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Praying in the Spirit: Now That You’ve Spoken in Tongues

To get an idea of what Paul may have had in mind when he related tongues to these different approaches to God, we might take a look at how Paul and other New Testament writers use the terms “praying,” “praising,” and “thanksgiving”:


We may use tongues in our in private prayer life and in corporate worship.

We may use tongues in our in private prayer life and in corporate worship. “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray [proseuchomai] to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matt. 6: 6; see also Mark 1:35; Luke 9: 18; Acts 10: 9). Here Matthew uses the same word for “pray” that Paul uses to describe speaking in tongues. And we have already seen that most, if not all, of Paul’s use of the prayer language was done outside of the church. This is not to say, however, that we should not pray within an assembly of believers. Luke tells us that Peter “went to the house of Mary the mother of John … where many people had gathered and were praying” (proseuchomai; Acts 12: 12; see also Luke 1:10). In one of the most beautiful scenes in the Scriptures, Luke describes his and Paul’s sad farewell to their friends in Tyre: “All the disciples and their wives and children accompanied us out of the city, and there are on the beach we knelt to pray [proseuchomai]. After saying good-by to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home” (Acts 21: 5-6 ). We, too, being many members, may approach God corporately, praying in the Holy Spirit.


We may use tongues to pray for the spiritual welfare of others. “And this is my prayer [proseuchomai]: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” (Phil. 1:9). Here is an excellent way to use your new language—pray for others. Lift up your Christian friends, especially those who have ministered to you and perhaps even brought you into the Kingdom. Paul wrote that he longed for these brothers and sisters “with the affection of Christ Jesus” (verse 8). In verse 3 he said, “I thank [eucharisteo] my God every time I remember you.” To another church he wrote, “How can we thank [eucharisteo] God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?” (1 Thess. 3:9). In your heavenly language, give thanks to God for your friends and lift their spiritual needs to God.


We may use tongues to pray for the ministries of others, especially missionaries. “Devote yourselves to prayer [proseuchomai], being watchful and thankful [eucharisteo]. And pray [proseuchomai] for us, too, that God may open a door for our message…” (Colossians 4:2-3; see also Acts 13: 3; 14: 23; 1 Thess. 5:25;2 Thess. 3: 1). Paul devoted a portion of his prayer time to praying in the spirit. Here he is requesting prayer from other Christians; it is safe to assume that Paul desired his readers to lift him and his companion, Timothy, up to the Lord with their minds and with their spirits. We of the 21st century Church should also lift up our missionaries to God, using the mind and the spirit. In Acts 6, the Church was brought together and seven men were chosen to help the apostles with more practical matters. Before beginning their duties, these men were prayed for (proseuchomai; verse 6). We may do likewise, lifting of our church’s workers to God with our prayer language as well as our native tongue.

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Category: Spirit, Winter 2001

About the Author: Robert W. Graves, M. A. (Literary Studies, Georgia State University), is the co-founder and president of The Foundation for Pentecostal Scholarship, Inc., a non-profit organization supporting Pentecostal scholarship through research grants. He is a Christian educator and a former faculty member of Southwestern Assemblies of God College in Waxahachie, Texas, and Kennesaw State University (adjunct). He edited and contributed to Strangers to Fire: When Tradition Trumps Scripture and is the author of Increasing Your Theological Vocabulary, Praying in the Spirit (1987 and Second Edition, 2017) and The Gospel According to Angels (Chosen Books, 1998).

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