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Larry Christenson, How to Speak in Tongues

What did God have in mind for you when he gave the gift of tongues to the church? What can you do to prepare yourself to receive this blessing? An excerpt from Larry Christenson’s classic work, Answering Your Questions About Speaking in Tongues.


What happens afterward in the lives of the people who pray for and receive the gift of tongues with some help or encouragement? If the gift becomes knit into their prayer life in a wholesome way, and brings forth the fruit of edification, then we cannot score too seriously the particular way in which they prayed for and received the gift.

Most people, however, can come into this blessing in a simple and natural way, without too much attention to “mechanics.” A few simple steps are often a helpful preparation:

  1. Search the Scriptures. Be convinced in your own mind and heart that this gift is from God, is intended for the Church today, and is available to you. Consider these clear truths of Scripture:
    1. God tells us to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:1).
    2. God delights to give good gifts to His children (Matt. 7:11).
    3. The baptism with the Holy Spirit, with the manifestation of speaking in tongues, was for all believers (Acts 2:4; 10:44–46; 19:6).
    4. This is a gift that every believer can use with benefit. If a member of the church is sick, it is not necessary that every member have the gift of healing; one member with the gift would be sufficient. Every member, however, needs to maintain a private devotional life, and therefore every member can benefit from this wonderful gift. The main blessing of the gift of tongues is in one’s private devotions. The Lord, speaking by the apostle Paul, says, “I want you all to speak in tongues” (1 Cor. 14:5, emphasis added).
  2. Ask yourself, “Why do I want this blessing?” It is a part of what you may receive through receiving the baptism with the Holy Spirit, and Christ tells us what that is for in Acts 1:8: “You shall be my witnesses.” If you yearn to be a better witness for Christ, for Him to have a deeper grip on your life, this blessing is for you.
  3. Put it to the Lord in prayer. Tell Him the desire of your heart and ask Him to guide you. You may feel led to wait a time, or you may feel ready at once to seek the blessing.

Often it is a help to seek out someone who already has experienced the blessing, and have that one pray with you (see Acts 8:15). Many people, however, have received it all by themselves in their own prayer closets.

  1. In order to speak in tongues, you must quit speaking in any other language that you know, for you cannot speak two languages at once. After you have come to the Lord with prayers and petitions in your native tongue, lapse into silence and resolve to speak not a syllable of any language you have learned. Focus your thoughts on Christ. Then simply lift up your voice and speak out confidently, in the faith that the Lord will take the sound that you give Him and shape it into a language. Take no particular thought to what you are saying, for your mind is “unfruitful” during the exercise of this gift. As far as you are concerned, it will be just a series of sounds. The first syllables and words may sound strange to your ear. They may be halting and inarticulate. You may have the thought that you are just making it up. But as you continue to speak in faith, “boldly, confidently, and with enthusiasm” (literal rendering of Acts 2:4), and as the lips and tongue begin to move more freely, the Spirit will shape for you a language of prayer and praise that will be beautiful to the ears of the Lord!

The initial hurdle to speaking in tongues, it seems, is simply the realization that you must “speak forth.” (Many people wait and wait for something to “happen,” not realizing that the Holy Spirit is waiting for them to speak out in faith!) Once this initial hurdle is cleared, however, you will find your spirit wonderfully released to worship the Lord as your tongue speaks this new language of worship.

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This excerpt is from Larry Christenson, Answering Your Questions About Speaking in Tongues (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, ©1968, 2005), pages 129-132. Used by permission.

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Category: Spirit, Spring 2018

About the Author: Larry Christenson, ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church, is the former director of the International Lutheran Renewal Center in Minneapolis. He was a popular conference speaker and wrote more than fifteen books in his lifetime, including The Christian Family, Answering Your Questions About Speaking in Tongues, The Renewed Mind: Becoming the Person God Wants You to Be, and The Mantle of Esther: Discovering the Power of Intercession. He went home to be with the Lord in December, 2017.

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