As a christian who lives in germany, I value that our culture is marked by order and soberness.
Yet I am fully aware that the Holy Spirit chooses many times a different path in his actions, and therefore turns my “order” up site down. The question in this context is, how can we use the gift of speaking in tongues so that it unfolds its full given power by God?
Personal spiritual built up through praying in tongues
It is good to pray in tongues, for personal spiritual built up (1.Cor 14, 4). For whoever is strengthened, can easier encourage others as well. Putting that in perspective, speaking in tongues then serves the whole body of Christ.
When I pray then, I can feel hidden things for which I don’t have words, and in such a case I can rely on the fact that God will give me the right words. Not seldom do I ask if I am free to speak in tongues before I pray for someone. In that way I built up myself, and at the same time I bless the other person in my prayers.
Over and over I experience in those moments, how God reveals to me what I am praying for, and through the conversation with the other person these revelations are being confirmed.
United praying in tongues in church
“And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said,…”
Acts 4, 24
This one, as well as other bible scriptures (Acts 10,46; Rev. 19,6), indicate that for the receiver of the new testament, united loud prayer was nothing unusual. Even the old testament indicates in many places how nations lifted up their voices together in prayer to god (Judges 21, 2).
What helps me personally, is the thought of our spiritual roots, the nation of Israel.
Due to my regular visits to this country, I have a clear picture of the wailing wall, and the people in front of it. Many of them praying their prayers clear to hear, each one his own prayer. All together it sounds like a buzzing. But it does not distract the individual worshiper, for he is completely focused on his own prayer.
On the other hand it can even be helpful for my own prayer when I hear how others pray as well.
In this way I can become part of the whole, and be carried by it.
That’s why it makes sense when we all pray or sing together in church, clear to hear each other, let it be in our native language or in tongues. This way we don’t have to wait for one another to finish our prayers. But since that would be viewed as disorder in our german culture, I would recommend in public service to sing in tongues together.
United loud prayer in tongues however, leads time and time again to misunderstandings.
It comes to rivalry between the “loud screaming prayers” in unknown tongues.
Some individuals assume that the louder they pray the more spiritual they are, and hope to be noticed through such actions. But after all it is not about the personal ego. The point of praying in tongues, is to worship God and give him praise.
To my regret I have to say, that in many churches, the previous mentioned misunderstandings led to spilling the cup full of wine by banning praying in tongues all together out of their church.
Although one can be spiritual without becoming weird.
Interpretation in church
Here I want to come back, to the already previously mentioned different ways, we use the gift of speaking in tongues. As long as I practice to pray or sing in unknown tongues in order to build up myself, I don’t have the need for someone to interpret it for me. But as soon as I turn with the gift of unknown tongues to the church (1. Cor. 14, 26), a specific order has to take place (1. 14, 28 – 31).
Now it is interesting to watch how the notion of spiritual build up, follows through the whole fourteenth chapter of the 1st Corinthian letter, and becomes with that its main point (v. 3, 4, 5, 12, 17, and 26). But how can I build up my brother or sister, if I turn to them with a unknown language? That is the reason why I have to make sure that a interpreter is present, in order for the message to be understood by the addressee. If I can’t do that I should preferably keep silent (1. Cor. 14, 28). But how do I know if a interpreter is present if I myself do not have that gift?
The bible scripture leads us to the conclusion, that the interpreters were known to the church leaders. Thus should the gift of speaking in tongues, just as any other gift, be practiced in approval with the church leaders.
But when it comes to personal build up, Paul wants for everybody if possible to pray in tongues.
Yet, when it comes to a contribution in the united church service, a clear and understanding doctrine for the people is the goal. And as much as Paul values the personal praying in tongues (14,19), preaching from the pulpit, he says, “ Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” For the main purpose of the united church service, is not the personal build up, but the build up of the whole congregation.