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Praying in the Spirit: Some Marvelous Effects of Praying in the Spirit

When I came back down to earth it was obvious to me that my experience would be difficult to explain. But inquiries came and I answered them as best I could. Two questions commonly asked about the experience were (1) Why bother to speak in tongues? and (2) What is the value of speaking in tongues? The latter question is legitimate and has many answers, which we will get to in a moment, but the first question is usually rhetorical and the person asking it isn’t really interested in hearing an answer. If he were, two scriptural reasons could be pointed out to him.

“It is true that a person who becomes a Christian after childhood seldom forgets the day of his salvation; I believe it is equally true that he seldom forgets the day that he first expresses himself to God in a language of the heart.”

First, Jesus said that speaking in other tongues would follow those who follow Him, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: they will speak in new tongues” (Mark 16:17). Critics are quick to point out that this verse is in the longer ending of Mark, which is not in the oldest and best Greek manuscripts. This is true, but actually its absence from early manuscripts and presence in later ones argues for its practice in later church life. Also, the “earliest and best” Bible manuscripts spoken of are from the fourth century, yet church fathers Irenaeus (A.D. 130-202), Tatian (c. A.D. 170), and perhaps Justin Martyr (died c. A.D. 165) make reference to the longer ending of Mark. Even the copyist of one of the “oldest and best” manuscripts (Vaticanus) left space for the longer ending but, evidently, was missing the end page of the source he copied (Horton, Paraclete, p.8).

The second reason we could point out for speaking in tongues is that “in the church God has appointed . . . speaking in different kinds of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:28). Clearly, if God has instituted something for the Church, we should accept it. Some do not today; some did not in Paul’s day. God answered these doubters through Paul, “Do not forbid speaking in tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:39) and “I would like everyone of you to speak in tongues. . . . I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you” (1 Corinthians 14:5, 18). Hardly the words of a man who considered speaking in tongues meaningless, useless, or soon‑ending.

Answers to the second question commonly asked about this experience, that is, the value of tongues, are outlined in Scripture and confirmed in the twentieth‑century charismatic experience. Here are three responses.

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Category: Spirit, Spring 1999

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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