Build Yourself Up

by Robert Morris

“For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.”

1 Corinthians 14:2

The God I Never Knew

By now you know that I had a little trouble fully accepting the Holy Spirit at first, and a big part of it had to do with speaking in tongues. I was terrified of it! So when Debbie and I were baptized in the Holy Spirit at Shady Grove Church (now our Grand Prairie Campus), I didn’t speak in tongues right away. Debbie, on the other hand, immediately began speaking a few syllables.

A few months later, we were getting ready for church one morning and Debbie had a silly grin on her face. “What are you grinning about?” I asked her. Afraid of embarrassing me, she reluctantly said, “I heard you speaking in tongues last night.” As it turns out, I was so hard headed that my spirit had to wait until I was asleep to pray!

This humorous story sheds light on the way many Christians view the grace of tongues. The reason I use the word grace is because the word for gift in the New Testament, “charismata,” is literally translated “grace gift.” In other words, it’s a gift we didn’t earn. Some people call this gift their prayer language or praying in the Spirit. Many of us grew up in a church where the gifts of the Spirit were either abused or not used at all, and so we may have had bad experiences with some gifts, especially this one. However, I want you to know that when used according to Scripture, the private grace of speaking in tongues is a wonderful thing that brings many benefits to our lives.

First, I want you to know this is different from the gift of tongues, which is a message from God that must be accompanied by the gift of interpretation. One of the biggest differences is that while the Holy Spirit administers the gift of tongues and interpretation of tongues as He chooses, we are all graced with a prayer language when we are baptized in the Holy Spirit (even if we don’t realize it). And while some don’t realize they have it and others choose not to use it, those who do are activating some amazing benefits.

In 1 Corinthians 14:4, Paul says, “He who speaks in tongues edifies himself.” And Jude 20 says we can build ourselves up by “praying in the Holy Spirit.” When we use our prayer language, we are actually building ourselves up. No wonder Paul was so passionate about his prayer language. In 1 Corinthians 14:18 he says, “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all.”

If you’ve never had a prayer language but you feel the Holy Spirit stirring you, I’d like to encourage you to get alone with God, spend some time in worship and the Word, and just start praying in a language you don’t know. You might start with just a few syllables. Just as you trust God for other things in your life, trust Him today that your spirit is praying and let Him build you up.

Prayer

Holy Spirit, thank You for offering the gift of a prayer language to all of us. Thank You that You’ve given our spirits a way to connect with You when we may not know how to pray. Show me how to use this gift for my edification and for Your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

For Further Study

  • Romans 8:26–27; 1 Corinthians 12:29–31; Ephesians 4:16
Romans 8:26–27; 1 Corinthians 12:29–31; Ephesians 4:16
Robert Morris
1 Corinthians 14:2