Praying in Tongues: Out of Control?

Untitled design (2)This week we are focusing on the gift of tongues. On the latest episode of the Everyday Jesus podcast, we discussed this issue at length. If you missed it, you can catch up by pressing the play button below:

Today, I’d like to focus on the question as to whether you are out of control or lacking self-control when you are speaking in tongues? Many people believe that when the Spirit comes upon you, you lose control. You cannot control whether you are speaking English or another language. You are totally consumed by the Spirit’s power. But, is that really the case? Let’s look at one the Bible says:

“Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret.28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.

39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” 

1st Corinthians 14:26-28, 39-40

Here the Apostle Paul is making his case against a disorderly service. What is a disorderly service you may ask? In Paul’s mind, it seems it was a church service in which everyone was talking at the same time causing chaos and confusion. Paul says to the church in Corinth that only one person at a time should speak in tongues.

If Paul’s command here is that only person speak at a time, he is assuming that everyone can control their actions and no one is “out-of-control”. This is important. Some churches allow too much chaos in their services by claiming that the Spirit is “in control”. God is not the author of confusion.

Look at verse 40, Paul sums up what he means by saying that everything (and he is specifically talking about tongues and prophecy in this context) should be done in an orderly way. So contrary to what some leaders teach, God’s spirit may be overwhelming in certain ways, but it doesn’t lead to a lack of control. You are in control of your actions and during the worship service, you are to prove your self-control by obeying Paul’s commands.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-23

One of the ways that we know someone is controlled by the Holy Spirit is that we will see the “fruits of the Spirit,” the Paul lists out here. One of the Spirit’s fruits is self-control. We could define self-control as being in control of one’s personal thoughts, emotions, desires and actions. Self-control is mentioned repeatedly throughout the New Testament.

These character traits should be naturally growing out of a Christian’s life. Paul uses this language to get us to think about trees and the fruit they produce. Trees don’t try to produce fruit, they just do it naturally. Self-control should flow naturally from a Christian.

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

Proverbs 16:32

Ruling your spirit is one of the more wise things you can do. Self-control in all areas of life is something that we should all seek to obtain. We should not allow ourselves to fall into the trap of allowing other things to control us. I know many people who say things like “I could never do that,” or “that’s too hard” in regards to things like not drinking soda or giving up coffee. These are simple things, but it can expose a lack of self-control if you believe that you could never give them up. Rule your spirit. Bring your body into submission.

Speaking in tongues or using any other spiritual gift should be natural. It’s not something that you need to lose control to do. God wants people to be obedient to him, he’s not looking for robots. When you pray in tongues, you are offering a praise and worship to God, no need to lose control, offer Him all that you are and his Spirit will work self-control into your life.

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