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


 We may use tongues to pray for the physical welfare of others. “And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed [eulogeo] them” (Mark 10:16; see also Matthew 19:13). This concept of blessing, which comes to us from the Old Testament, carries with it the idea of handing one over to the protection of God. How comforting it is to know that we can submit our loved ones to God and rest peacefully, knowing that they are in the hands of an all-knowing, all-powerful, and merciful God. Perhaps you have loved ones whom you desperately need to turn over to a stronger and wiser power. You could take time now to entreat God in their behalf, to release them to God, to truly bless them. You may do this with your prayer language and your native tongue.


We may use tongues to praise God.

We may use tongues to praise God. “Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks [eucharisteo] to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship  him who lives for ever and ever” (Revelation 4:9-10). This is John’s description of the “living creatures” who surround the throne of God, “Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come’” (Revelation 4:8).

Offering praise to God—expressing adoration and veneration—is one of the primary functions of the prayer language, for worship often becomes ineffable, and joy becomes unspeakable. At these times, if we do not allow the cerebral or cognitive man to give way to the spiritual man, we will forever worship God with the severe limitations of the intellect. If you have had intense times with God where the best you could do in the way of expressing your heart’s feelings to God was to weep or to sigh, you were but a short step away from the biblically sanctioned use of the special prayer language. Groans and moans might be considered pre-Pentecost expressions of worship that, since Pentecost, find their counterpart in the God-ordained manifestation of tongues.

Having said the above, I should caution you about waiting until you feel emotionally stirred before using your prayer language. An emotionally charged context, human-centered as it is, could even defeat the purpose of the glossolalic experience, which is primarily to reach out voluntarily and consciously to God. If I were seriously ill, for example, I would want someone to pray for me with heightened sensibility and awareness—in English and in the Spirit. Whether he feels particularly spiritual or holy or ecstatic would not be relevant—unless his ecstasy diminished his awareness of my need! Of course, God may bless us with moments of ecstatic joy during worship, but when we petition God in behalf of another, we should be sober and alert—until God turns our mourning into joy!

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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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