Concerning Spiritual: (12) Tongues — For Private and Public Use

“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:7–9, emphasis mine).

Last lesson we learned that tongues is a prayer language that is inspired by the Holy Spirit. We do the talking, but the words don’t come from our intellect, but from our heart. The Holy Spirit lives in our spirit (heart) and he gives our spirit the words. This prayer language has nothing to do with our mental understanding, which is a good thing. Why? So we can pray about things that God wants done even when we don’t know what to pray. The Holy Spirit becomes our helper.

The great confusion with tongues, in my opinion, is there’s a private side to tongues and a public side to tongues.


Anyone filled with the Spirit, as we discussed in our last lesson, can and should speak with tongues. This is the private side. We should pray in the spirit for people, because we want their spiritual growth, protection, healing, wisdom, and other blessings of God. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have the ability to pray in the spirit. If you have children and other loved ones, you’ll understand that sometimes we know we need to pray for them, but we don’t know how to pray effectively. Praying in the spirit gives us the ability to pray about things when we don’t know how to pray (Romans 8:26).

Praying in the spirit (tongues) also edifies us (1 Corinthians 14:4), and is a daily refreshing if we put it to use (1 Corinthians 14:21; Isaiah 28:11–12).

Paul also said that we can speak in our prayer language at will. In-other-words, we don’t have to wait for some special feeling or move of God: “What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15). Paul said he will pray, meaning he has control over when he’ll pray and when he won’t. We also have this control, and that is why tongues in public service can be improper. We need to learn to be lead by the Spirit to determine if what we have is just us, or is the Spirit prompting us to speak in public. If it’s in a church service (public), then there will be an interpreter (1 Corinthians 14:27).

You may say you don’t know how to get this “tongues stuff.” Ask. It’s that simple. That’s all I did. How did I feel when I received? The same as before I received. The only thing different was I felt an unction to speak. It seemed to come from deep inside. It wasn’t from my head, and like I said, it was an unction from down inside. I yielded to this unction and spoke with another language. I yielded by faith. That’s the only way to get it — by faith.

Of course, the only way to get faith is to know what God has to say about something (Romans 10:17), and this is why we’re learning about tongues today.


There’s also a public side to “different kinds of tongues.” If we use the private side when in public, confusion takes place in the church. The fourteenth chapter of First Corinthians deals with the vocal gifts and how to keep order in the church. This is why Paul writes: “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints”, and “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40).

Why does the apostle spend so much time dealing with the public use of the vocal gifts? Because we have so much to do with their use. We can speak in tongues in public if we want to, because it’s our prayer language, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the best time to do so. If it’s going to cause confusion, keep quiet. This rule applies to prophecy, tongues, and interpretation of tongues.

“Divers kinds of tongues” refers to the use of tongues in ministry. I say this because Paul is writing of the gifts of the Spirit. “Divers” refers to a different tongue than our own prayer language. They are the same in essence but different in purpose. Our personal language is for our edification and prayers. Tongues in ministry is for edification of the church: “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself” and “I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification” (1 Corinthians 14:4, 5).

Folks, God wants us to mature. We’re human beings, not robots. God will help us as we mature, but we’re the ones who are going to have to walk the walk. We are to mature spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. It’s not easy or fun. It’s life. Our joy comes from fellowshipping with the Father and not from the things of this life. That said, we can use our prayer language anytime we decide to, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right time. Our prayer language is for our personal time. We’re responsible for what we say, whether in tongues or in our own language. If it causes confusion in a church service, don’t do it, whether it’s in our own language or in a tongue.

All of this may be new to you, but that doesn’t mean it’s not from God. Search the scriptures for yourself.

When we study the 1 Corinthians fourteen, we’ll go into more depth of the use of the vocal gifts in a public setting.

There have been so many good believers that have missed out on praying in the spirit because of the misuse of tongues in public. They’ve been scared off. But don’t throw out the baby with the bath water, as they say. “Eat the hay, but spit out the sticks.” In-other-words, find out what God’s word says and live by it. Don’t let fanaticism scare you away from God’s blessings.

Stay strong and prepared!

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