Speaking or Praying in Tongues

Prayer Inspired by the Holy Spirit

Praying in Tongues is one of the Spiritual Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

We find the following discussion on the speaking (praying) in Tongues at the Catholic Center for Charismatic Renewal.

The gift of tongues may strike you as something exotic, ecstatic and utterly mysterious. Yet millions of modern Christians could tell you about their own personal experience of it.

Just what is the gift of tongues? What is its purpose anyway? Didn’t it occur once and for all when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles?

Bring up the charism of tongues, and questions fly thick and fast. The first and best place to look for answers is in God’s Word. Luckily, we can hardly classify tongues as a rare topic in the Scriptures, since there are at least 23 verses that indisputably mention it. Moreover, another dozen names, such as “praying in the Spirit” (cf. Rom. 8:26-27; Eph. 6:18; Jude 20).

By carefully studying these passages, we can learn much about this gift of the Spirit.
Catholic Center for Charismatic Renewal

Tongues in the New Testament

Holy Scripture urges us to pray in tongues.

With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.
— NABRE, 2011, Ephesians 6:18

When we pray in tongues to the Father, we let the Spirit pray His perfect but mysterious and secret prayer on our behalf.

“But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit.”
— NABRE, 2011, Jude verse 20

“In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.”
– NABRE, 2011, Romans 8:26–27

“For one who speaks [prays] in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.  . . . He who speaks (prays) in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. Now I want you all to speak (pray) in tongues, but even more to prophesy.”
– NABRE, 2011, 1 Corinthians 14:2–5

Praying in tongues edifies and strengthens our holy faith, our reliance on the Holy Spirit!

Types of Tongues

From another perspective, speaking in tongues is called “glossolalia”, from the Greek glōssa meaning language, tongue lalia meaning speech. In the New Testament we find three different types of tongues or glossolalia — all inspired by the Holy Spirit.

1.  A first gift of tongues was reported on Pentecost when the Apostles were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them.

At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
– New American Bible: Revised Edition, (NABRE), 2011, Acts 2:6

Through this gift of tongues the Spirit communicated messages to these startled listeners. We conclude this because even today the Spirit communicates such messages to surprised listeners through unsuspecting disciples humbly praying the Spirit’s gift of tongues.

2.  Speaking in Tongues.  A second gift of tongues inspired by the Spirit is the charism of speaking in tongues with the co-charism of interpretation (1 Corinthians 14: 1-40).  When we hear someone speaking in tongues, we humble ourselves before God to receive the interpretation — a message of edification, encouragement or comfort — similar to the charism of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14: 3).  This charismatic gift of tongues is building up the Church today.

3.  Inspired Prayer.  A third gift of inspired tongues is praying in tongues.  A careful reading of 1 Corinthians 14 enables us to distinguish speaking in tongues from praying in tongues.  Through the centuries Spirit-led Christians have prayed in tongues.  In God’s revealed word, praying in tongues or praying in the Spirit was considered normal for disciples:

The Gift of Tongues

Be Open to the Holy Spirit!

As baptized Christians we should be open to all the Spirit is so eager to share with us. We must be humble and choose to identify with the Third Person of the Holy Trinity and let Him pray in us and through us.

Speaking / Praying in Tongues

Speaking or praying in tongues helps us realize who we really are in the Kingdom of God and helps us come to maturity in Christ who was continually led by the Spirit. As we seek to contribute in God’s Kingdom, we increasingly pray in tongues in our reliance on the Holy Spirit — the principle agent of our salvation and building up the Church.

Satan trembles when we rely on the Holy Spirit and on His prayer and power.  Satan aims to hinder our openness to the Spirit by making us bewildered about praying in tongues.  Don’t be deceived!  Learn more about the “release of the Spirit”.  In our openness to the Holy Spirit, we should be open to all He has ordained for us! Seek to receive the Charism of Tongues and all the other charisms that the Spirit wants for us.

Relating to God with our heart and devotion is holy prayer.  We should often praise, thank, repent and intercede the best we can.  The virtues we receive from the Lord–faith, hope, charity (love) will guide this communication with God.  And the Holy Spirit will be involved if we are open to His guidance.

After we pray the best we can as Christians, we pray in tongues and let the Spirit Himself praise, thank and intercede on our behalf.  On the natural level our communication in an unknown language is meaningless; this meaningless language is a sacramental that reminds us of our littleness and our reliance on a Divine Person.  On the supernatural level we are relying on an understanding and love that is greater than ours.  We are being humble and surrender to the Holy Spirit Himself.  This reliance is indispensable for growth in holiness.

If the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God, that prayer will have results, whether evident to us or hidden.

Holiness requires us to identify with the Holy Spirit in all our activities. As we begin some task or service or ministry, we rightly pray in tongues to identify with the Person and presence of the Holy Spirit, to submit to His guidance and His power.  Then He receives all the Glory!

When we pray in tongues to the Father, we let the Spirit pray His perfect but mysterious and secret prayer on our behalf.

“But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit.”
— NABRE, 2011, Jude verse 20

“In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.”
— NABRE, 2011, Romans 8:26–27

“For one who speaks [prays] in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.  . . . He who speaks (prays) in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. Now I want you all to speak (pray) in tongues, but even more to prophesy.”
— NABRE, 2011, 1 Corinthians 14:2–5

Praying in tongues edifies and strengthens our holy faith, our reliance on the Holy Spirit!

Testimony about Speaking or Praying in Tongues

Praying in Tongues: Freedom and Joy

Fr. Andy Richardson shares his story of how the gift of tongues has inspired, helped and encouraged him.

I first encountered the gift of tongues when I was going through a very challenging time. My friend, Simon Penhalagan, offered to pray with me.

During the prayer, I heard him making sounds I had never really heard before. At the end of the prayer, I asked him: “What were those sounds you were making?”

He explained he had been praying for me in tongues. That prayer time, and many prayer times like it, helped me to persevere in difficult times through seminary.

I received the gift of tongues myself during a summer camp at the Sion Community. Simon and Fr Ged Kelly prayed with me to receive this gift.

I subsequently discovered, during praise and worship, that I could now join in with singing in tongues, with praise of God rising from my heart. It was a very freeing experience.

Feeling Out of My Depth

While praying in tongues in a group is beautiful, I have also discovered the power of praying in tongues in my private prayer, which opens the door to other gifts of the Holy Spirit.

In 2015, I became a companion of the heart with Cor et Lumen Christi Community in Chertsey, not far from my presbytery in Burnham, Slough.

During the 2015 Celebrate conference in Ilfracombe, Devon, I had the privilege of ministering with the community in prophecy sessions, which were being offered to anyone who wanted to sign up.

We were in teams, and all we knew were the person’s initials, and whether they were male or female.  Having never done this before, I felt completely out of my depth.

I had been taught how the gift of tongues can open us up to further gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as prophecy. Therefore, I prayed in tongues privately for thirty minutes prior to sitting before the Blessed Sacrament in silence, hoping to receive some inspiration.

Love And Encouragement

To my surprise, the words and images began to flow for the people for whom I was praying.

To my even greater surprise, many of the words and images were relevant, and spoke the Lord’s love and encouragement to the people for whom they were intended.

I have experienced the Lord ministering to me personally when I have prayed in tongues.

One time, when I felt very tired and down at the end of a long day in Kettering as assistant parish priest, I decided to sit quietly in church and pray in tongues.

I found myself singing in tongues for an extended period of time, with different melodies coming out of my heart to God.  By the end of that prayer time, I felt completely transformed, full of peace and joy.

In a very personal way, I had experienced the words of scripture: “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
Fr. Andy Richardson is parish priest of Our Lady of Peace parish, Slough.
Catholic Charismatic Renewal, United Kingdom

Why I Pray in Tongues . . .

“At times my language doesn’t express what I want to express to God, I let the Spirit express it in a language of the Spirit.”

John Johnson

“Praying in tongues edifies the believer and we so need to be built up in spiritual warfare.  If I have any negative thinking, I pray in the Spirit and this darkness is removed.”

Louise Wall

“Some time after I received the gift of Tongues, I received the gift of singing in Tongues.  I find it a great joy to participate in Mass by singing in Tongues.  It makes me feel very close to our Lord.”

Jack Ardner

“When I’m discouraged, praying in tongues lifts the discouragement.  . . .  I can focus on the person or intention I’m praying for and not on what I’m trying to say.  . . .  I can praise God in tongues much longer than in my own words.”

Patrick Doyle

“I praise God in a tongue better than my tongue. I found the gift of tongues healing. I used to feel a lot of anger while praying in tongues and I didn’t know the source of the anger. I kept praying and praising and whatever I was angry about was removed by the Spirit.”

Jackie Morgan

“The gift of tongues was given to me in a very clear and dramatic moment of my life.  I pray with this gift to praise and petition our Father, relying on the Holy Spirit.”

Jim Kutcher

“It opens me up to the other gifts of the Spirit!  I pray in tongues and then I often get leadings or words from the Spirit.”

Lynne Doyle

“Sometimes I don’t know how to pray for someone, so I pray in tongues. It’s the best way to pray because the Spirit knows the situation and prays through us. You know it’s going to the Father.”

Nora Meeuwsen