The Difference in Praying in Tongues and the Gift of Tongues
There is a clear difference in praying in tongues as a result of being filled with the Spirit, and the gift of tongues with interpretation. And though it’s fairly simple to explain, it is very important for our personal benefit and the benefit for the Church.
One simple, but important tip for Bible study is this- when verses seem unclear, look for how the early church modeled the truth you are studying. The way they did it may help you understand how to apply it to your life.
The simple, but important, differences in praying in tongues and the gift of tongues are these:
–Praying in tongues is speaking to God in worship and prayer in a language unknown to the speaker. It needs no interpretation because you are not speaking to people but directly to God for your personal benefit.
-The gift of tongues, along with the gift of interpretation, is meant to benefit the others in the church.
- I) The Original Model in Acts- “Pray and Worship in the Spirit”
-To see the original model read Acts 2:1-11, 10:44-46 and 19:1-7.
In each of these cases, everyone was filled with the Spirit and spoke in tongues. But there was no interpretation. Why not? Because in each case they were praising and worshipping God in the Spirit and not speaking to each other.
—Paul refers to “speaking with tongues of men and angels” in 1 Cor. 13. Some languages might be known though not known to the one speaking. But most are “heavenly languages of angels.”
- II) Corinthians Model-
– 1 Cor 7:1- “Now for the matters you wrote about…” Paul is answering questions they sent him.
-Remember, the early church met in homes. Not all instructions given for a house church can be applied directly to meetings with hundreds or thousands of people.
Read 1 Cor 14:2-4- “For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit…4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself…”
Paul described praying in the Spirit as- “does not speak to men but to God…his spirit speaks mysteries…edifies himself”
Praying in or with the Spirit- Personal Prayer Language- For our personal benefit.
Rom 8:26-27- “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”
The Holy Spirit, who lives within us, prays in us, through us, for us. Spirit to spirit!
This truth is simple, but so very, very important. The Spirit in us… prays in us, through us, for us.
- II) The Gift of Tongues- for the benefit of the church.
Read 1 Cor 14:12-19- Paul made a clear distinction between praying in the Spirit for my own edification and the gift of tongues, along with the interpretation, to edify everyone else in the meeting. He taught them to pray in the Spirit frequently for their own benefit, when alone or while everyone is worshipping.
But when it’s time to teach others, don’t get carried away and speak in tongues, but speak to them so they can understand.
Read 1 Cor 12:27-31
“29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But eagerly desire the greater gifts.”
The obvious answer to each of these questions is “No.” But, as we have seen in all the other places, Paul writes that we all should pray in tongues, often. The difference is that one activity is praying in the Spirit for personal edification. The other is the gift of tongues, along with the gift of interpretation, which is for the benefit of the other members of the church. As with the other gifts in 1 Cor. 12, only some people function in this gift as the Spirit enables them for the benefit of all.
-The “baptisms of the Spirit” are clearly separate experiences from the new birth though it sometimes happened at the time of conversion. However, the normal Christian life should include many “fillings, outpourings, drinking of the Spirit, baptisms,” etc. Eph. 5:18– “…keep on being filled with the Spirit.”
-As a believer, the Spirit of Christ lives in you. The ability and benefit of letting the Holy Spirit pray in you, through you and for you, is already within you. Simply relax and allow the Spirit to fill you and flow through you. No pressure, no stress. Just enjoy the gift He wants you to have.
-Though it certainly appears every early church believer enjoyed the benefit of praying in tongues, this should be seen as a benefit, not a law or measurement for others to judge someone’s spirituality.