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Is Speaking in Tongues a (Private) Prayer Language?

Speaking in tongues is a prayer language that is given to every believer that has received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Speaking in tongues is primarily meant for private prayer to God unless a divine interpretation comes so that other believers can receive edification.

You see, for speaking in tongues to be a prayer language we would have to prove two things: (1) is speaking in tongues prayer? And (2) is speaking in tongues a language?

If we can prove these two things then we can know for sure that tongues is in fact a “prayer language.”

In 1 Corinthians 14, the apostle Paul makes it clear that the primary purpose for speaking in tongues is to speak mysteries directly to God, and that these mysteries no one else can understand unless someone interprets them divinely.

“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)

Now let’s think about this for a minute, what is prayer?

Well, prayer is primarily us talking to the Lord. Whether that is through thanksgiving or requests, prayer is simply talking to God.

Speaking in tongues is even regarded as a way to praise and worship God. [Related article: Is Speaking in Tongues Praise and Worship? (Answered)].

So if when we speak in tongues we are talking to God and worshipping God in the spirit, that is still prayer because it fulfills one of the meanings of prayer.

Now prayer isn’t just us talking to God, but it is also God talking to us. So does speaking in tongues allow us to hear God’s voice? Or are we just rambling to Him constantly?

Well, the scripture says that speaking in tongues is actually equivalent to prophecy when it is coupled with the interpretation of tongues.

“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 14:5)

The wording “unless indeed he interprets” proves that tongues are equivalent to prophecy when it is interpreted.

And if prophecy is God speaking through us to others, then that would mean that tongues with interpretation is God still speaking through us to others.

Because remember, speaking in tongues is inspired utterance by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4) so when it is interpreted it is still God speaking.

This is why Paul encourages the Corinthians to interpret their tongues by saying that he “who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret” (1 Corinthians 14:13)

Because when we interpret the supernatural tongues that we speak, we are hearing God’s voice.

On top of tongues being a way to talk to God and a way we can hear God, Paul even calls supernatural tongues prayer in 1 Corinthians 14:14-15.

“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.”

So now that we established that speaking in tongues is prayer, we need to establish if it is a language.

Now, of course, the gift of tongues is not a natural, known language because if it were, it would not need a divine interpretation by a Spirit-filled believer.

However, it is a supernatural language. (Related article: Is Speaking in Tongues a Real Language? Or is it Gibberish?)

We know this because the apostle Paul compared praying in tongues to the languages of this earth to prove the point that when we come together as a church we should not be speaking in tongues without an interpretation.

“So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them is without significance. 

“Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me.

“Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.” (1 Corinthians 14:9-13)

In addition to this, language is defined as simply a way of communication. So if we are communicating with God through the gift of tongues then we are still speaking a language.

Not to mention the word “tongues” is another word for languages. We see this in Acts 2:5-12.

So in short, speaking in tongues, or the gift of tongues is a prayer language that is given to every believer so that they can communicate directly with God.

[Related article: Is Speaking in Tongues for Everyone? (Biblical Answer)].

Speaking in tongues vs. praying in tongues: What is the difference?

There is no difference between speaking and praying in tongues. When we speak in tongues we are still communicating mysteries directly to God and either way, His Spirit is guiding our syllables. But when we are in a church the function of tongues changes.

You see, there is a different purpose between speaking in tongues in public and speaking in tongues in private.

In private, there is no limitation on speaking in tongues. We can speak in tongues as often and as loud as we want and just enjoy ourselves in God. We get to speak mysteries to Him and interpret our own tongues so that we can hear God’s voice.

In public, however, there are limitations.

The Bible tells us that when we speak in tongues we need to receive a divine interpretation so that the rest of the church can receive edification because as mentioned above when we interpret tongues it is equivalent to prophecy.

The Bible also says that if there is no interpretation given to either the speaker nor those sitting by then the speaker should keep silent in the church and pray to himself and to God. (1 Corinthians 14:28)

So in short, when the church comes together, tongues can be spoken but it is no longer just communication between you and God, as the private tongues are. But now it becomes more about God speaking to His people through the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues.

I hope you enjoyed this article and that it assisted you in your walk with God.

If you want to read more articles on this topic, just click one of the titles below. God bless all of you!

How to Start Speaking in Tongues (Step-by-Step), Speaking in Tongues is 100% Biblical (Here’s Why), 7 Biblical Purposes for Speaking in Tongues, and Bible Study/Teaching/Lesson/Commentary on Speaking in Tongues.

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