Uses of the Gift of Tongues

1. to communicate about God in someone else’s own language and dialect, without having learned that language. (as happened on the day of Pentecost)

A friend of mine, when in a prayer meeting in Argentina, heard  someone pray in English for England, naming several English towns. When she spoke to her afterwards, she discovered that the person who was praying did not speak or understand English.

2. linked with 1. a greater fluency than normal in speaking about God in someone else’s language.

Both my wife and I know a little French. We have each experienced on separate occasions that when we were speaking about God to a French person who did not know much English, that our attempt to speak to them in French resulted in a greater fluency than we expected or was normal for us. Kate’s was when she was in France as a teenager on an exchange trip, mine was when evangelising on the streets of London, and being prompted to go back and talk with a young man who was sitting outside a shop looking unhappy.

3. to bring a message from God to a group of people in a language that they do not understand. Someone (or several people) who hears the message in tongues is given an interpretation (not a translation) which is then shared with the group so that they understand what God wants them to know.

This type of message in tongues is not covered by just one statement of interpretation. It may be and probably is multifaceted. Different people may “pick up” various strands to give different aspects of the message. One thing which I have found very helpful is something that Stephen Neil, a friend of mine discovered – that when there is a message in tongues, it can be expressing a two-way conversation, so one interpretation may pick up the person-to-God part, and another may pick up the God-to-person part. One time when I was using singing in tongues as a way to release other gifts (see a later point), although I was not looking for an interpretation of the tongue, one child wrote down a person-to-God statement, and another wrote down a matching God-to-person statement. When offering these among other pictures and words to the congregation, I held up the person-to-God statement and asked, “For which of you is this a statement of what you are feeling and saying to God at the moment?” When a lady raised her hand to claim it for herself, I said, “Well now I can give you what God is saying to you!” and gave her the matching God-to-person statement.

4. to release other gifts of revelation from the Holy Spirit.

When teaching children (and adults!) to discover more of experiencing the Holy Spirit in them receiving revelation for themselves or for others, and having done some preparation, I would tell them to sit quietly with their eyes closed while I ask the Holy Spirit to give them things that would help them to see how the Holy Spirit can use them – in giving them pictures, words, thoughts, feelings. Then I would sing in tongues for a few minutes and then check to see how many had received something. If it was all new to them and they had been “distracted” by the strangeness of the singing in tongues, I would do it again, so that when they were used to it, they would receive the pictures, words, thoughts, feelings.

5. to welcome the presence of God – to tune in to heaven.

My mother told me that one of my great-grandfathers used to say to people. “You don’t need to ask the Holy Spirit to come – He’s already here – It’s you that needs to get in tune with Him!”

Praying or singing in tongues is a way of doing that – of opening ourselves and our meeting to the activity of the Holy Spirit.

6. to change the spiritual atmosphere.

 In a place which in some way feels spiritually dark or oppressed, praying and singing in tongues can change the atmosphere.

7. as an overflow expression of a person’s praise/worship/love to Jesus or of their deep emotion, either being deliberately used, or by finding oneself using the gift of tongues in this way unexpectedly when in praise, worship or prayer.

8. as an overflow of the Holy Spirit’s activity in a person. I think of this in relation who are prayed for to receive from the Holy Spirit and find themselves beginning to speak in tongues. I remember the girl on a Jesus Adventure Camp who when prayed for, went “out in the Spirit” on the floor, and began to speak in tongues for the first time as she “awoke”. 

9. as a surprise from God – to say “Yes! Here I am with you!” This would relate to a number of the other points, but I put it separately to highlight that some have received a gift of tongues without seeking it or expecting it. I remember reading of a preacher who received the gift of tongues when he was in the middle of preaching against it!

10. to express the harmony that the Holy Spirit brings in a group of Christians.

I am thinking here of the amazing harmonious sounds that can come when a group of people sing in tongues together. I remember the first time I heard this, and I tried to pick out the different voices, from very low to very high, from loud to soft, from fast to slow, from simple to very complicated. Very different things were being sung, yet the resulting harmony and togetherness was an unforgettable sign that the Holy Spirit was orchestrating the singing.

11. to bring peace and calm.

I am thinking here particularly of calming a child/baby who is in distress, crying or unsettled. Singing in tongues is a tool that no parent should be without! As an important part of the process, it also calms the person who is singing in tongues!

12. to stop specific Devil/evil spirit activity.

I remember walking down a road behind two people who were violently arguing with one another. I did not feel that I could intervene, but I walked behind them speaking out loud in tongues. They gave no recognition that I was saying anything, but they calmed down. (I have found on a number of occasions that when praying out loud in tongues, people nearby have appeared not to hear, or not to be aware of me doing it.)

When doing a children’s programme on a church weekend, we were having a tough time with difficult children. We did not know what to do and asked the Holy Spirit for help. He told us to “sing and dance” so in the next session, I played guitar while most of the children danced around happily. One girl was (the only way I can describe it) dancing in the Spirit. There was something different from all the others. One boy who had been previously causing problems began to make fun of the dancing, but I noticed that the only person he was mocking was this girl. I was angry and wanted to stop him, but I was playing guitar, so I could not stop to deal with him and what was affecting him. So while I carried on playing, I faced towards him and began to speak in tongues with the intention of stopping whatever was happening through him. After a few minutes he stopped and just sat quietly. (I then asked God for a word for the boy which He gave me, and I passed on with a positive outcome – but that’s a different story!)

13. to bring the influence of the Holy Spirit into a situation.

This relates to no 12. I get very annoyed at scam phone calls who are seeking to con me in some way. I am tempted to say all sorts of inappropriate things to them and fear that I may be pestered more by them if I annoy them! What I want is for their operation to be shut down, for the person calling me to be convicted of sin, but is difficult to find an effective way to do it. On one occasion (so far), as soon as I recognised it was a scam, I began to speak in tongues. The person calling seemed to be a bit confused by this, and I kept on speaking in tongues until they hung up. I am hoping that some Holy Spirit influence will have found its way into the person and/or their system! I thought too that there might be a “chance” that I might be led to speak in the caller’s native language, in which case they could get a message from God they were not expecting!

14. to expose and/or confront evil spirits.

My wife and I have found in different occasions that speaking in tongues when with someone who is “troubled” in some way can lead to a reaction which shows that there is something affecting the person’s spirit. In such a situation, the person has said, “Stop doing that!”, and a person that my wife was in conversation with who was mixed up in Satanism asked her to stop and said that he/they were afraid of Christians  doing such things.

15. to bring focus when feeling out of touch or not knowing what to do.

Sometimes when I am finding it difficult to know what I should be doing, or I am having a problem settling to get on with things I should be doing, I find it helpful to set a particular period of time to pray in tongues. I might walk around, or do stuff around the house that does not involve me in having to think. Praying in tongues like this seems to clear my mind of the stress / depressive mood / anxiety / confusion / or inability to get going (eventually!).

16.  for intercessory prayer.

– to focus on a situation for which there does not appear to be a way of resolving it when it is not clear what we should be praying for.

– to pray for a person. I remember an early time of using the gift of tongues in praying for someone. He had caused me great problems and I was not in a mood to bless him. I wanted to pray for him but did not know what to pray for. I pictured him in my mind and then prayed in tongues for him and found plenty to say in tongues which, having done it, seemed to bring a release to me.

On two occasions, my wife and a friend were called into hospital to pray for two different pregnant mums from our Deptford Park congregation who looked like they were about to miscarry. The pregnant mums were even asked by the hospital staff whether they wanted the baby as they could abort them if they wanted. Kate and Shirley spent time at the hospital praying in tongues. On both occasions, things settled. Both babies were saved and born at the proper time and were healthy.

– when “hands-on-praying for someone, praying first in tongues can lead on to having specific words to pray for them, or pictures or words to say to them.

–  to pray alongside in partnering someone who is involved in ministering to someone, or is doing something for which they need spiritual support.

17. to bless babies (or anyone else!)

It is clear that babies (born and yet to be born) can somehow sense the Holy Spirit and respond to “HolySpiritness” around them.

 As a P.S. to the baby story in no 16., when one of those babies was born and was present at our family services, I often had the opportunity to hold her in my arms. (I seemed to be good at getting babies settled and off to sleep, so I was often passed babies to hold – and anyway I like them!  Since she had almost not made it into life, I believed that she had/has a special place in God’s plans (as indeed every child has).

I decided that every time I spent time with her, I would speak over her in tongues. I did that for months, believing that in some way it would bless her. I don’t know all that it did, but it was a nice “coincidence” that having not being in touch with her since then, I heard from my daughter Jane that this girl was looking after the young children at the church’s houseparty!

18. to keep in touch with Jesus through the day.

– just a few words in tongues at “in between” times during the day, or when involved in some mundane activity – like washing up!

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