I speak in tongues. Mostly English, mind you, but also the glossolalia-kind as well. As I related in an earlier post back in October of last year (Turning Points: Third Installment - Manifestations Happen), I was filled with the Holy Spirit shortly after my conversion my senior year of high school. As those experiences go, it didn't feel like much of an Acts 2-event – no rushing wind or shaking house, tongues but no ecstasy – just a few garbled syllables repeated a few times over which after uttering them didn't propel me outside my home to preach the gospel on lonely Turner Avenue; rather, it left me feeling a little bemused and wondering, “Is that it?”
|My experience was not like this...|
|This is good soul-food|
“Do you pray in tongues, Jackie?”
I was shocked by the Jean's American forthrightness. No English person would be that direct. “Well, no actually. I haven't found it that useful. I don't get anything out of it so I've stopped.” It was a relief to discuss it with someone.
But Jean would not be sympathetic. “That's very rude of you,” she said. “It's not a gift of emotion – it's a gift of the Spirit. You shouldn't despise the gifts God has given you. The Bible says he who prays in tongues will be built up spiritually, so never mind what you feel – do it.” Then she and Rick made me promise to pray daily in my heavenly language. They insisted that the Holy Spirit was given in power to the Early Church to make them effective witnesses to the risen Christ.
Then to my horror they suggested we pray together in tongues. I was not sure if this was all right since the Bible said that people should not all speak aloud in tongues at the same time. They explained that St. Paul was referring to a public meeting where an outsider coming in would think everyone was crazy; we three would not be offending anyone, and would be praying to God in the languages He gave us.
I could not get out of it. We prayed and I felt silly saying words I did not understand. I felt hot. And then to my consternation they stopped praying while I felt impelled to continue. I knew already that this gift, although holy, is under our control; I could stop or start at will. I would have done anything not to be praying out loud in a strange language in front of strange Americans, but just as I thought I would die of self-consciousness God said to me, “Are you willing to be a fool for My sake?”
I gave in. “All right, Lord – this doesn't make sense to me, but since You invented it, it must be a good gift, so I'll go ahead in obedience and You teach me how to pray.”
After we finished praying Jean said she understood what I had said. God had given her the interpretation. She translated. But it was beautiful; my heart was yearning for the Lord and calling as from the depths of a valley stream to the mountain tops for Him. I loved Him and worshiped Him and longed for Him to use me.
It was in language so much more explicit and glorious than any I could have formulated. I decided that if God helped me to pray like that when I was praying in tongues, then I would never despise this gift again. I accepted that he was helping me to pray perfectly.
Every day – as I had promised the Willans – I prayed in the language of the Spirit. Fifteen minutes by the clock. I still felt it to be an exercise. Before praying in the Spirit I said, “Lord, I don't know how to pray, or whom to pray for. Will You pray through me – and will You lead me to the people who want You.” And I would begin my fifteen-minute stint.
After about six weeks I noticed something remarkable. Those I talked to about Christ believed. I could not understand it at first and wondered how my Chinese had so suddenly improved, or if I had stumbled on a splendid new evangelistic technique. But I was saying the same things as before. It was some time before I realized what had changed. This time I was talking about Jesus to people who wanted to hear. I had let God have a hand in my prayers and it produced a direct result. Instead of my deciding what I wanted to do for God and asking His blessing I was asking Him to do His will through me as I prayed in the language He gave me.
|I find her story amazing|
As I read these words in our family reading time this past fall, I felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit to commit to the same exercise, to pray in my prayer language 15 minutes a day. Reading this story from her life and the plethora of others that fill her book, stirred afresh the yearning in me for the signs of the presence of the Kingdom in my place of ministry. To the best of my knowledge, we have no opium users or dealers in our little ‘burb but we have lots of lost people, lots of people whose lives appear bereft of God’s love and presence. While it’s true that in over twenty years of ministry in Chetek I have seen people come to the saving knowledge of Jesus, to be filled with the Holy Spirit and, in a few cases, be sent out to serve in other places, it’s not been a lot only a handful. How many people with cancer during that time have I prayed with and witnessed a complete healing? I cannot think of one. How many people in need of deliverance have been completely exorcised because I laid hands on them and prayed the prayer of command? Perhaps one or two. It occurred to me while reading Jackie’s story that twenty years into my career in this locale it’s fairly easy to coast – after all the paths I trod in a given week are fairly worn and fixed. I felt her words a challenge to question how much I was depending on my ability to construct a message, say, or pray a prayer and do the work that the Bible clearly states is mine to do but can only be done in his ability?
This past Monday I came in not only tired but discouraged (despite a wonderful Sunday morning gathering the day before) but after praying in tongues for 15 minutes that heaviness of spirit was already beginning to lift. It’s these two recent experiences that remind me of the truth of Jude’s counsel, “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost…” (1:20, KJV) I realize brothers from another part of the Body of Christ would disagree with my interpretation in just what Jude was referring to but…they don’t worship with our fellowship and I’m not out to disrupt theirs. I found that the practice does me good and so I will continue to do it. My son, Ed, just returned from the International House of Prayer in Kansas City and there on a regular basis he and his fellow interns would meet with one of the instructors at IHOPU who would lead them in what they refer to as a “burn” session – a time of prayer where for one entire hour they pray in tongues without ceasing. If fifteen minutes is enough to burn off a cloud of spiritual smog imagine what forty-five minutes longer of glossalalia would do for me? I can think of other far less spiritual ways to waste an hour of my day.
|May He burn in me in greater measure|