Is praying in the Spirit and praying in tongues the same?
Praying in the Spirit and praying in tongues are the same. Throughout the New Testament, the writers use these terms interchangeably.
“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. 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.”
Notice how in this passage the apostle Paul uses praying in tongues and praying in the Spirit interchangeably. He views them the exact same!
Now someone who reads their Bible will probably be thinking, “Ya but in Ephesians chapter 6, Paul is speaking of the Holy Spirit (capital S), and in 1 Corinthians 14, he is speaking of his spirit (lower case s).”
This is an excellent point and one worth noting. But have you read 1 Corinthians 6:17 where it says, “But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him“? And that in 2 Corinthians 3:17 Paul clarifies that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Lord. “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty”?
So as you can see there is no difference between Paul saying he prayed in the Spirit or if he said he prayed in his spirit because the Holy Spirit and his spirit are one, so it is with every born-again and spirit-filled believer.
I have multiple articles that answer this question much more thoroughly, you can access them by clicking the titles. Praying in the Spirit vs. Tongues: What’s the Difference? and Praying in the Spirit: What it is & How to do it?
How to know you are praying in the Spirit/tongues (4 signs)
Before I explain the signs that accompany true praying in tongues & praying in the Spirit, I want to first address a common misconception about false tongues.
Many people believe that true tongues will never repeat the same sound or syllable over and over again. In other words, these people believe that false tongues are when someone repeats the same thing within their tongue too often.
I know this is blunt but that is found nowhere in scripture. They are simply looking with their eyes and judging with their minds, and their judgment is not righteous nor is it accurate.
A good example of this is my son. At the time of this writing, he is just learning how to speak. He only knows a few words, but he says them all the time!
Now when he is repeating those few words is he still speaking English?
Of course he is! The repeat of his words has nothing to do with whether or not he is speaking a language, they only reveal if he is speaking the language effectively.
This is no different for someone who just started speaking in tongues and praying in the Spirit. At first, they’ll repeat themselves often, but then as they continue in this gift more words and syllables will start forming.
It is also not a problem if someone who has been speaking in tongues for years repeats themselves often. And the reason is simple; natural languages repeat themselves all the time.
For instance, “Over there is their neighbor’s ball, and they’re playing with their neighbor’s ball.” Did you notice how often I used some form of “there” in that sentence?
I know it wasn’t the most complicated sentence in the world, but hopefully, you get my point: just because someone repeats words often doesn’t mean it isn’t a language. This fact is true in the natural as well as the spiritual.
Now that I’ve addressed that, let’s move on to the 4 biblical signs that you are truly praying in the spirit.
Sign #1: You won’t know what you are saying
I know that this is one is probably a shocker for many of you, but it is a true biblical sign that you are praying in the Spirit and speaking in tongues if you don’t know what you are saying.
The Bible makes it clear that when we pray in tongues no one will understand us and that in the spirit we are speaking mysteries (1 Corinthians 14:2), that our own mind will be unfruitful if we don’t receive an interpretation of what we are saying (1 Corinthians 14:13-14), and that for others to understand the supernatural tongue that we are speaking in the spirit, they need a divine interpretation from the Holy Spirit to understand (1 Corinthians 14:5, 13, 27-28).
Many mistaken speaking in tongues as a natural, earthly language. They make this mistake because they misinterpret Acts chapter 2.
In Acts chapter 2, there are 120 disciples that just got filled with the Spirit and as they did they began to speak in tongues as the Spirit guided them (Acts 2:4).
Well, when this happened it drew a crowd of about 3000 people.
“And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” (Acts 2:5-11)
Now on the surface, this passage appears that the 120 disciples were simply speaking in a natural language and that is often how this is preached today. But that is not what is happening at all! If we take a close look we can see what the scripture is actually telling us.
First off, would it be confusing if 120 people were speaking in a natural, earthly language today? Would that draw your attention? Would it draw a crowd of 3000 people? Would it make you and everyone amazed and marvel? Or would you simply hear it and think “oh wow they’re fluent in a lot of languages” and go about your day?
I think if you heard a lot of people speak in a natural language you would just think that they were fluent in those languages and I don’t think you would give it a second thought.
So what was really happening in this situation? Why were the multitude confused? Why did they marvel?
The answer is in the text:
Because “everyone (the multitude) heard them (the 120) speak in HIS OWN language.”
“How is it that we (the multitude) hear, each (member of the 120) in our (the multitude’s) OWN language”
“We (the multitude) hear them (the 120) speaking in our (the multitude’s) OWN tongues the wonderful works of God”
It is repeated three times in a row!
Think about it: it isn’t something to marvel at that someone can speak another language. However, it is something to marvel at if 120 people are speaking and 3000 people are each hearing them differently! (Related article: Is Speaking in Tongues a Real Language? Or is it Gibberish?)
God was giving the multitude from “every nation under heaven” a divine interpretation to understand what the disciples were saying, which led to 3000 people gathering around the disciples ready to hear the Gospel.
So when you speak in tongues and pray in the Spirit, understand that no one can understand you unless of course, God gives them or you a divine interpretation.
Sign #2: Your praying will edify you
The second sign is that praying in the Spirit will edify you and build you up. This is mentioned in multiple places throughout scripture but the primary place is in 1 Corinthians 14.
“He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church” (v.4)
Edify what you may ask?
That answer is found in Jude. “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude v.20).
Notice, Jude says that when you pray in the Spirit you build yourself on your most holy faith.
So a sign of if you’re truly praying in the Spirit is that you will have strengthened faith. You may be able to sense your faith being strengthened. Sometimes when I pray in the Spirit for a while, I can sense myself being edified.
Sign #3: You will often receive an interpretation of what you’re praying
As mentioned earlier, those that pray in the Spirit will receive an interpretation of what they are saying if they ask God for it (1 Corinthians 14:13-14). Often, however, you may start receiving an interpretation from the Spirit of God simply because your speaking in tongues, and interpretation is what naturally comes next.
The gifts of the Spirit are meant to be natural in our life. They are supposed to happen often, and speaking in tongues opens the doorway to these gifts in our lives.
Sign #4: You will have control
The final sign is that when you speak in tongues and pray in the Spirit, you will still remain in control.
Many people believe that the Holy Spirit will just come over you and begin to control your mouth and tongue and that he’ll end up forcing you to pray in the Spirit.
If this is the case, the apostle Paul would have no right to command us to “pray in the Spirit at all times” (Ephesians 6:18) and he also would have no right telling us that the gifts of the Spirit are subject to us (1 Corinthians 14:32-33).
I have an entire article that addresses this topic, you can find it by clicking here.