- Three Types of Tongues
- The Relationship Between Praying in the Spirit & Praying in Tongues
- Four Levels of Urgent Prayer
- Prayer & Supernatural Power to Defeat the Devil
- The Importance of Praying in Tongues
- Praying in Tongues for Personal Edification
- In the Spirit & Speaking in Tongues
- Groanings: A Deep Level of Intercession
- Praying with the Help of the Spirit
- Final Thought
This article is an extension of a conversation between Dad and me on the Apostolic Voice podcast. I’ve included a link to that episode below. It’s a revelatory episode. Praying in tongues and praying in the Spirit is life-changing.
A relevant Apostolic Pentecostal resource that interacts with exciting guests and covers biblical topics of interest, ministry, Christian living, and practical insights hosted by Ryan French. This program is an extension of the popular blog Apostolic Voice (www.ryanafrench.com). Ryan is the Associate Pastor of Apostolic Tabernacle (www.aptabupc.com), a revivalistic United Pentecostal Church on the south side of Atlanta. Ryan’s greatest passion is helping people walk confidently in the Apostle’s doctrine and live a book of Acts life in the 21st century. Support this podcast: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/apostolicvoice/support
Dad French joins the program to explain what the Bible says about praying in tongues. Ryan and Dr. French discuss the five levels of prayer and how they work together in a Christian’s life. Among other things, Dr. French elucidates questions about groaning in the Spirt, praying in the Spirit, the Spirit praying through you, praying with and without understanding, and singing in the Spirit—finally, Dr. French reveals why it is so vital that we pray in the Spirit. Ryan’s brother, Jonathan French, joins in for a Ryan Raw & Real segment. Jonathan hosts a new podcast called Whatever, which deals with various interesting topics. Ryan talks to Jon about his latest episode called YouTube Kids, Is Coming For Your Kids. It’s shocking and disturbing! You need to hear about it. You can catch all the show notes and other great stuff at www.ryanafrench.com.
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Three Types of Tongues
Much of the confusion surrounding talking in tongues comes from a failure to differentiate between the three types (or modes) of tongues described in Scripture. Most Pentecostals are so familiar with these types of tongues that they fail to realize it can confuse the uninitiated. Jesus prophesied about the first type of tongues, so there could be no doubt when it happened on the Day of Pentecost. He said signs would follow believers, and one of those signs is that “they shall speak with new tongues (Mark 16:17).” Of course, that happened in the Upper Room in Acts 2:4. But it happened on many other occasions, too, most notably in Acts 10:46 and Acts 19:6.
This is often called the initial (or first) evidence that someone has received the Holy Ghost. It’s certainly not the only evidence that a person has received the Spirit. Many other confirmations follow (Galatians 5:22-23), but it is always the first indicator that a person has been filled with the Holy Spirit. The second type of tongues is a manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit (or spiritual gifts). The apostle Paul extensively deals with this mode of tongues in 1 Corinthians 12-14. This gifting is for the edification of the Church (1 Corinthians 14:5). It’s usually referred to as tongues and interpretation. When it happens, an individual under the inspiration of the Spirit will burst out loudly in tongues. When they have finished speaking in tongues, the Holy Ghost supernaturally gives another individual the interpretation of those tongues, and they say that interpretation out loud to the entire congregation. So, it’s a highly sacred moment to experience in person. The third type of tongues is sometimes called devotional tongues. But as we will see, it’s probably more accurate to call it praying in the Spirit. This third mode of tongues is the primary focus of this article.
The Relationship Between Praying in the Spirit & Praying in Tongues
Praying in tongues and praying in the Spirit go together like the shell, yoke, and egg. In other words, each element needs the other to be an egg. Prayer is designed to be done in the Spirit, and praying in the Spirit is inseparable from tongues. It all goes together. Indeed, praying in the Spirit plugs us into the power of God.
Prayer is designed to be done in the Spirit, and praying in the Spirit is inseparable from tongues.Tweet
Four Levels of Urgent Prayer
I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men (1 Timothy 2:1).
In 1 Timothy 2:1, Paul calls Timothy and us to four levels of urgent prayer, saying, “I exhort,” which is a serious word meaning to urge strongly. He continued, “therefore, that, first of all,” emphasizing that what he is about to say is the paramount urgency. Then he listed four levels of prayer: “Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men.” These four levels of prayer are meant to be interspersed throughout praying in the Spirit with tongues. Together they produce a depth that impacts “all” people – the whole world. Paul insisted that prayer has a supernatural impact on all the people and systems of the world.
For clarity, let’s examine the four levels of prayer a little closer. First, supplication is probably the most familiar level of prayer to the average Christian. It’s our constant, unwavering, repetitive petitioning of God to answer requests or meet needs. This level of prayer is so familiar that our church services have specific times for prayer requests. Sadly, most people stay at this first level without ever moving to the next.
Secondly, Paul mentions “prayers.” The Greek word he used is proseuchomani, a generic word for prayer that carries the connotation of an oratory.[i] Therefore, this kind of prayer includes a lifted voice. It’s also corporate and intended to be done with fellow believers. And while private prayer is undoubtedly biblical, communal prayer is too.
“Intercessions” is the third level of prayer Paul mentions in 1 Timothy 2:1. Intercessory prayer is travail on behalf of another before God. The Greek word enteuxis, translated as “intercession,” means to access with familiarity and freedom, to interrupt with boldness.[ii] Intercessory prayer has the boldness to interrupt a process harming another individual. Those who enter the realm of intercession have liberty and familiarity with God, which produces results.
Fourthly, Paul lists “thanksgivings” as a level of prayer. This can be thought of as praise breaks scattered throughout our interactions with God—prayer without praise profits very little. Praise will often take us to new levels in prayer. It’s good policy to praise God more than we petition God. Why would God answer new requests if we aren’t thankful for what He’s already done? As we give thanks, our faith increases, and we step into the supernatural with greater boldness.
It’s good policy to praise God more than we petition God. Why would God answer new requests if we aren’t thankful for what He’s already done?Tweet
Prayer & Supernatural Power to Defeat the Devil
In prayer, we wrestle against “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12).” A few verses later, Paul describes the kind of prayer that is most effective against these forces of the devil. Not only does he reinforce the concept of prayer “levels,” but he also identifies the fifth level of prayer: Praying in the Spirit. Finally, he says, “Praying always (consistently) with all (using every kind of) prayer and supplication in the Spirit… (Ephesians 6:18).” Praying in the Spirit is powerful to defeat the enemy! Knowing this, we now need to understand what it means to pray in the Spirit.
The Importance of Praying in Tongues
For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful (1 Corinthians 14:14).
Paul’s teaching is even more explicit here regarding praying in tongues. It is a supernatural depth of praying where the Spirit of God assists us as we pray. Praying in the Spirit ushers us into heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). Your spirit intercedes in and through the Holy Ghost beyond your earthly ability to pray. Your own spirit prays supernaturally, without understanding, rather than your intellect. You might not know how or even what to pray, but when you are in the Spirit, there is a deep working of the Holy Ghost, empowerment, and a supernatural power between you and God in prayer. The Spirit isn’t controlling your speech but empowers your spirit to pray in the Spirit.
Praying in Tongues for Personal Edification
He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church (1 Corinthians 14:4).
The New Living Translation accurately renders “…edifieth himself” as “…is strengthened personally.” Praying in tongues is personal, directed to God. Otherwise, it’s a Divine message to the church requiring interpretation (1 Corinthians 14:2). The “unknown tongue” in 1 Corinthians 14:4 is personal prayer. As with all tongues speech, such prayer is viewed as being “in the Spirit.” A personal strengthening (edification) comes exclusively from praying in the Spirit.
Praying in tongues is personal, directed to God. Otherwise, it’s a Divine message to the church requiring interpretation (1 Corinthians 14:2).Tweet
In the Spirit & Speaking in Tongues
What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also (1 Corinthians 14:15).
The King James Version’s rendering of “pray with the spirit” is awkward in two ways: First, “spirit” should be capitalized since it refers to the “Spirit” of God. Secondly, the word with isn’t even a possibility in Greek. Therefore, it should state, “I will pray in the Spirit.” With that understood, Paul again parallels being “in the Spirit” and “speaking in tongues.” Praying in tongues, like all speaking in tongues, is referred to as being “in the Spirit.”
Interestingly, singing in tongues is revealed as a supernatural prayer level of joyous song unto God, not to men. This is precisely the same as the supernatural prayer levels mentioned by Paul in 1 Timothy 2:1 as distinct types of prayer. Paul meant for each of these levels to be intermixed – supplication, prayer, intercession, and thanksgiving with tongues (in the Spirit) and our native language (understanding).
Praying in tongues, like all speaking in tongues, is referred to as being “in the Spirit.”Tweet
Groanings: A Deep Level of Intercession
26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).
Paul, in Romans 8:26-27, introduced a profound aspect of praying in the Spirit. He said, “the Spirit also helpeth (works with) our infirmities (frailties, weaknesses).” Then he gave the reason, “for we know not what we should pray for as we ought.” Perhaps nothing has ever been more accurate. How often do we pray with limited insight or knowledge? We can’t see the big picture. Many times, we don’t even know what the best outcome would be in a difficult situation. But the Spirit knows. Therefore, Paul said, “the Spirit maketh intercession for us (on behalf or in place of).” That intercession bellows from deep inside us as groanings. The English Standard Version says, “with groanings too deep for words.”
Speaking in tongues is God giving the utterance. However, it’s your voice and tongue (Acts 2:4). So, it is with praying in tongues, the Spirit empowers your spirit to pray (1 Corinthians 14:14). The Spirit doesn’t do it alone, but helpeth, or jointly helps, that is, enables us to do what we can’t do! God intercedes for us through tongues and groanings. Not groanings alone, but tongues “with” groanings.
Praying with the Help of the Spirit
To be clear, it’s good to pray with understanding, which means to pray in your native language using your intellect to form meaningful words and sentences. However, a person’s intellect can only take them to a certain point in prayer. Our memories are flawed, our perceptions are skewed, and our comprehension is one-dimensional. We don’t even know exactly which demons have a stronghold in our region. We don’t know which specific powers need to be cast down. But the Spirit knows. We don’t know when an eighteen-wheeler is bearing down on our loved ones in real-time, but the Spirit knows. So, when we pray in the Spirit, the Spirit fills the gaps our weaknesses can’t close.
When we pray in the Spirit, the Spirit fills the gaps our weaknesses can’t close.Tweet
The enemy desperately wants to eliminate praying in tongues from every believer’s life. And the reason is apparent. Praying in the Spirit brings a dimension of power into our lives that terrifies Hell. There are pressures from without and within the Church to pray in tongues less often. Resist that pressure with every fiber of your being. Be encouraged. Praying in tongues is not an inferior form of prayer. Rather, praying in tongues is a dimension of prayer that should be sought after and cultivated.
Praying in tongues is not an inferior form of prayer. Rather, praying in tongues is a dimension of prayer that should be sought after and cultivated.Tweet
[i] Mounce, William D. (Accordance electronic ed.). OakTree Software, 2011.
[ii] (Revised, Accordance electronic ed.). AMG Publishers, 1993.