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Bringing Our Requests to God: An Interview with Sam Storms

Pneuma Review: In your book you say that when the gifts of tongues and interpretation are used in a church service that the interpretation that comes forth should be a word to God not a word from God. You base this on the words Paul uses to describe tongues, he refers to them as prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. Why do you think that some churches still practice tongues and interpretation as a message from God?

God is so good that he blesses us even when we don’t get everything precisely right.

Sam Storms: I’m not entirely sure, but I suspect that it has become so entrenched in their regular Sunday practice that they simply cannot envision discarding the exercise. Also, God is so good that he blesses us even when we don’t get everything precisely right. Thus, many have been blessed in this practice because God is good, he loves us, and he does for us countless good things even when we misunderstand his Word and go awry. Having said that, I also point out in the book that I may be restricting the use of tongues illegitimately. Perhaps an utterance in tongues can be horizontal in its focus, a message delivered to people, in spite of Paul saying that tongues is prayer, praise and thanksgiving. After all, nowhere does he explicitly deny that tongues could ever be a message to men. Perhaps something comparable would be the Psalms. There we read of David’s prayers and praise and gratitude to God, yet his “vertical” declaration to God is of tremendous benefit to us as we read and meditate on his words (in other words, the psalms function as a “message” to us even though they are predominantly God-ward in their orientation).
Pneuma Review: Many who have attended Pentecostal or Charismatic churches have heard various members of the congregation sing in tongues all at the same time. The Bible does not directly address this situation. In your opinion is this an acceptable practice?

Tongues with interpretation is just as important and as effective in building up the body as is prophecy.

Sam Storms: It can be, if the purpose of the service or corporate gathering is prayer and praise and not proclamation. In other words, Paul’s demand for interpretation in 1 Cor. 14 assumes that the gathering is designed to “build up” or edify others. Unintelligible tongues speech or singing does not profit others. But if the purpose of the gathering is not to communicate the gospel to unbelievers and not for the instruction of believers, I think it could be permissible.


Pneuma Review: What advice would you give to a pastor who is trying to lead their church into a fuller expression of the gifts of the Spirit, including tongues, in their church services?

Sam Storms: Become extremely familiar with Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 14. Don’t ever think that by following Paul’s guidelines that you are quenching the Spirit. Don’t force any spiritual gift on anyone. In fact, encourage the practice of the gifts in small groups rather than in the corporate assembly, as there is more time, more freedom, and less self-consciousness in small groups (i.e., people are less fearful of what others may think and thus more courageous to step out in faith and take risks).


Pneuma Review: As you have demonstrated in a number of places in your book there is really no scriptural support for the viewpoint known as cessationism. Why do you think some Christians still adhere to this viewpoint?

Has the fear of losing control kept you from inviting the Holy Spirit to fill you with His power?

Sam Storms: For one thing, it’s the way they were raised. They respect their parents, their pastors, their denominational affiliation, and to embrace the gifts would feel like a betrayal, or an expression of a lack of trust in the giftedness and integrity of those from whom they have learned much of their Christianity. It’s difficult for anyone to reject the teaching and influence of someone you love and respect and who has exerted a massive positive impact on your life.

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Category: Fall 2019, Spirit

About the Author: Samuel Storms is Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He is also the founder and president of Enjoying God Ministries ( and serves on the Council of the Gospel Coalition. Dr. Storms earned his B. A. in History from the University of Oklahoma in 1973, a Th.M. in Historical Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary in 1977, and a Ph.D. in Intellectual History from the University of Texas at Dallas in 1984. Before coming to Bridgeway Church, Sam served as visiting associate professor of theology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, and is a past president of the Evangelical Theological Society. Sam is the author or editor of 27 books, among which are Practicing the Power: Welcoming the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Your Life (Zondervan), Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative (Christian Focus), The Singing God: Feel the Passion God Has for You ... Just the Way You Are (Passio), and The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts (Bethany House). Sam is also the General Editor of the ESV Men’s Devotional Bible (Crossway). For more about Sam, including the full list of published writings, see

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