Speaking in Tongues

We often pray in the Spirit at our church, and I want to bring some understanding around speaking in tongues. Let us look at why do we speak in tongues, what does it accomplish, and how do we operate in speaking in tongues?

The Purpose of Speaking in Tongues

The Bible indicates that speaking in tongues is for God, not for man. Speaking in an unknown tongue allows us to speak mysteries to God, and He understands everything we pray for, even when we do not. It also gives us the ability to pray in a way that the enemy has no idea what we are saying. Sometimes we pray prayers that thwart his plans, and he does not even know.

For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. I Corinthians 14:2 KJV

In addition to confounding the enemy, speaking in tongues edifies us. Prophecy edifies the church because everyone understands what the person is saying. But praying in tongues edifies us personally. Speaking in tongues can build us up in our spirit.

He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. 1 Corinthians 14:4 KJV

Praying in the Spirit

Anytime we desire, we can pray in tongues in our prayer closets before God. When we pray in an unknown tongue, our spirit prays, but our understanding is unfruitful. Sometimes, praying in the Spirit gives us a better understanding of how we should pray in English, but that does not always happen. We can simply trust that there is fruit from our prayers even if we do not understand what we prayed. Praying in tongues edifies us and accomplishes intercession in the Spirit.

14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. 15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. 1 Corinthians 14:14-15 KJV

Speaking in Tongues in Church

Another aspect of speaking in tongues is when we do it publicly in church. (This is when someone speaks to the congregation in tongues, not when they are praying quietly in the Spirit in their seats.) When this happens, we must have an interpreter so that the words can benefit everyone. It will not profit anyone for us to speak in tongues without an interpretation because others will not be edified.

I would that ye all spake with tongues but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. 10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. 11 Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. 12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. ¹³Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.  1 Corinthians 14:5-13 KJV

I believe if someone has the gift of speaking in tongues, they also have the gift of interpretation. With an interpretation, everyone can understand and agree (say Amen). Paul said he would rather have everyone understand and be edified than have 10,000 words spoken that no one could understand.

16 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? 17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. 18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: 19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. 1 Corinthians 14:16-19 KJV

Instructions for the Church

According to 1 Corinthians 14:22, prophesying serves to be a sign for the believer in church, but speaking in tongues is a sign for the unbeliever. Again, when someone comes up to speak in tongues publicly, we must have an interpreter in the building. Paul went so far as to say that if there were no interpreters, there should be no tongues in the church.

20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. 21 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. 22 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. 23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? 24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: 25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth. 26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. 27 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. 28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. 29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. 30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. 31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 1 Corinthians 14:20-33 KJV

Why did Paul give so much instruction about operating in the gift of praying in tongues? It was because the early church had so many people filled with the Holy Ghost, and God was so moving in their midst that they needed some clarity on how to do this so there was no chaos. So many people wanted to get up and speak in tongues and prophesy that Paul gave limits to the number of people who spoke so there would not be confusion.

We do this, too, in our church. We have an “open mic” time in many of our services for people to share revelation from God. But we also have guidelines so somebody can judge the words and people can be edified.

Decently and In Order

1 Corinthians 14 concludes with more instruction to help eliminate confusion during church services. He addressed the women who were speaking to their husbands during church and causing confusion. It was not a matter of them speaking in church, it was a matter of them asking for clarification at the wrong time and place.

34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. 35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. 36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? 37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. 38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. 39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. 40 Let all things be done decently and in order. 1 Corinthians 14:34-40 KJV

The chapter ends by reiterating that the church not forbid speaking in tongues and to do all things decently and in order. The Corinthian Church did not know how to operate in the Spirit, and we, too, are learning. Praying in tongues is important—it edifies us, accomplishes mysterious intercession, and encourages the church when interpreted.


Pastor Donna Wright



Bonus! Free Printable Poster “Speaking in Tongues”




The Wrath of God Satisfied by Pastor Donna Wright. Shut Up and March by Pastor Donna Wright. In this teaching on Our Identity, learn to be defined by the Word of God instead of by our sins.

If you would like to read more from Pastor Donna:

A Season of Pruning

Why Gossip is Bad

Overcoming Satan’s Deception

By Be in Health| 2024-03-15T14:44:57-05:00 March 15th, 2024|Encouragement|0 Comments