The Enigma of Tongues

Seven Hurdles to Understanding Speaking-in-Tongues

Taking Speaking-in-Tongues to the Next Level – Part 6

In this installment, we are focusing on the problems we encounter when applying normal thinking to the uncommon act of speaking-in-tongues. As we go through the bullet points below, know that they are not in any order of importance, but what has been observed.

Problems Encountered

1 – Treating tongues as something other than spiritual.
Keep in mind as we have learned in previous lessons that speaking-in-tongues is a spiritual gift. Therefore, it should not be treated as commonplace. Being that speaking-in-tongues is a spiritual act, that means it is a Godly act and bound by the attributes of God, like love, mercy, grace, etc. It is not an act to be encountered out of selfish motives.

2 – Speaking-in-tongues as if it is praying-in-the-spirit.
We often use this phrase pray-in-the-spirit to mean praying-in-tongues. Praying in The Spirit is more than praying-in-tongues. It is not synonymous with praying-in-tongues. Let’s look at what the Bible has to say. It says “pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request.” [1‬‬] It is easy to believe this means to pray-in-tongues.

However, there are problems with that line of thinking:

  • The Bible knows how to say pray-in-tongues versus pray in The Spirit.
    So does the writer of the book of the Bible which speaks on the topic. Why would God through the Apostle Paul use this language as a substitution for speaking-in-tongues?
  • The Bible makes distinctions in two phrases it uses surrounding tongues: pray-in-tongues and speak-in-tongues.
    This gives us a clearer picture for which tongues can be used. In this case in two ways, to pray and to speak. Speaking-in-tongues and praying-in-tongues are two actions.
  • Praying in the Spirit isn’t limited to tongues, but more importantly brings God’s word into the act.
    Here’s another clarification when it comes to praying-in-The-Spirit. It’s that famous line that references “the sword of the Spirit” which is the word of God. [1] That thought alone tells me that being in the Spirit is like breathing God’s word, which is Jesus. [2] In other words, allow your prayers to be an utterance of God’s word.

3 – Speaking-in-tongues as if it is prayer.
Is speaking in tongues prayer? Speaking-in-tongues was not done in prayer. [3] I have yet to find any references where speaking-in-tongues was a result of prayer. That’s not to say that one can not pray-in-tongues. However, we make the mistake of thinking that tongues only occur in prayer and that’s not the case. By the way, that would be like saying that God’s spirit only shows up when we pray which is not the case either.

4 – Jesus did not speak-in-tongues.
I must ask this question. Did Jesus speak-in-tongues? There is no Bible reference to support this. However, Jesus does have something to say on the topic. These are His words, “…these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues.” [4] Notice what it does not say. It does not say they will pray with new tongues or in tongues. He said they will speak.

5 – People are not following the rules laid out regarding tongues.
I’ve often wondered why the Apostle Paul gave rules about speaking-in-tongues to the churches he led. Until I took a closer look at what he said. “Everything that is done must strengthen all of you.” [5] Could it be that we are guilty of doing things that weaken the church? Could it be that left to our own, we will distort the acts of The Church? If the Bible gives us rules to how we act, then what makes us think that we can act outside of those rules? [To the left] That sounds like the definition of sin: going in the opposite direction of what God says.

6 – Speaking-in-tongues but not in unknown languages.
What I find more interesting about speaking-in-tongues is this. I have been in a lot of church environments and amongst a number of believers and unbelievers, but I have never heard anyone speak-in-a-known-language as seen in the Bible. Allow me to explain what I mean.

The disciples gathered with other believers and spoke-in-tongues, but not unknown tongues. [6] John Lindell calls this “miraculous speech in different languages.” [7] The disciples received the ability of multilingualism. They spoke in known languages that they had never learned. Those languages included, but were not limited to, the nations of Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya around Cyrene, Rome, Cretans, and Arabs. [8] That represents a possibility of 15 known languages that they spoke. When was the last time you heard someone speak in just one foreign language that was identified by one who speaks that language?

7 – Using tongues as a performance.
Most may not like what I have to say next, but I’m certain you have thought this to yourself. I am not sure why this next statement rubs people the wrong way. I would not say this if it was not something I have done myself. Here goes. Using speaking-in-tongues in prayer inappropriately can be two things:

1) an easy way to pray

2) a selfish act.

Let me explain.

  1. It is an easy way to pray, because you don’t have to give any thought to what to pray.
    Prayer, my friend, takes work. It is easy, but then again it is not. Therefore if one doesn’t put the work in, that’s what we call lazy.
  2. It is a selfish act because the scripture is clear about what tongues are used for and more importantly it tells us how to use it. The majority of the time we misuse it.

Here’s the bigger issue. Many use tongues as a performance. I’m afraid that we rarely admit it, but we all think so. Jesus, Himself, said that there are people who put on a show when they pray. [9] If Jesus taught that people put on a show when they pray, people will certainly put on a show when it comes to tongues. The point is, be on the lookout for it and more important, don’t be one who puts on a show of it.

Now that we have identified seven problems we run into when it comes to speaking-in-tongues, let them be a reminder. Let them be a reminder of what shouldn’t happen, for one. For two, I want you to be equipped to take this uncommon act to the next level. Therefore, by identifying these seven common problems we encounter when we apply normal thinking, we can avoid perpetuating this normal behavior. Instead, we get it right. We learn about this amazing gift, we use it, and we show others how it is meant to be done. This is how we take prayer to the next level.

Question: What other problems have you encountered when it comes to this uncommon act of speaking-in-tongues?

[1] Ephesians 6:17-18 CSB‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬,, accessed September 6, 2023,
[2] John 1:1-14 NLT‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬,, accessed September 6, 2023,
[3] Acts of the Apostles 19:6 NLT‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬,, accessed September 6, 2023,
[4] Mark‬ ‭16:15-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬,, accessed September 6, 2023,
[5] 1 Corinthians 14:26-28 NLT‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬,, accessed September 6, 2023,
[6] ‭‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭2:1-8‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬,, accessed September 6, 2023,
[7] John Lindell. “A Supernatural Life.” James River Church (YouTube). Accessed September 7, 2021,
[8] Acts of the Apostles 2:8-12 NLT‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬,, accessed September 6, 2023,
[9] Matthew 6:5-6 NLT‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬,, accessed September 6, 2023,

All Scripture references used by permission, see our Scripture copyrights.

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