2009-09-02 - Summer Questions
2009 #8 ~ Prayer Language
1 Corinthians 14:19, "However, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind, that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue."
Today's Question: I've been attending a church and helping lead worship. Before we go to the platform, we pray as a group. While praying several of the fellow worship leaders speak in tongues without interpretation. They are a non-denominational church while I am a Southern Baptist. When I asked about the tongues they were speaking and it being done without interpretation they informed me it was prayer language as described in Romans 8:26. Is there such a prayer language? Is this Scriptural?"
We have dealt with speaking in tongues before in the devotionals, and I have made it clear that I follow the historic view and interpretation, that the gift of tongues was an Apostolic gift, for the founding of the church, and it is not for today. It is, to me, the clear reading of the Greek text. I will put my view aside here, and try to deal with this matter of "prayer language." Is there such a thing?
Before we do, let us consider what the Apostle Paul says in the verse quoted above. Paul wants to speak to the edification of others. He wants them to understand, and for him one word that can be comprehended, when in the church, is worth more than 2000 words spoken to God, that only edifies himself (1 Cor. 14:4). There are clear rules spelled out for speaking in tongues within a church setting. "When you assemble," (1 Cor. 14:26) is followed by the admonition that there be only two or at the most three, that speak in tongues, and there should be an interpretation. If there is no interpretation, the person is to be silent (1 Cor. 14:26-28). If this is not being followed, then there is no speaking in tongues being done, according to the Bible. It is mindless chatter and dishonors God. The unbeliever can only think Christians are out of their minds (1 Cor. 14:23).
The matter of a special prayer language has no foundation either in Scripture or in church history. There is no orthodox branch of Protestantism that has ever held to there being a separate prayer language, other than seeking to pray as the Lord has directed us to pray, giving us an example of how He would have us to pray, in Matthew 6:9-13. Using Romans 8:26 does not help defend the practice, either. It is the clear meaning of the text that it is the Spirit who intercedes with groanings, not us! The Greek word used there for "intercedes," is huperentugehano. It means to "make intercession for," and it is what the Spirit does, not what we do. To use this verse as a defense for speaking in tongues, is to make light of the Word of God, and to invent new meanings according to our preconceived desires. There is no nicer way to say this. It is a false use of the precious Word of God, and thus a false teaching.
There is no prayer language given us in Scripture, that supersedes the example given us by our Lord, or the examples of prayer given by others, through the Spirit, in Scripture. These are given by the Holy Spirit to us, to help us in our prayers. Scripture nowhere speaks of a special language that we can access to make our prayers better. That is what the Spirit does, not what we do. The examples left to us, and the admonition of Paul in 1 Corinthians 14, are that we ought to seek to be clear in our prayers - public and private - we ought to pray specifically respecting specific things, and that we ought to pray often. We cannot find much about any person in Scripture who pleased God, from Genesis to Revelation, who was not a man of prayer.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Editor's Note: The questions in this series are stated in the exact form sent by the readers - unedited, unproofed, in order to remain true to the reader's original wording.