Have you ever wondered why your prayer language doesn’t sound like real words?
And why is it so repetitive?
Why does it usually start with the same few words or syllables?
Maybe you’ve asked those questions at times. We’ve asked the same questions—and quite a few others—regarding the gifts of tongues and interpretation of tongues. Then we sought the Lord for understanding of these gifts and did our best to operate in them faithfully.
He gave us many insights and answers, and then brought it all together in a book. That was something we never really planned. It just sort of happened.
We aren’t megachurch pastors. We don’t lead multi-national ministries. But we did have a calling from the Lord to write a book and spread a message.
What exactly is that message?
Speaking in tongues and interpreting tongues are powerful gifts with practical use for everyday people like us.
When people operate in these gifts, God blesses the person operating in the gift, but He also blesses the people around them.
Other Questions We Explore in the Book:
What does speaking in tongues feel like emotionally?
What is the purpose of speaking in tongues?
How does the gift of interpretation work?
What are the benefits?
Are biblical tongues earthly languages, or heavenly languages? Or both?
We invite you to explore these questions with us as you read through our book:
Speaking in Tongues: Enjoying Intimacy With God Through Tongues and Interpretation
Foreword: Tears of Intimacy
By Chris McKinney
When I agreed to read and evaluate this book, I had no idea what I was getting into. I thought it would be interesting, of course, and that my evaluation might be helpful. I certainly wasn’t expecting any kind of life change, but that’s exactly what I got.
But before we dive into that, let me back up and tell you a little about myself. I am an Executive Editor for GODSPEED Magazine, and I also write for various other Christian magazines, websites, and ministries. I received Christ as Savior when I was ten years old, but the last seven years have been very powerful for me, as I have walked more closely with the Lord than ever before. In many ways, these years have been like a spiritual bootcamp.
After receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit in 2016, the next year of my life was very interesting to say the least. God showed me my spiritual gifts, including my primary gifting and calling. I don’t think I would have discovered this without the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I may not even have the spiritual gifts and anointing I have now. In other words, I’m not sure there would have been a whole lot worth discovering.
But I thank God that I did receive an infilling of His Spirit. What followed was a thrilling and exhilarating time of discovery and development. It was very exciting, so much so that even as a writer, I struggle to find words that will do it justice. It was amazing and wonderful, that’s for sure.
I’m now in a second exhilarating, thrilling, and wonderful season of life, and it’s all because of this book! The first item worth noting was that as I got a little ways into the book, God gave me the perfect answer to a question I’d had for a very long time about a certain phenomenon that is sometimes witnessed in charismatic circles.
My family occasionally visited charismatic churches growing up, but we mostly went to non-charismatic churches. I struggled to understand much of what I witnessed in charismatic circles, and to be honest, I even mocked some of it in my younger years. Even in recent years, I didn’t understand a lot the things that are common in Pentecostal or otherwise Spirit-filled services. But one by one, God lovingly and patiently alleviated my concerns and doubts.
By the time this manuscript was put into my hands, the issue of control was really the only outstanding question I still had about common charismatic practices. I had really struggled with the concept that people would appear to be somewhat “out of control” when being moved by the Holy Spirit because one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. Until reading Kathleen’s testimony, I had never seen a good answer to the questions I had about the issue of control.
That answer alone made me realize God was working through the book—that there was an anointing on it. But it didn’t stop there. I was sending notes to the authors such as, “I’ve learned several very important things” and “Continuing to read and make notes… very insightful!”
As I progressed through the book, I began to realize God was using this book for more than just increasing my knowledge and understanding. Here’s the end of a note I wrote to the authors as I progressed through Kathleen’s section:
“Most importantly, the book is touching me spiritually and making me say, ‘Lord, I think there are still things about You that I’m missing. I want more of You.’”
As I continued to ask for more, He continued to lead me and put desires in my heart. I realized that a gift which would allow me to interpret my own tongue is right there in Scripture, but I had always glossed over it for some reason. Now I was understanding that this was a real, active, and available gift, and that I could ask for it.
One morning, around the time I was getting close to the end of Kathleen’s section, I got up and the first thing I did that morning after reading John Chapter 17 was pray: “Lord, I want the gift of interpretation. I yield my tongue to you, and I ask you to give me the interpretation of what I prayed.”
He gave it to me! Here is how it reads:
“Bring people together by the power of Your Holy Spirit and transform their minds and hearts. Stay close to us as we stay close to You. Bless our endeavors to bring You glory and transform the world. Give us more of Your joy as we fulfill the calling You have for us to spread the Gospel and transform the world.”
When I read it back that first day, I was thinking about my wife, myself, Matthew, and Kathleen. I was thinking that the prayer was really about this book, and the broader calling God has for all of us. But as I look at it now, I wonder if that prayer was for the entire Body of Christ. I wondered even that day if the prayer had been influenced by John 17, and specifically the way Jesus prays in that chapter. He prays to the Father for unity in the Body of Christ so that the “world may believe that you have sent me.”
Shortly after receiving that first interpretation, I came to a section in the book where Matthew describes the various experiences of receiving an interpretation, and my experience matched closely with his descriptions. I felt a strong sense of confirmation, and I was excited that I’d received a new spiritual gift! But it didn’t stop there.
The next morning, I prayed again in tongues and asked for the interpretation. What I received this time was life-changing:
“You don’t know how much I long for you.
Because of my faith, I’m never alone. I always want to be closer to You, but I don’t always know that myself. I always want to be with You in so many ways, but I get distracted and busy. I love You.”
For the next 10-15 minutes after reading the interpretation, I just sat and cried. I wouldn’t call them tears of joy or of sadness; I could only think to call them tears of intimacy.
None of the ideas or themes represented in the prayer were on my conscious mind at all before I prayed. My thoughts were mostly centered on my relationships and interactions with other people, since I had just read Philippians 2 before praying.
I try to be personal and intimate with God in my “normal” prayer time (praying with my understanding), but at the time when this happened, I had mostly been approaching prayer like a business meeting: “Okay, God, here is what I can do for You today, and I need You to do these things for me…”
The difference between the way my spirit man prays versus the way I normally pray with my conscious mind was amazing! It was so much more intimate and childlike. One thing I can say for sure is that God’s Spirit touched me deeply as I read the interpretation.
However, there was something about this second interpretation that really confused me. I didn’t understand the first line because God knows everything. How could I tell God that there was something He didn’t know? For a long time, I thought I had made an interpretation ‘error’ with the first word—that it should have been ‘I’ instead of ‘you.’ More than two months later, I concluded that the first line must have been God telling me that I didn’t realize how much He longs to have more time and intimacy with me, and the rest of the message was my spirit man’s response to Him.
After coming to that realization, I pondered that statement for a while—that God longs for me. I’ve always heard preachers say things like, “God doesn’t need anything” so it perplexed me a little, because we would normally think of this kind of statement as the expression of an emotional need. After pondering it for a week or two, I somehow came across this Scripture in a “random” morning reading:
“‘Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him,’ declares the LORD.” – Jeremiah 31:20 (NIV)
Getting back to the morning of that second interpretation, I thought I was done after praying the prayer I shared earlier. But then I felt the Holy Spirit gently nudging me and saying, “We don’t have to be done. Keep going.” What followed was a full handwritten page of interpretation, which came a sentence or two at a time. It was very intimate and personal to me, and it did have some personal revelation in it (I share portions of it in my story at the end of this book).
There is now a new spiritual gift in my life that I am using daily. This gift increases my intimacy with the Lord. The benefits didn’t stop there, as more learning and growth was in store for me as I progressed through the book. I continued to gain more understanding and knowledge as God continued to work in my life. Matthew and Kathleen have written a book that God can use to open up some of the “mystery” surrounding tongues, and in so doing, to deeply touch other people’s lives and strengthen their relationship with God. I have no doubt about that, because I have experienced it.
There is plenty more to share, but that will have to wait for a later section. I don’t want to unduly influence anyone else’s experience by sharing all of the details about my own experience here in the Foreword. Instead, I just wanted to share enough to whet your appetite and help you get a sense of the wonderful adventure that lies ahead for those who are hungry and thirsty for more of God’s Spirit in their lives.
We now invite you to read and have your own experience with the Lord—one that He has undoubtedly tailor-made just for you. Be encouraged that God shares your desire for more closeness and intimacy, and remember, His heart yearns for you.
If you’re not ready to purchase the book just yet, here are a couple more chapters for you to check out.
What Is Language?
Chapter by Kathleen Schwab
What is language, and how does it overlap with communication? How many words and how much grammatical structure do you need for communication? How much for self-expression? I think the following story sheds some light on these questions.
I went to visit a friend some years ago and brought my toddler daughter along. While my friend and I sat in her living room catching up, my daughter slowly wandered through the room, studying the many family photos on tabletops and shelves. First she walked around and looked, and then she began to delicately touch one fingertip to the glass of each picture, pointing to the face of a child. She went from table to windowsill to knickknack shelves, locating children (she ignored the adults in the pictures) and intoning softly, “Baby, bay – bee.” She was absorbed in finding all the baby pictures in the room, and her voice took on a dreamy quality.
My friend and I both paused to watch this, and my friend said, “That’s all the love you’ve given her… that’s what you can hear in her voice.” I think she was right: my daughter was summing up her own life experience in those two syllables. In the word “bay-bee,” she was investing all of the feelings and events of her year and a half of life with Mommy, Daddy, and her big brother.
It was communication, but with no grammar, and only one word. How much can you communicate with one word? In my daughter’s case, I think she communicated a lot. Of course, the meaning was rich for me because of my intimacy with her; at that point in her life we had hardly been apart at all. A stranger coming in with no context might have thought she was simply recognizing the difference between children’s and adults’ faces.
I think speaking in tongues can be like that. Many people who speak in tongues regularly are aware that it can be quite repetitive. Tongue speakers often have their own sounds and words that they will repeat over and over, sometimes for years.
Tongues has the effect of easing one into an alpha state—a state in which one is more open to God’s influence—and that alone is one valuable aspect of it. But I think the meaning of a simple set of sounds spoken in tongues may be as rich as my daughter’s “bay-bee.” God hears us, and I believe we communicate much more to Him than the sounds themselves imply. No researcher, however, would be able to figure this out.
Speaking in Tongues: Enjoying Intimacy With God Through Tongues and Interpretation has 256 ratings on Amazon with 4.6 out of 5 stars!
The book is also available on Google Play for 99 cents (click here to get it on Google Play)
If you’re still not ready to purchase, here’s one more chapter for your enjoyment! Thank you so much for reading!
Interpretation, Not Translation
Chapter by Matthew Schwab
While I found very little teaching available on the topic of interpretation, perhaps the best teaching I did find came from Pastor Chuck Smith, the late minister who founded the Calvary Chapel movement. In his teaching, Pastor Smith underscored the difference between the word Scripture uses (interpretation) and what many of our minds hear instead (translation). While all translations are interpretations of another language, not all interpretations could be properly called translations. Let me give you three different interpretations of the same hypothetical utterance—all of which would be quite legitimate.
- As I listened to Jane’s utterance, I felt her heart overflowing with praise to Jesus for what He is doing in our midst. I sensed how we all are experiencing the blessing of His sovereignty in the midst of these challenges we have been discussing as a church community.
- Lord Jesus, we praise You for being present here with us as we face these many challenges together in our church community. Your presence is a blessing. Thank You for Your sovereignty in this situation.
- Lord Jesus—and in that name for Jesus, I felt how Jesus manifests His sovereignty in Jane’s life and in our shared life as a church community. We praise You for being present—and in that word present I felt a deep sense of blessing in the Lord’s presence among us, how He knows each of us intimately, and how He knows us as a church community, and will never leave us nor forsake us. We praise You for being present here with us as we face these many challenges together in our church community. Thank You, sovereign Lord Jesus—again Jane uttered that same name for Jesus that emphasized His sovereign Lordship and thanked Him for His sovereignty in our situation.
Each of the three interpretations above could be appropriate, depending upon the context in which the tongue and interpretation were given. Yet the three are clearly different. The first was a very general interpretation, the second was a translation, and the third was a more specific interpretation in which certain words were interpreted more deeply than a person would provide if merely translating.
The important thing to take away from this example is that when interpreting, you do not need to receive a word-for-word translation to meet the scriptural mandate to interpret. The interpretation can be very general. Likewise, you can provide more detail than what would otherwise be provided in a mere translation, as the third example above demonstrated.
Answers to Common Questions About Speaking in Tongues
Speaking in Tongues: Enjoying Intimacy With God Through Tongues and Interpretation explores many common questions about these spiritual gifts. While much more detailed answers are given in the book, here are some short answers for a few common questions on speaking in tongues:
How do I receive the gift of speaking in tongues?
If you would like to receive the gift of speaking in tongues right now, just yield yourself to the Lord and ask Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit. Then simply open your mouth and start trying to pray in tongues. His rivers of living water will flow through you! The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 1:7 that “you do not lack any spiritual gift.” Believe it and receive today! If you can, it’s also good to have others pray over you to receive spiritual gifts. Here is a video where I pray for viewers to receive the gift of speaking in tongues:
In that video, I also clear up some of the misconceptions people have which block them from receiving the gift. Finally, for anyone wanting to receive the gift, there is a chapter in our book called “The Baptism of the Holy Spirit.” It should be quite helpful to you, and it is available for free in the download below.
How do I get started interpreting tongues?
Just seek the Lord for this gift. He imparted the gift to Chris McKinney while Chris read through an early manuscript of the Speaking in Tongues book. All Chris did was ask for the gift, which is actually all Scripture tells us to do. “Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret.” (1 Corinthians 14:13 ESV) If you would like to receive the gift of interpretation, here is a video where I pray for impartation of the gift:
There is a lot more detailed information and testimonies about the gift of interpretation at the bottom of this page.
What is Speaking in Tongues?
Speaking in tongues, also known as glossolalia, is a spiritual gift in which the gifted person speaks words in a language unknown to them, as they are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Some Christians believe they speak in heavenly languages, or languages of angels. Others believe God gives them a personal prayer language that the Holy Spirit uses to enable them to pray. Still other Christians believe they are speaking in certain earthly languages that they do not know.
However, some believe that God only enables certain people to hear a tongue speaker in their own earthly language, no matter what language the tongue speaker is using. The latter seems to be a closer technical match to the testimony of the visitors from around the world on the day of Pentecost:
“And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” – Acts 2:8 (ESV)
The practice of speaking in tongues can increase one’s intimacy with God. It can also reveal things that would otherwise be unknown to tongue speakers and interpreters. This spiritual gift also allows the Holy Spirit to pray through a person in ways—and for people or situations—they would not know how to pray for on their own.
“For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.” – 1 Corinthians 14:2 (ESV)
The Gift of Interpretation of Tongues
Did you know you can interpret your own tongue? Many Christians speak in tongues, but struggle to understand the purposes and benefits of speaking in tongues. The gift of interpretation of tongues can help tremendously in that regard. We believe God is eager and excited to pour out the gift of interpretation on the body of Christ right now, and we are seeing Him move powerfully through this gift!
God is using the gift of interpretation to show His people how their spirit longs for deep intimacy and closeness with Him. He is also using the gift of interpretation to deliver words of knowledge and other prophetic messages to His people. He is working through those divine messages to deliver people, draw people closer to Himself, give them direction and guidance, and to bless people in all kinds of ways.
As a result of God working through the gift of interpretation, we have seen people get confirmed in their calling and step out in faith to plant a church. We have seen people get divine direction for their daily lives, ministries, and businesses. People are being profoundly impacted and encouraged by words of knowledge. One person was even set free of a spiritual stronghold that bound them for 24 years! All as a result of God working through the gift of interpretation of tongues!
Scripture tells us that the gift of prophecy is greater than the gift of tongues unless the gift of interpretation is added into the mix.
“I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.” (1 Corinthians 14:5 NIV)
Right now, God is moving in mighty ways through these gifts. Here is a video where I demonstrate interpretation of tongues: