Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he instructed the apostles to wait on the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit arrived, the first gift given was the ability to speak in tongues (Acts 2:4). Which means that they were able to speak in a language that was foreign to them. This was also a sign to the unbelievers there of what the Holy Spirit was capable of (Acts 2:12, 1 Cor 14:22).
Praying in tongues is slightly different from speaking in tongues. However, praying is still a form of speaking. Most of the time when we speak, we are trying to communicate something to another individual. But when we pray, we are communicating with God. Below are 2 benefits that Paul gives for praying in tongues.
1) You’re speaking directly to God
In 1 Corinthians 14:2 Paul states that “For if you have the ability to speak in tongues, you will be talking only to God”. This means that demons or Satan can’t understand you. You’re getting personal with God, therefore growing your relationship with him. We can be confident in what we say, even if we don’t understand, because as Paul continues to say in the same verse “You will be speaking by the power of the Spirit…”. If the Holy Spirit is the one given you the utterance, then you know you are saying powerful and important things to God.
Then in verses 14-15. Paul encourages us by saying that even if we don’t understand, we should still pray in tongues; and on top of that pray in our understanding. So, when praying, it’s okay to go back and forth between praying with the spirit and praying with your mind or words you understand. This is helpful because when you run out of things to say, you can let the spirit continue for you!
2) You’re strengthening yourself
In 1 Corinthians 14:4 Paul lets us know “A person who speaks in tongues is strengthened personally…”. So, the more you do it, the more you are strengthened. Which would be why Paul boasts in v.18 “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than any of you”. The only way to be able to have such a boast is to be praying in tongues often in your private time. This in turn also helps to build your relationship and understanding of God.
When praying in the spirit, you know that your prayer time can last for as long as you want it to. You won’t have to feel stuck about what to say next because the Holy Spirit has you covered. Also, if at any time you want to know what you are saying, Paul also encourages us to ask for the gift of interpretation in v.13. So anyone who speaks in tongues should pray also for the ability to interpret what has been said
Can everyone pray in tongues?
Everyone may not have the gift of speaking in tongues, that is another human language, but everyone has their own spirit given language that only God can understand. While it’s not always possible to have someone be able to interpret your tongues to edify everyone around you, praying in tongues edifies you. This means that everyone has the ability to pray in tongues. All that is required is faith, willingness, and prayer time. Ask God for the gift, and don’t be afraid to receive it once you get it. It will seem strange at first, but the more you do it, the more you will be strengthened. Remember the Holy Spirit won’t force anything on you, it’s up to you to accept or reject any gift given to you.