Answers to All of Your Questions About Speaking in Tongues
Speaking in Tongues: Enjoying Intimacy With God Through Tongues and Interpretation provides answers to many common questions about these spiritual gifts. While much more detailed answers are given in the book, here are some short answers to 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 the purpose of speaking in tongues?
The purpose of speaking in tongues is to increase one’s intimacy with the Lord, build up the body of Christ, and help others. At select times and places, it can also be a sign to unbelievers. The sign that most often manifests is that the unbeliever is enabled to hear and understand the tongue speaker in their own language. However, Scripture clearly describes and outlines other types, uses, and purposes of tongues.
What are the benefits of speaking in tongues?
Praying in tongues builds up the tongue speaker in various ways. For example, some people’s faith is increased when they pray in tongues. Other people are strengthened to overcome fleshly weaknesses. Some people report increases in the fruit of the Holy Spirit, such as love, joy, and peace.
If there is an interpreter, others in the body of Christ are edified as well. People also benefit from powerful prayers that would not be possible without the use of their prayer language. At select times and places, according to the will of the Holy Spirit, tongues can also be a sign to unbelievers, enabling them to see the truth of the Gospel.
What does speaking in tongues feel like emotionally?
Some believers report highly emotional experiences, while others report no particular emotions being attached to the experience at all. Some feel a profound sense of peace. Others feel a sense of connection to and deep intimacy with the Holy Spirit. Still others have a strong sense that God has increased their faith. A single believer can report any or all of these different experiences at different times.
Is there a difference between speaking in tongues and praying in tongues? If so, what is the difference?
Some Bible teachers believe there is a difference. As author Matthew Schwab notes, “All prayer is speaking, but not all speaking is prayer.” For example, some speaking could be thought of as “praise and worship” as opposed to strictly prayer.
Some Bible teachers believe that all Christians should be able to pray in tongues through a personal prayer language. But they also believe there is a greater gift distributed by the Holy Spirit only to certain individuals. The gifted person can speak messages in a tongue publicly. The message can then be interpreted by someone with the gift of interpretation. Alternatively, the gifted person’s tongue could be heard by an unbeliever in their own language (for a sign). The Bible does mention a gift of “different kinds of tongues” so this reasoning is biblically sound.
All of that said, it’s important not to get too hung up on trying to label or categorize spiritual gifts. We should seek to understand the gifts, but we should avoid adding any requirements or restrictions that are not found in Scripture.
The Bible doesn’t really draw hard lines around definitions or even explanations of how the spiritual gifts will work. For example, Paul clearly describes a private, devotional use of tongues as well as a public use. But he uses the same phrase (speaking in tongues) for both.
In Scripture, the Holy Spirit seems to leave Himself plenty of leeway for how the spiritual gifts will manifest and operate among various believers, or at various times. The Holy Spirit does not box Himself in, and therefore, neither should we.
Why don’t tongues sound like a real language to me?
Several different possibilities for this are explored in the book. It could have to do with similarities (or the lack thereof) between one’s native tongue and the tongue being spoken.
If you are a native English speaker, find a YouTube video of someone speaking Swahili or Tagalog. Close your eyes and listen to them, and see if what they are speaking sounds like “real words.” It probably won’t. In fact, it may even remind you of tongue speaking that you’ve heard. The same is true for many other languages that are vastly different from your native language. Many of them will sound like total gibberish and nonsense to you, but others won’t.
The answer to this question could also have to do with the level at which an individual (or even the Body of Christ as a whole) is developed in their use of the gift.
Why do some people’s tongues sound so repetitive?
The Speaking in Tongues book explores this topic in detail. However, the short (and obvious) answer is that the tongue is repetitive because the speaker is saying the same thing over and over. Think about how many times we use the same words repetitively when praying in our native tongue: “Heavenly Father, Dear God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, thank you, please, help, bless, provide, lead, give us, etc.”
Can today’s believers speak or pray in an earthly language that is unknown to them?
Believers in modern times share testimonies of praying or speaking in a tongue, only to have someone nearby come up and ask them how or where they learned Hebrew, Mandarin, Farsi, etc. This is what the Bible refers to when it says that tongues are a sign for unbelievers. The unbeliever is experiencing something miraculous which confirms the divine nature of the message, enabling them to see the truth of the Gospel.
Ministry leaders like John Bevere, Sid Roth, and Chris Hodges, as well as modern missionaries, have shared well-documented testimonies of this taking place in current times. However, those same people note that this is not the only use of tongues the Holy Spirit gives to them. This testimony, of course, agrees with Scripture which describes speaking in tongues of angels, praying in a devotional prayer language, speaking in tongues as a miraculous sign, and speaking in tongues for someone else to interpret using the gift of interpretation.
Tongues in the Bible: Earthly or Heavenly?
It’s possible that the Holy Spirit only allows people to hear in their own language. It’s possible that tongue speakers are actually speaking in an earthly language they’ve never learned. And it’s also possible that the Holy Spirit does both of those things at different times. Here’s a video where I outline biblical tongues, and discuss whether they are earthly or heavenly languages:
Again, this is an area where we have a tendency to want to box Him in and decide that we know exactly how He does it, or to declare that He must always do it a certain way. But in Scripture, He leaves the descriptions of these manifestations open to interpretation. And He never states that He will or won’t always do it a certain way.
He’s a very creative God. We need to get past our hangups. As humans, we feel a natural pull toward labeling and categorizing information. But God doesn’t always fit into our categories.
What does scientific research say about speaking in tongues?
Scientific research confirms that the practice of speaking in tongues produces activity in the brain which is unlike any other known spiritual practice. Andrew Newberg, MD, has done some interesting research on speaking and praying in tongues. Newberg basically found that the normal language centers in the brain are not responsible for generating the languages spoken by the tongue speakers. His research, as well as that of some others, is analyzed and discussed in the book.
For anyone interested, here is a video which contains more detailed answers to these questions about speaking in tongues:
Please click the link above to view a PDF excerpt from Called Writers Christian Publishing’s newest book, Speaking in Tongues: Enjoying Intimacy With God Through Tongues and Interpretation (or click here to get the full Speaking in Tongues book on Amazon. The eBook is only $2.99 right now and it comes with a free subscription to a new Christian magazine!). The book was written by a husband and wife team, Matthew and Kathleen Schwab. When Chris McKinney was asked to review the manuscript, God used it to work so powerfully in his life that he became a co-author.
Readers are welcome to download and freely share this book excerpt with others. It contains the Foreword as well as three chapters (one by each co-author). The free excerpt includes a very helpful but often overlooked insight about the gift of interpretation.
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: