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


We may use our prayer language to pray that others will receive the baptism the Holy Spirit. “When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed [proseuchomai] for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:14-17). After instruction in the Scriptures, our own faith, experience, and prayers can be great aides to those seeking the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Our prayer in tongues for one seeking Christ’s baptism may serve as a catalyst for his faith. In fact, if you are praying for someone to receive the Holy Spirit, it is important that you pray in English (or your native tongue) and in your prayer language. If you continue to speak in language that he understands, you will probably distract him. (You may also place your hand upon his head or shoulder, preferably from the front so you may speak with him should further counseling be necessary.)


We may use tongues to pray for our own spiritual growth. “Watch and pray [proseuchomai] so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Matthew 26:41). We should pray persistently that we might be spiritually strong to resist the temptations of the flesh, the world, and the devil. And what better way to strengthen ourselves than through an instrument that the Bible says was given specifically for that purpose: “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself…” (1 Cor. 14: 4). Jude tells us that while we are “waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life,” we should be “building [ourselves] up … praying in the Holy Spirit…” (verse 21, verse 20, NASB).

We may use tongues to pray for spiritual growth.

Other uses of the prayer language include petitioning God for guidance (Acts 1: 24) and healing (James 5: 13-15); praising God because of the salvation of souls (2 Cor. 4:15) and because of the generosity of other believers (2 Cor. 9:11-12); giving thanks to God for food provisions (1 Timothy 4:3-5; 1 Cor. 10:30; Matthew 14:18-19); offering thanksgiving as the Christian antithesis to obscenities and coarse joking (Ephesians 5:4); and praying over the communion elements (Matthew 26:26; 1 Cor. 10: 16). No doubt, you can think of other occasions when your personal, private prayer language would be useful and biblical. I have saved for last one of the most important occasions that allow the use of the prayer language. In this case, it might be said that tongues are required:

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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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