Scripture: 1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy. 2 For those who speak in a tongue do not speak to other people but to God; for nobody understands them, since they are speaking mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, those who prophesy speak to other people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 Those who speak in a tongue build up themselves, but those who prophesy build up the church. 5 Now I would like all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. One who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.
Observation: Seems to me Paul was trying to redirect people in regards to speaking in tongues, which may have had something of a favored status in the Corinthian church. Paul would have preferred they seek gifts that build up the entire gathering rather than an individual.
Application: Like most Lutheran Christians I was once skeptical of speaking in tongues, mostly because I didn’t understand it. It’s not typically part of Lutheran church culture. That changed when I got to know some charismatic Christians and started hanging out with them on a regular basis. While praying with some of them one day the Lord gave me this gift as well.
So how does one exercise the gift of tongues? Well, in my limited experience tongues is a language God gives mostly when we are praying – which is why many Christians refer to tongues as a “prayer language”. When I know what to pray for, I use my human language. When I don’t know what to pray for, I’ll pray in tongues. A spiritual language comes forth that I don’t understand, but my spirit agrees with the prayer. And, of course, God knows what I’m praying. When I’m praying in tongues with others around, I’ll often do so silently (unless I know I’m with other charismatic Christians). You don’t have to pray in tongues out loud if you don’t want to. It’s also possible to sing in tongues as Paul describes in v.15. If you’d like to chat about this spiritual gift, just ask.
What I’m realizing this morning is that I don’t pray in tongues nearly as much as I used to, mostly because I’m not around other charismatic Christians as much as I once was. Which is too bad really. Tongues is a spiritual gift for a reason – it’s given to bless people and draw us closer to the Lord. As I read this passage I hear the Lord calling me closer, drawing me in.
Prayer: Lord you gave spiritual gifts to your church so that we might use them, not neglect them. This morning I’m aware I’ve not been a good steward of the gift of tongues. Give me and others the desire to pray and sing in the spirit, for it truly is a blessing to do so. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.