FIRST THINGS FIRST:
Speaking in tongues and praying in tongues are two different things.
Many Pentecostals have mistakenly melded these two together.
The go-to Scripture passage for this subject is First Corinthians twelve through fourteen. The important thing to realize here is Paul is talking about tongues in a public worship service, he twice mentions praying in tongues.
The benefits of praying in tongues is discussed in other books. Many Pentecostals believe that on the day of Pentecost the disciples spoke in tongues. However, if we go back to Acts chapter one we find the one hundred and twenty meeting in an upper room.
They were first alone then went out in the streets. They were praying in tongues when they were filled and when they went into the streets is when the interpretation came through people hearing their own tongue.
Some will wonder how I can say that when it is not directly spelled out in Acts. Later in Corinthians Paul asks a rhetorical question, do all speak with tongues, no. This with other scriptures leads me to believe the emphasis on Spirit Baptism is not a public speaking in tongues but a private prayer language of tongues.
BENEFIT NUMBER ONE:
Romans 8:26-27 NIV “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
The first thing this verse explains to me is how/why our prayer language at times does not make sense,
… intercedes for us through wordless groans… NIV.
… intercedes for us with groanings to deep for words… NASB.
… maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. KJV.
… the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words… NLT.
I believe this verse explains to the Christian skeptics the validity of praying in tongues when our fleshly minds think it is not legitimate. This is why Paul uses the eighth chapter of Romans to explain the difference between fleshly thinking and spiritual thinking.
What I want to point out here though is, the Spirit prays God’s will for us or a situation. That being said I am not saying we can’t pray God’s will in English. Scripture is clear that God’s will can be known to us. (1 Cor. 2:10; Eph. 1:9, 18; 3:9-21; Col. 1:9-13, 26-27, and 1 Jn. 2:20).
The point here is when we yield to the Holy Spirit to pray through us He is bypassing our flesh which deals with doubt and unbelief and goes straight to God. This leads us to the second benefit of praying in tongues.
BENEFITS TWO AND THREE:
As I just said, when we pray in tongues the Holy Spirit bypasses our flesh that deals with doubt and unbelief and goes straight to God, this builds up our spirit man.
Jude 20 NIV “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit.”
I like the way the Amplified Bible puts this verse, “But you Beloved, build yourselves up [founded] on your most holy faith [make progress, rise like an edifice higher and higher], praying in the Holy Spirit.”
Let’s put some context to this verse as to why we need to be built up in our faith.
Jude 18-25 AMP “They told you beforehand, In the last days (in the end time) there will be scoffers [who seek to gratify their own unholy desires], following after their own ungodly passions. 19 It is these who are [agitators] setting up distinctions and causing divisions—merely sensual [creatures, carnal, worldly-minded people], devoid of the [Holy] Spirit and destitute of any higher spiritual life. 20 But you, beloved, build yourselves up [founded] on your most holy faith [make progress, rise like an edifice higher and higher], praying in the Holy Spirit; 21 Guard and keep yourselves in the love of God; expect and patiently wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah)—[which will bring you] unto life eternal. 22 And refute [so as to] convict some who dispute with you, and on some have mercy who waver and doubt. 23 [Strive to] save others, snatching [them] out of [the] fire; on others take pity [but] with fear, loathing even the garment spotted by the flesh and polluted by their sensuality. 24 Now to Him Who is able to keep you without stumbling or slipping or falling, and to present [you] unblemished (blameless and faultless) before the presence of His glory in triumphant joy and exultation [with unspeakable, ecstatic delight]— 25 To the one only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory (splendor), majesty, might and dominion, and power and authority, before all time and now and forever (unto all the ages of eternity). Amen (so be it).”
Praying in the Spirit (praying in tongues) not only builds us up but it keeps us from falling into false teaching. Now this is not to say there is not counterfeit tongues and some people who have prayed in tongues have not fallen into error. If you aren’t in the Word, I don’t care how much you pray in tongues you are extremely vulnerable to error at that point.
Praying in tongues coupled with daily communion with God helps our spiritual growth, it builds us up, it protects us, and it helps us contend for the faith.
CLEARING UP A MISUNDERSTANDING:
Some have taught that tongues is a secret language that the devil can’t understand so we need to pray in tongues so the devil can’t stop our prayers.
Whether or not the devil can understand tongues is immaterial. This kind of thinking promotes fear based praying. The bottom line belief here if it’s said or not is that the devil can stop our prayers prayed in English.
I don’t know about you but this does not give me much confidence in prayer, nor in God. I pray to God in English and I’m assured by God as long as I am in faith and praying in accordance with His will I have received my answer when I prayed.
Pray in English and in tongues, don’t be fearful of the devil hindering your prayers, he’ll always try but he won’t be successful.
A FINAL THOUGHT:
Praying in tongues isn’t magic, that’s why that last view falls flat. Praying in tongues is simply another way of communing with God, it is a way to build ourselves up and equip us to carry out our callings.
As Paul said, we can pray in the Spirit and in our native language, we can sing in the Spirit, and in our own language.
The thing we need to understand about tongues is this, Holy Spirit isn’t going to open our mouth and make us speak, we must yield to Him in this area just like all areas.
Don’t allow the enemy to steal this gift from you. Are their excesses? yes. Are there people with a false prayer language? Yes. But do not allow the counterfeit to scare you away from the real thing.
Having a prayer language comes with receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. If you’ve never received the Baptism, it is just as simple as getting saved. Just say something like, Jesus I ask and I receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Begin to thank Him and allow your prayer language to come forth.
The amount of syllables don’t matter. Your prayer language will develop just like you learned how to speak English. The more you use it the more your language will develop.