Of course you can pray in tongues silently. The Bible actually encourages us to pray in tongues silently, or underneath our breath, when there is no interpreter present. Otherwise, we are free to speak in tongues at any volume when we are alone.
“If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God” (1 Corinthians 14:27-28)
In the above verses, the apostle Paul is giving some guidelines on how speaking in tongues should be constructed within a church meeting. He had to give these guidelines because there were many people within this local body who were misusing the gift of tongues and causing disorder.
Paul’s instructions are that there should only be a few people speaking in tongues publicly and that if they do there should be someone there to interpret the tongue, whether that is the person doing the speaking or someone sitting by.
[Related article: Interpretations of Tongues (Common Questions Answered)].
Now the important thing to note here is what Paul tells the person to do if there is no divine interpretation of the tongue.
“If there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.”
We see in this verse that since there is no interpretation for this individual’s tongues they should keep quiet and speak in tongues to God.
Notice the wording though, “keep silent in church” and “speak to himself and to God.”
This just means that we should pray in tongues under our breath, that way no one can hear us and it won’t disturb anyone.
The apostle Paul actually applied this principle in his own life.
“I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Corinthians 14:18-19)
We see here that Paul told the Corinthians that he spoke in tongues more than all of the Corinthian churches.
That is a lot of speaking in tongues!
But notice, he says that he spoke in tongues more than all of them but yet in a church meeting, he wouldn’t speak in tongues nearly that much. So we see that when he says that he spoke in tongues more than them all, he was clearly referring to outside of the church meeting.
This means that Paul had to either speak in tongues for hours in a prayer closet that he didn’t own, or he had to speak in tongues throughout his day.
Now don’t get me wrong, I believe Paul prayed in secret and I can almost guarantee that he spoke in tongues during that time, but it wouldn’t be enough to say that he spoke in tongues more than all of the churches in Corinth.
To do this, he would have to be praying in tongues as he went about his day, which I am sure that he did because Paul actually gave a command to the church in Ephesus to pray in the Spirit at all times.
“With every prayer and request, pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be alert with all perseverance and every request for all the saints” (Ephesus 6:18).
Praying in the Spirit and praying in tongues are the same thing. So in this verse, Paul is telling them to do what he practices and that is to pray in tongues/the Spirit at all times. (Related article: Praying in the Spirit vs. Tongues: What is the Difference?).
Now in order for him to pray in tongues throughout the day he would have to be praying underneath his breath so that unbelievers and the uninformed don’t think he’s crazy.
So in short, when it comes to speaking/praying in tongues it is totally fine to pray quietly and underneath your breath. We find it mentioned as a command in 1 Corinthians 14 and we find it as an example in the life of the apostle Paul.
Can you pray in tongues in your mind?
You can’t necessarily pray in tongues in your mind because in order for us to pray in tongues we have to submit our tongues to the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that when we speak in tongues it is the Holy Spirit giving us utterance, this means that without utterance there are no tongues.
“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:2-4)
This passage of scripture shows that in order for tongues to be legit it requires divine utterance. Praying in tongues is simply us speaking as the Holy Spirit is guiding the syllables that we are vocalizing.
But if there is no speech then there will be no guiding of the Holy Spirit, and if there is no guiding of the Holy Spirit then we’re not actually praying in tongues.
Another point to consider is when the Holy Spirit gives us utterance He does so to our tongue, not to our understanding (1 Corinthians 14:14).
This is why when the Bible mentions tongues it mentions speech.
In fact, every single instance throughout the New Testament that covers praying in tongues mentions speech of some sort.
“For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.” (Acts 10:46)
“And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.” (Acts 19:6)
“For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.” (1 Corinthians 14:2)
“Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.” (1 Corinthians 14:13)
“I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all” (1 Corinthians 14:18)
The list can go on and on but I’m pretty sure you get the point; praying in tongues is not true praying in tongues unless there is speech coming out of our mouth.
The reason for this is quite simple.
Obviously, the Holy Spirit has to give us utterance in order for it to be true tongues, but more than that, tongues are a tool for us to use so that we can submit our entire beings to God through praying out this spiritual gift.
The Bible tells us that we are triune beings made up of spirit, soul, and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). So when we begin to speak in tongues our spirit, coupled with Holy Spirit, is actually the one doing the praying (1 Corinthians 14:14).
Our soul is our mind, will, and emotions. This part of us has to submit to the working of the spirit and allow something that it does not understand to take place (1 Corinthians 14:14).
Our bodies submit and cooperate to this work by speaking out with tongues what the spirit is praying. So without our bodies speaking out, our whole being will not be in cooperation.
[Related article: How to Start Speaking in Tongues (Step-by-Step)].
I hope this article cleared up any questions you may have had on this topic and I hope you enjoyed the article.
God bless all of you guys!