Although praying in the Spirit or tongues can be a controversial subject, I share my own experience as encouragement to study it out and experiment.
I was raised in a church where “tongues” were considered from the devil. I even wrote papers in college against it. However, a number of years later I was invited to attend a Pentecostal church with a friend. Not wanting to be rude, I accepted her invitation and went with much fear and trepidation. During a pause in worship, the congregation began singing in the Spirit. I was amazed at the beauty of it and it touched my heart.
A couple of years later, in a prayer group with some Spirit-filled Christians, we encountered “tongues” again. We were deeply moved and saw the impact that it had.
When we eventually left our traditional church and joined a Spirit-filled church, I desired to speak in tongues, but didn’t know how it worked. Somehow I thought if I just opened my mouth, somehow God would make these sounds come out. I’d pray and ask over and over and then just open my mouth and expect something to come out. I didn’t understand that it is a partnership with the Spirit as we vocalize and flow with the Spirit. When I finally understood this, I began to enjoy the experience of praying in tongues.
Another misnomer is that you have to wait to “feel” the Spirit move to pray in tongues. It is form of prayer that God delights us to engage in anytime. It doesn’t matter if He initiates or I do. As with all kinds of prayer, sometimes it flows and feels great and other times, it is a discipline. If we always wait until we feel the Spirit “move” our prayer life will be sadly lacking.
Some people teach that you should focus on Jesus during this type of prayer and I agree that is especially good to do during devotional time. However, I find it a great way to “pray without ceasing” as quietly in the background of whatever I’m doing, I’m lifting this type of prayer up to Him. I may be driving or doing household chores and my mind may wander to what we are having for dinner or when I need to pick up my kids, but my spirit is flowing with His Spirit.
I find that often answers to questions I’ve been pondering or my greatest creative thoughts come during times of praying in the Spirit. And in those times when I have no idea how to pray, I love being able to pray in the Spirit and know that He is praying His perfect prayer through me. It helps me keep from striving in prayer and to just let Him flow.
I enjoy quietly praying in tongues during corporate prayer as it helps me to stay focused. I feel I’m praying in unison with the person praying and that I’m not just a “spectator” waiting for “my turn” to pray. However, not every group is comfortable with “tongues” so when in such a group I refrain to honor those around me.
However, in a corporate setting, if you are the main one praying, don’t pray in tongues unless you have an interpreter so that all can understand what the Lord is releasing (1 Corinthians 14:1-18). Not every church practices this and if it is not normally done enjoy praying in tongues on your own.
As with any type of prayer, regular practice is important to develop a new habit. Start with five minutes and work up from there in your quiet time. Ask the Lord to remind you of times to enter into this special kind of prayer.
Paul thanked God that he prayed in tongues more than anyone else (1 Cor 14:18). Want to have a prayer life like Paul?