Tongues Series: My Spirit Prayeth

When we pray in tongues it is actually our human spirit that is praying to God – it is not the Holy Spirit who is praying, but us. Our spirit moved upon by the Holy Spirit prays.

“For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth” (1 Corinthians 14:14a).

We learn there is a decided difference between praying with our spirits and praying with our understanding. “I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful” (1 Corinthians 14:14). Paul says here, when we pray with our spirit our mind is unfruitful. Actually, the believer who prays with tongues does not understand what he is saying. So, praying with tongues is praying with our spirits. We not only have the privilege of praying with our spirits but also singing with our spirits (1 Corinthians 14:15).

Every child of God has felt the inspiration and anointing of the Holy Ghost upon our spirits. During such times we have had a greater liberty in prayer and worship. When we yield our spirits completely to the Holy Ghost, we enjoy the blessing of praying and/or singing with tongues. There is no greater thrill to the believer than those times when he is built up (edified) as he worships with his spirit.

We learn from Paul’s instructions that “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Corinthians 14:32). No person is forced to speak with tongues. God does not violate our will. We speak with tongues as we yield our spirit to God. Tongues is a supernatural utterance by the Holy Ghost, upon the human spirit, in languages never learned by the speaker. It is not understood by the mind or intellect of the speaker and usually not understood by the hearer. Tongues has nothing whatsoever to do with linguistic ability, nor with the mind or intellect of man. Tongues is a manifestation of the mind of the Spirit of God, employing human speech organs. Never is a person forced or coerced to speak for “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Corinthians 14:32).

There are three important reasons for tongues:

  1. Tongues are a sign to the unbeliever. “In the law it is written, with men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe” (1 Corinthians 14:21-22).

    In the record of the Day of Pentecost, it cannot be denied that tongues were used as a sign to arrest the attention of the masses. Tongues were not to take the place of preaching, for after the crowds gathered, Peter stood and preached to them. 1 Corinthians 14 teaches us tongues were a sign. “ Wherefore tongues are for a sign” (1 Corinthians 14:22)!

  2. Tongues are for prayer in private devotion. We read, “For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God” (1 Corinthians 14:2). Paul also states, “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful” (1 Corinthians 14:14).

    In 1 Corinthians 14:14-15 Paul specifically declares that he will pray with his spirit and also with understanding. R. M. Riggs says, “Tongues are a God-ordained outlet through which the Spirit of supplication will let petitions ascend to the heavenly throne. They are needed in the plan of God. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26). So tongues assist us in our praying.

  3. Messages to the Church. Another purpose and use for tongues is as a means of conveying messages to the Church to edify the body. Tongues without interpretation in the Church is meaningless, because no one understands. Therefore, they are of no profit. Tongues without an interpretation is out of order in the Church. However, tongues in one’s private devotions need no interpretation because he’s not speaking to men but to God (1 Corinthians 14:2).

    There should always be an interpreter when there is a manifestation of tongues in the public assembly. If there is no interpreter the speaker should pray for God to give them the interpretation. “If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God” (1 Corinthians 14:27-28). When there are tongues and interpretation in the Church, the body is edified. Tongues and interpretation can be equal to that of Prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:5).

As we study the Word of God and as we yield our lives completely to the Holy Spirit, we see that God uses us that sinners and believers alike may witness the supernatural power of God. The Holy Spirit causes the Church to be edified by tongues and interpretation, and each believer is helped to pray. “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful” (1 Corinthians 14:14).

Dr. Paul E. Paino, who passed away in the fall of 2005, was the founder and overseer of Calvary Ministries International, a non-denominational ministerial fellowship. Dr. Paino was a pioneer and spiritual father to hundreds of pastors and church leaders around the world and his teachings still inspire today.