Tongues as a private prayer language

Discussion in 'Pneumatology' started by Jan Ziska, Dec 27, 2008.

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  1. Jan Ziska

    Jan Ziska Puritan Board Freshman

    I have a dear friend in the Lord who attends a local community bible church. Loves Rob Bell, Rick Warren, that sort of thing.

    We were discussing the Charisma the other day, and he told me he spoke in tongues often as part of his private devotions. He doesn't understand what he says, but is confident the words/sounds express the deepest groaning of his spirit to God in prayer. He said speaking in tongues was instrumental in him coming to Christ.

    I used to think that people speaking in tongues was either the result of emotions getting over-hyped in an excitable setting, or possibly even demonic influence.

    But this doesn't seem to be the case here. He is speaking in tongues in his study, alone, before or after reading the bible. As far as any human could tell, he is a sincere and conscientious Christian (even if he is wrong on some important doctrinal issues). He has a solid, conservative personality, not the sort given to hype or letting emotions get the best of him.

    So what am I to think about this?
  2. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    With all due respect you're to think it is wrong. "If I speak with the tongues of men and angels..." If I had wings I could fly.There is no private prayer language. To pray with one's lips and not the mind is ridiculous with a capital "R."
  3. Jan Ziska

    Jan Ziska Puritan Board Freshman

    Oh, I think it's wrong. My question is where does it come from? He says it is the Holy Spirit speaking through him. I cannot agree. So if not the Holy Spirit, then what?
  4. steven-nemes

    steven-nemes Puritan Board Sophomore

    I read a book by John MacArthur on speaking in tongues, arguing for its having stopped after 70 A.D. After reading it, I do not believe that it still happens, though my parents attest to having spoken in tongues, numerous members of my church attest to speaking in tongues, and friends of mine who actively defend charismatic theology, and who even claimed that making a joke against modern speaking in tongues would be blasphemy, possibly blasphemy against the holy spirit. I have been told in bible study groups that believing that the holy spirit doesn't actively work anymore or that the gifts have ceased, etc., is close to committing the unpardonable sin, or possibly is the unpardonable sin. So I am not in particularly friendly waters in my local church with regards to this issue.

    To tell you the truth, I don't know what to call the tongues that still happens. John MacArthur in the book suggests it might be emotional frenzy, learned behavior, or possibly even demonic activity. I don't know.
  5. VaughanRSmith

    VaughanRSmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    The best book I have read on prophecy and tongues is O. Palmer Robertson's "The Final Word". His chapter on tongues is If I recall correctly in the downloads section here.
  6. Jan Ziska

    Jan Ziska Puritan Board Freshman

    My google-fu must be weak, because I can't find it...
  7. Leslie

    Leslie Puritan Board Junior

    The picture you paint of your friend--godly, sane and the like--is something that I've seen multiple times. Some of the finest believers I've known routinely pray in tongues and claim that it is helpful. I don't know what to make of it--can't find any rational explanation--but it happens. Why should we seek any explanation? For me the phenomenon is sits securely and safely in my mental filing cabinet--drawer labeled "Things I'll probably never understand." in my opinion it's not our place to pass judgment on them.
  8. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Gibberish. A mish-mosh of vowels and consonants arranged to resemble speech.
  9. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    Understand there are a lot of assumptions and implications in what your friend is saying.

    In many cases, people like this have absorbed an Arminian influenced doctrine of God, dispensationalism, and a notion that having a confession is unspiritual because individuals can't "judge spiritual things for themselves." They do not even realize it and have never heard the alternative ("Calvinism," covenant theology, a confession) credibly explained to them. They may have heard a few reflexive objections, but not the substance.

    In addition, many pick up a "low view" of the Church and even of the sacraments because they have not had good systematic theology from all of Scripture.

    So, there are many larger overarching differences before one looks narrowly at whether two or three of the spiritual gifts (e.g. speaking in other tongues) continues, and if so in what form. If all their theology is focused on this narrow point, then they are off balance in the whole of the Christian life. It doesn't mean necessarily they are not Christians. They may be ignorant, even willfully ignorant, walking disobediently, but it does not in itself mean they are not Christians.

    A good doctrinal statement, carefully done is one by the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) on the narrower topic, but with implications for the larger topics:

    PCA Historical Center: PCA Pastoral Letter on the Expeience of the Holy Spirit in the Church Today

    The problem is that many charismatics/pentecostals do not recognize that their focus on two or three spiritual gifts alone is undue biblically (cf I Corinthians 14). The priority on this replaces the resurrection of Christ, the Gospel, and living out the Christian life of love and obedience.

    Another problem is that the superficial level of theology they have absorbed does in fact, assume that revelation continues on an equal level with that of Scripture.

    Many will say something like, "Well, no it doesn't add to Scripture, and it can't contradict it," but, in effect they are accepting new revelation equal with that of Scripture. While denying that it is new revelation equal with Scripture, the next church service will hover in quiet waiting for "a Word from the Lord," which is accepted to be authoritative, sometimes even more so than Scripture. On top of this, most of these churches have no discipline even in the sense of I Corinthians 14 requirement of interpretation and being judged by others, either.

    So what you are left with is an entire focus on whether "tongues" exists today, which is not the really important issue, doctrinally here with your friend.

    Reformed theology has a very high regard for Scripture. We worship God by it and through it and we are not to add to it.

    Having said all that, going past all the real mileposts here, I am not persuaded that these gifts do not exist or cannot exist in some form, perhaps for exhortation or personal edification, or maybe as an evangelism tool. God is not limited.

    But God has completed the authoritative revelation of His Word, and it is forever settled in heaven, and we are not to imagine alternatives. This is what you need to discuss with your friend.
  10. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member


    After I left Romanism, the first church I attended was an Assembly of God fellowship. I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. I wanted to be an enlightened pentecostal so bad. I went with the crowd and just opened my mouth and said whatever came out. It basically sounded like, "A Honda is a Hyundai" over and over again. I KNEW I was talking gibberish. I knew it made no sense. Eventually my disillusionment with the charismatic movement became too much to ignore and I left it. That's partly why I have zero tolerance for it.
  11. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    Someday we'll have to have a long 70AD thread, because I can't see how a Pagan army destroying a Pagan city can change things like the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

    In PNG we were going from village to village, holding services and then teaching literacy. We came to one village, everyone was there, and when the missionary opened in prayer, everyone started babbling, because a Pentecostal group had just been through. The missionary stopped the praying, and instructed the people to stop speaking and pay attention to the words of his prayer. We all bowed our heads again, and one little kid didn't get the word and started babbling again. I peeked, and saw his big sister punch him. He looked around, smiled sheepishly, and stopped babbling.
  12. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    IF tongues DID exist, it would sure help Bible translation - but Pentecostals are very under-represented among all Bible translators.
  13. VaughanRSmith

    VaughanRSmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    It is available here.
  14. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    Years ago I heard some very credible stories of foreign people hearing tongues in churches here and it was their (very obscure) language that the typical American did not know anything of. I had a good friend back in college who kept getting one single strange word when she prayed and she went to a linguist to ask if it was a real word in any language. The linguist (a brilliant Jew) looked in some books and told her it appeared to be an ancient word for "praise".

    Nobody can prove that a Pentecostal or charismatic person is really speaking in a true language of men or angels unless it is recognized as such. But there are so many documented stories of exactly that- a foreign tongue being recognized and understood- that either the Holy Spirit or an evil spirit is speaking, the person didn't make it up. And I would be very very hesitant to say it is a demon when the speaker is a born again Christian.
  15. GTMOPC

    GTMOPC Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for putting this whole topic in perspective Perg. You hit it outta the park with that line, in my opinion.

  16. Iconoclast

    Iconoclast Puritan Board Junior

    No one speaks, or prays in "biblical tongues today. Nobody.
    Biblical tongues were primarily for a sign to unbelieving Jews,
    it had been written in Isa.28
    The "real" covenant children
  17. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    I am something of an agnostic on this question, primarily because matters are not quite so simple as the usual Reformed arguments con or the tongues promoting arguments pro, allow for. Although tongues were a sign for unbelieving Jews, speaking in tongues did attract attention among unbelievers at Pentecost, some of whom later believed.

    In his book Charisma vs. Charismania, Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel records an interesting incident. He had a lady in his congregation who spoke in tongues, but her tongue was a known language, French. He had another lady who, not knowing a word of French by natural means was able to "interpret" the other lady's prayers in tongues and to do so accurately. One day Smith felt prompted to ask the former lady to pray in tongues (not his normal practice) and the second lady duly interpreted. At the end of the service a Jewish girl came to him and asked why did the one lady pray in French and the other lady translate? Turned out the girl was a French major at university. That opening led to a discussion which led to the girl's conversion.
    If this incident took place as described it is a contemporary recurrence of the biblical tongues and none can gainsay it.

    My two cents commenting on several posts in this thread are:

    To claim that there is no private prayer language is unscriptural. Paul spoke in tongues privately more than any of the Corinthians, so private use of tongues was valid. The questions are: what are biblical tongues? and Do tongues occur today?

    It is clear from Scripture that the biblical tongues were human languages supernatural given to the speakers (there is no conclusive biblical evidence that non-human languages were ever spoken by Christians.) And I deny that the glossolalia -the mishmash of vowels and consonants arranged to resemble speech- which is often claimed to be the biblical tongues is the biblical tongues.

    Yet I remain unconvinced by every cessationist argument I have seen as they have been either logically inconclusive or based on poor exegesis. Yet I recognize that if tongues do continue they will be a sovereign gifting of the Holy Spirit giving them when and to whom he wills. So I deny universality of tongues. Where spoken publically, they must be followed by interpretation or not used.
  18. Jan Ziska

    Jan Ziska Puritan Board Freshman

    What are your scripture references for these positions? Not doubting you etc etc, I'd just like to look it up for myself.
  19. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    That would be interesting. I would add that not only do we have a Pagan army destroying a Pagan city, but all we know about the event is from Pagan historians.
  20. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Send me the proof of these "documented" stories.
  21. Matthew1034

    Matthew1034 Puritan Board Freshman

    There are multiple ways to approach this this topic, but each way will boil down to this:

    The Holy Spirit will not lead a man to disobey His commandments. If your friend holds the gift of tongues in high regard and is certain that it is a gift of the Holy Spirit, he will be practicing and using the gifts in line with Scripture and the will of God (for, what other reason does God give men such gifts, other than to do His will?).

    Ask him these simple questions based on 1 Corinthians 14, out of all love and patience:

    1. Does the gift benefit yourself more than those at your church? (v. 12)
    2. Do you have as earnest a desire to interpret as you do to speak in tongues? (v. 13)
    3. Have you, empowered by the gift, brought unbelievers into your church? (v. 22)

    The next questions are about his church:
    4. Do more than three people speak in tongues outloud during your worship service? (v. 27)
    5. Is it common sense in the church to not speak in tongues if there is no interpreter? (v. 28)
    6. Do women ever speak in tongues during the service? (v. 34)

    If the Holy Spirit is leading this man into tongues (or anything), He will do it by the Book. If the practice or use of the gift is outside of its regulations, it cannot be of the Spirit, for God is not the author of confusion but of peace.

    If he is ignorant of the will of God in using tongues and you rebuke his actions, it should lead him to repentence if it is indeed God's Spirit.

    If its not the Holy Spirit, its the same spirits the Catholics and Muslims and tribal shamans use to speak in tongues and heal and cast out demons.

    I stated in another thread:
  22. Leslie

    Leslie Puritan Board Junior

    I don't quite understand the logic that mandates rejecting an entire practice because of instances (albeit widespread) of abuse and/or disobedience. Radical cessationists reject all tongues phenomena because of illegitimate practices connected therewith. Radical continuationists accept the majority if not all such phenomena indiscriminately. Is there not a middle ground? If there is not, then perhaps cultural anti-supernaturalism is a factor in the controversy.
  23. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Perhaps there is cultural supernaturalism at work too, missionaries in animistic cultures, instead of changing the culture, being changed by the culture and adopting animistic and sub-biblical practices through frequent interaction with these cultures.

    Again, if God gifts the church with tongues, and wants charity and the edification to reign supreme, why is this gift not being used in Bible translation?

    During my Bible translation courses, I did not meet a single Continuist nor have I ever heard of the charismatic gifts ever being used to actually give any peoples at any time (post-NT) the Word of God.
  24. Timothy William

    Timothy William Puritan Board Junior

    Pergamum, I'm a cessationist, although occasionally there are things I can't explain, but I will repeat the following story because I heard it first hand from a godly man who was my Anglican minister at the time, and who was not otherwise at all charismatic:

    Before he was in Australia he had been an Anglican minister in South Africa. At one event he was called on to preach at a mixed race, mixed tribe gathering. He spoke in English, the only relevant language he knew. Afterwards people came up to him and variously told him that they had heard him speak in English, Afrikaans, and native African languages.

    I can't verify the story, nor am I claiming to know what it meant or to rule out other explanations, but I do know that the man in question was known to be honest and didn't have an incentive to lie about what had happened.
  25. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    1 Cor 14:18,19 is Paul speaking in tongues more than all the Corinthians and his normal preference for speaking in Greek when teaching publically. It is a fair conclusion that he largely restricted his tongue speaking to his prayers.

    -----Added 12/28/2008 at 10:24:27 EST-----

    See post #17 pp. 2.
  26. Honor

    Honor de-cool

    I think there are two instances of speaking in tongues... in private Just between the Holy Spirit and God and in the Church where and interpreter is needed.
    The reason I said that is because that is what it is like for me when I pray.
  27. calgal

    calgal Puritan Board Graduate

    The question IMNSHO boils down to this: what is the purpose of the "gift of tongues" and more importantly who gets the glory? I have been told by non reformed folks that "so and so has a prayer language" and I can't figure out what this "prayer language" is and if it is biblical. :confused:
  28. GTMOPC

    GTMOPC Puritan Board Freshman

    If "so and so has a prayer language" how is it edifying in their prayer life? That question fits squarely in your purpose inquiry. I don't see how (provided such a thing exists) it helps ones prayer life. I know in the charismatic community I've run in a prayer language is generally considered confirmation God has spoken to you. My question to them was always "why then do we need faith, if we have the proof of tongues to verify our prayers reach heaven?"

    I just don't see the precedent. I've been accused of putting God in a box for that opinion. It must have been a biblical box?!
  29. calgal

    calgal Puritan Board Graduate

    Thank you! I was accused of being all "head and no heart. Of course the person who had the "secret language" was also a big Dave Hunt fan so..... :lol:
  30. GTMOPC

    GTMOPC Puritan Board Freshman

    These are common arguments for the broader charismatic movement which go beyond the tongues/prayer language issue. Their refusal to argue on biblical grounds betrays their fundamental ignorance of the issue.

    I think what they often mean by "heart" is "what I feel" opposed to "head" being defined as "what my uneducated brain can't rationalize."
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