In an article in Charisma News, Bert Farias asked why do so many Pentecostals and Charismatics not speak in tongues anymore? If you can recall that Seapking in Tongues is one of the major hallmarks of both the Pentecostal and Charismatics movements. While no one is saved by it, it produces a day and night difference to one’s Christian experience. It also reverses the effects of the long entrenched believe the cessation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I myself have made that transition many years ago. After spending nine years in the Presbyterian denomination, God led my wife and I to a Charismatic mega-church. My Christian life was transformed after that. I learned to tap in the power of God through the Holy Spirit both for the purpose of ministry and for personal holiness.
As a pastor, I also taught and prayed for Christians to receive the gift of tongues. Why the gift of tongues, in particular? Because, as we say, it is the lowest entry point into the spiritual realm. Speaking in tongues is, in a sense, the easiest gift to receive. With the benefit of hindsight, I have come to realise my error.
Speaking in tongues and the other spiritual gifts are known as the Gifts of the Holy Spirit for a reason. It is supposed to remind us about who the source of the gifts are: the Holy Spirit, and he distributes them as he wills. Our job as Christians is to be ready to respond to the Holy Spirit with faith and obedience. And, more importantly, the whole purpose for the gifts is the building up of the Body of Christ. I have personally seen the power of this. Before I knew anything about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the only way I knew how to encourage, exhort and counsel my brethren was by using my own wisdom and the Scripture. But after I learned to tap into the Spirit’s power, my arsenal of spiritual equipment multiplied. At times the Spirit would give me a word of knowledge about someone I was speaking with. Then He would give me either a word of wisdom or a prophecy to lift him up and out of the mire situation.
No one loves speaking in tongues more than intercessors. It enables them to pray for hours on end. Here, I would like ask for your forgiveness for my cyncism. In the article, a story is told about an intercessor who one night felt a burden to pray for a Brother Botley. Not knowing the situation or even quite what she was sensing, she prayed in tongues for about two hours. Then the burden lifted and she had a note of victory that the answer had come. The Old Pentecostals called this “praying through”. Scripture is clear that God knows what we desire even before we can articulate it. In this case, the intercessor does not even know what she is desiring for Brother Botley. So, did God answer her prayer, or did God answer the prayer of someone else (we do not know about) who prayed at the same time she did and prayed specifically in accordance to God’s will?
The gift of tongues is no different from other gifts like prophecy or teaching (more on that later). It has to be Spirit-inspired, Spirit-initiated and Spirit-instructed. But the way we use it make it appear as if we possess an ability, at our disposal anytime and anywhere and…anyhow.
As promised, I will elaborate on the gift of teaching. Many, myself included, have confused the Spirit’s gift of teaching and the talent. For most of my life I have believed that I have the gift of teaching – everyone told me so. It wasn’t till a few years ago that God clarified that matter for me. What I have is a natural talent to teach, not the spiritual gift of teaching. The same cannot be said about my wife. She is not a teacher and avoids such assignments like the plague. But there were a few occasions where she had to teach, in fact preach. To our surprise, she did well. We could only attribute it to the grace of God that was made abundant to her in that situation. Charis, Greek for grace is the root word for charismata, what Bible translators have translated into gifts. Hence, to be precise, spiritual gifts are the manifestations of the grace of God in our lives in different situations. Does my wife think of herself as a teacher after that? Absolutely not.