Paul: Praying in Tongues is “Speaking to God, Not People” — “no one understands,” “he speaks mysteries,” “edifies himself” — in languages of “men or angels”

Tragically, many pastors today are falsely rejecting God’s precious gift of praying in tongues because they say it’s not exactly like what happened in Acts 2, when many foreigners were in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and could hear the newly Spirit-filled Christians speaking in their own languages. “So this is always the way it’s supposed to happen or it’s not Biblical tongues,” pastors say.

Paul explains God’s gift of praying in tongues to God privately – to be free:

1 Cor. 13:1 If I speak with the languages of men and of angels, but don’t have love….

1 Cor. 14:1 Follow after love and earnestly desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For he who speaks in another language speaks not to men, but to God; for no one understands; but in the Spirit he speaks mysteriesBut he who prophesies speaks to men for their edification, exhortation, and consolation. He who speaks in another language edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the assembly. Now I desire to have you all speak with other languages [everyone could pray in tongues], but rather that you would prophesy [during public church services]. For he is greater who prophesies than he who speaks with other languages, unless he interprets, that the assembly may be built up.

But now, brothers, if I come to you speaking with other languages, what would I profit you…? 13 Therefore let him who speaks in another language pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in another language, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.

15 What is it then? [In private] 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. 16 Otherwise [in public] if you bless with the spirit, how will he who fills the place of the unlearned say the “Amen” at your giving of thanks, seeing he doesn’t know what you say17 For you most certainly give thanks well, but the other person is not built up. 18 I thank my God, I speak with other languages more than you all [praying in private]. 19 However in the assembly I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I might instruct others also, than ten thousand words in another language.

20 Brothers, don’t be children in thoughts, yet in malice be babies, but in thoughts be mature21 In the law it is written, “By men of strange languages and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people. They won’t even hear me that way, says the Lord.”Isaiah 28:11-12 22 Therefore other languages are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to the unbelieving; but prophesying is for a sign, not to the unbelieving, but to those who believe. 23 If therefore the whole assembly is assembled together and all speak with other languages [everyone could pray in tongues], and unlearned or unbelieving people come in, won’t they say that you are crazy24 But if all prophesy….

39 Therefore, brothers, desire earnestly to prophesy, and don’t forbid speaking with other languages40 Let all things be done decently and in order.

Jude shows how important praying in tongues is:

18 “…In the last time there will be mockers, walking after their own ungodly lusts.” 19 These are they who cause divisions, and are sensual, not having the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, keep building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit. 21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.

Jude’s wording is similar to Paul’s:

1 Cor. 14:2 For he who speaks in another language speaks not to men, but to God; for no one understands; but in the Spirit he speaks mysteries. 4 He who speaks in another language edifies himself….

14 For if I pray in another language, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.

15 …I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also. I will sing with the spirit….

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