word that Jesus was risen and would meet them at a particular place in a mountain of Galilee, they went forth and found him there. Jesus told them to go and teach (to proclaim the truth about Him) all nations. And those who believed in who He is and what He has accomplished should be baptized in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Water baptism was not only used to initiate converts into the faith, but also to signify that the union of the three names indicated that the Son and Holy Spirit are co-eternal and co-equal with the Father. After which, the newly converted should be instructed in those things (the truths) that the disciples were commanded by Jesus.

The argument that I am trying to convey is this. If a Christian has been taught that there is such a thing as a prayer tongue, then this is what he/she believes, end of story. It probably took me five years before realizing in most cases in the book of Acts, the Epistles, and the book of Revelation where the word commandments appeared that this was not talking about the Ten Commandments. Whatever your belief system is concerning whether there are prayer tongues or not I hope you can read what is written in this study in a calm, objective fashion. If you notice your emotions boiling over ask God the Father by means of the ministry of the Holy Spirit to provide you with tranquility and clarity of mind along with divine peace.

The initial question we are attempting to answer is, is there such a thing as prayer tongues?

Another question we could also ask in connection to this is, is there such a thing as the gift of tongues being expressed during prayer?

In regard to whether there are prayer tongues, we will attempt to address this by opposing views, one which believes that there is a classification of tongues known as prayer tongues while the other view says that no tongue is classified as a prayer tongue, or for that matter a singing tongue, a worship tongue, etc. but what is actually being expressed is the gift of tongues whenever and wherever by means of the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

Let’s begin by looking at the words divers kinds of tongues. What do these words mean?

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit Divers Kinds of Tongues
Suggested Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:1-31; Romans 12:1-8
1 Corinthians 12:10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

There could be as many as 15 different gifts of the Spirit. Two of these gifts are the gift of tongues and the gift of the interpretation of tongues. Is there such a tongue that is not considered a gift of the Spirit which has a particular classification such as: a prayer tongue, a singing tongue, a worshiping tongue, etc.?

It’s interesting to note that in 1 Corinthians 12:10 we find the words kinds of tongues. I didn’t include the word divers because this was not in the original manuscripts.

What is meant by the words kinds of tongues?

The meaning of any such topic that someone believes in is determined by the teaching of the church they are attending. What I have decided to present is a table of contrasting views. If you believe that there is such a thing as prayer tongues, then your description of the words kinds of tongues will correspond to that belief. Likewise, if you believe that there is no such thing as a prayer tongue, but rather the gift of tongues expressed in prayer, then your description of the words kinds of tongues will correspond to that belief. We will follow this same format for other scripture sections which will follow.

There Is Such Thing as Expressing the Gift of Tongues in Prayer
●The words kinds of tongues mean a variety of tongues.
●If someone believes that kinds of tongues means a variety of foreign languages, then this would indicate that different foreign languages could be spoken by the exercise of the gift of tongues in different places by speakers under the prompting of the Holy Spirit, who did not know the language, but when interpreted, both the speaker and hearers would understand what was being said.

There Is Such a Thing as Prayer Tongues
●In this context, it is evident that the words
kinds of tongues mean a variety of tongues or a variety of foreign languages.
●Speaking in prayer tongues is not in view here.

Please go to the book of 1 Corinthians.

Was the apostle Paul advocating the use of prayer tongues during private or group prayer?

The Room of the Unlearned If I pray in an Unknown Tongue
1 Corinthians 14:5
I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.

1 Corinthians 14:14-15
For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.

The apostle Paul has been contrasting the exercise of the gift of tongues in expressing a foreign language and the gift of prophecy in relation to the idea of edification. He instructed those that have the gift of tongues to make sure before they exercise it that another believer may be able to interpret it.

After which, some would say that he followed this up by using himself as an example of exercising a different type of tongue in prayer that they would call a prayer tongue. Paul said that if he were to exercise tongues when he was praying, then his human spirit under the prompting of the Holy Spirit would pray (speak forth mysteries), but his understanding (intellectual faculties) would be unfruitful (receiving no benefit).

1 Corinthians14:13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.

So, if he was going to pray in his human spirit, he would also want to pray with the understanding. In other words, with an explanation of what was said, which would require an interpreter.

1 Corinthians 14:16-17
Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.

Likewise, if he were to exercise tongues during an assembly of prayer and there was no interpreter present, even though God would be blessed by the exercise of it, those who are in the periphery, the unlearned (those who were not acquainted with the language), would not be able to say Amen (give assent or agreement) to what was being conveyed.

There Is Such Thing as Expressing the Gift of Tongues in Prayer
●The apostle Paul said that if he were praying alone and the Spirit prompted his human spirit to exercise the gift of tongues without an interpreter, then his understanding (intellectual faculties) would be unfruitful (receive no benefit). His desire in this regard would be to pray (bring forth mysteries) in his spirit with the understanding (of knowing what was said).
●In order for this to be the case, someone who has the gift of interpretation would need to be present in order to understand what was being conveyed.
●In a similar sense, Paul said if you are engaged in group prayer don’t exercise the gift of tongues unless there is an interpreter.
●In both instances, whether in private or group prayer, the apostle Paul was talking about the exercise of the gift of tongues (of foreign languages).
●There is no such thing as prayer tongues, but there is such a thing as the gift of tongues being exercised in private or group prayer.

There Is Such a Thing as Prayer Tongues
●A prayer tongue was exercised by the apostle Paul during the times when he prayed alone and he expressed a desire to understand what this tongue conveyed.
●Likewise, he also mentions that if a prayer tongue is exercised during group prayer it would be advantageous to all if someone could interpret what was said.
●While in some cases, a prayer tongue could be interpreted this would be an exception.

Let’s stay in the book of 1 Corinthians and go to chapter 14.

Even though this next section will not add to the discussion as to whether there are prayer
tongues or not, I thought that I would address the idea of what many of the believers I have spoken with claim to be their main reason for wanting to pray with tongues.

He That Speaketh in an Unknown Tongue Edifieth Himself
1 Corinthians 14:2, 4, 28
1 Corinthians 14:2, 4 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

The scriptures clearly indicate that a believer who exercises tongues with or without an interpreter will be personally edified. However, there should be some distinction as to what this word means for those who exercise it for themselves, and what this word means when this is exercised in the midst of any company or assembly of believers. The idea of edification as it relates to the believer exercising tongues alone without an interpreter, let’s say while in personal prayer, conveys the idea of being intensely roused and completely absorbed with divine things, but destitute of clear ideas about them. This believer is able to speak unto God in the sense that his human spirit is enabled to speak, by means of the Holy Spirit, mysteries, which only God is able to understand. On the other hand, the idea of edification as it relates to the exercising of tongues with an interpreter present is that those in the periphery including the speaker will be edified (built up; benefitted) by what they have heard, which is no longer a mystery (truth that was not before known, and that might be of the utmost importance16).

1 Corinthians 14:28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

If the Spirit is prompting a believer to exercise tongues while in the church assembly and there is no interpreter available then they will be asked to speak it to themselves silently and inwardly. The point being emphasized here is, whether a believer is exercising this tongue during prayer alone or during worship service where no interpreter is available they will be edified, however only in the sense of experiencing the confirmation that he/she was the individual object of God's grace and able to offer praise to God17 possibly leading to a general sense of exhilaration and euphoria in their feelings.

What do you think after reading the information presented?

Do you think that there such a thing as a classification of tongues such as a prayer tongue, a singing tongue, a worshiping tongue, etc.?

Rather, do you think there is what is called the gift of tongues (of foreign languages) which can be expressed during personal prayer, during group prayer, during singing, during worship, etc. as long as there is an interpreter present in order for the speaker and hearers to receive edification?

There is one more aspect of prayer tongues that I would like us to take a look at. And that is, are prayer tongues the evidence of salvation? In order to answer this, we need to take a look at what is called the Baptism of the Spirit and the filling of the Spirit. Let’s begin by taking a look at the Baptism of the Spirit in the next chapter.

17Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament (Cook Communications Ministries, 2000) 22 March 2012

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Is there such a thing as prayer tongues?