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Praying in the Spirit: Better Than I Was, Not Better Than You Are

In my twenty years in the Pentecostal-charismatic renewal, I have never met anyone who expressed pride in his ability to speak in tongues. According to non-Pentecostal Watson Mills, the typical tongues-speaker has abased himself, has become a fool for Christ’s sake. Human pride has been shattered and self-sufficiency dethroned (p.146).

Contrary to popular belief, the ability to speak in tongues is nothing to be proud of.

I have, on the other hand, met many excited and effervescent souls whose hearts could not contain the joy of the Holy Spirit. Some have such zeal to share their experience, they offend many strong and faithful Christians who are not yet convinced that the charismatic experience is for today’s Church—that is, continuously given until the Second Coming of Christ.

Second, this very eagerness to share the gift seems to dispel a motive of boastful, prideful ownership. If pride were involved, there would be no sharing at all. The message would not be “let me tell you” but rather a silent and snobbish, “I’ve got mine; you get yours if you can.”

Has an exuberant charismatic Christian ever approached you and told you about his experience, what it’s done for him, and what it can do for you? Did it turn you off? Well, before you close and lock the door on the person and the experience, think about what it suggests. It says, “If I received this experience, so can you! You know me, all my faults and weaknesses. This experience is for all of us, not just an elite few.”

Maybe you had been a Christian for fifty years when some young, whippersnapper charismatic bubbled over on you. I can understand your discomfort, but when you think about it, you can’t but praise God for His wisdom and grace. What this situation tells you is that this vocational gift of the Holy Spirit with the experience of tongues is not earned. It is not merited. It is not for only the elders or bishops. It is for every Christian, despite his tenure as a believer. The only condition for receiving this experience is that you be a child of God, for it is every child’s inheritance. This prevents any basis for pride.

This truth is captured in the writings of early Pentecostal pioneer J. E. Stiles:

Since it is His righteousness, which is by faith, that gives [us] a standing before God, . . . we have a standing which is as perfect as the standing which Christ has in the presence of the Father. And how perfect is that? Absolutely and completely perfect. . . . Let us never forget that a Christian has an absolutely perfect standing before God, . . . or else he has no standing at all, and is a lost soul, clear outside the fold. Such a thing as a person having a good, or fair, or poor standing before God is entirely unscriptural, without the slightest foundation in God’s Word. We are either saved or unsaved, and as such, we either have a perfect standing in God’s family, or no standing at all.


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Category: Spirit, Winter 2000

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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