Tongues of angels…private prayer language…what!

Search the scriptures daily to see if what you’ve been told is true.

Spiritual Gifts are given by God through the Holy Spirit. A person cannot help another “activate” a gift that is only given by God. If it is a true gift from God that gift (s) will be exercised decently, in order, and supernaturally as seen in the Scripture without human intervention, persuasion, or coaxing. You will not be able to find scripture where we are told the Apostles had “gift activation” classes as if The Holy Spirit is part of the curriculum at a “Harry Potter” school. You won’t read such a thing in scripture because that is not how the gifts operated then and God is the same yesterday, today and forever.

The Holy Spirit is not “a silly blue genie” as Bethel Church/Music worship leader Jenn Johnson irreverently described Him.

I want to pause for a moment…did you hear that @ 37 seconds in? “That’s who He is to me!” Not only is she speaking about the Spirit of the Lord irreverently, she has fashioned a god after her own making, not who God is as He has manifested Himself in His Word, rather who we like Him to be “to us.”

Some history of Corinth would be beneficial to discuss because the heavy pagan /polytheistic/gnostic culture influenced the Corinthians that Paul taught and had to write to in order to reteach them. Paul states:” But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely men? “(1 Corinthians 3:1-4) Paul addressed the Corinthians out of order behavior regarding the misuse of the gifts and being surrounded (and participating with) by paganism and he clarifies about speaking in tongues and mentions tongues of angels.

Many interpret tongues of angels as “a private prayer language” each believer has and then others view it as a hyperbolic statement much like when Paul stated if I, or even an angel bring another gospel to you other than the one you’ve received let them be accursed.” Or another hyperbolic statement by Jesus Christ when He said if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out.” Paul appears to be contrasting and his emphasis is on the greatest of all, which is to pursue agape. Paul is not stating he does speak in tongues of angels, nor is he implying there is or is not an angelic language. Paul is saying “if I did speak in tongues of angels.”

A cursory look at scripture and when angels appeared to people we read they always spoke in intelligible languages to the people they appeared too. We do not read there were any linguistic barriers or interpretation needed when angels appeared. To assume such a thing would be a presupposition and exceeding the things which are written which we are told not to do. Reading Pauls correction to the Corinthians he uses conditional language as examples such as “if I pray in a tongue” not when I pray.

Paul states he thanks God he speaks in tongues (intelligible languages, the ability to speak fluently a language the speaker has never learned) more than all of us, and this would make sense, since Paul travelled extensively more so than any other recorded apostle.

Tracking only some of Pauls extensive geographic travels biblically:

  • Antioch (Acts 13:4)
  • Seleucia to Cyprus, to Salamis and Paphos (Acts 13:4-6)
  • Iconium, (Acts 14:3) Lystra
  • Paul and Barnabas went throughout Pisidia, Pamphylia, then to Perga, Attalia (Acts 14:24-26)
  • Paul takes Silas through Syria and Cilicia (now southeastern Turkey)
  • Then in Philippi, (Acts 16:14-34).
  • After teaching some in Berea, Paul departed ahead of Silas and Timothy, southward into Achaia (now southern Greece), to Athens.
  • Paul then makes his first visit to Corinth where he stays a year and a half (Acts 18:1, 5, 11). Paul left by boat with Aquila and Priscilla to Cenchrea and then across the Aegean Sea to Ephesus. Aquila and Priscilla stay there where they would later meet Apollos (Acts 18:19 and 26).
  • Paul sails on to Caesarea and then goes up to Antioch in Syria, Paul stayed a while (Acts 18:23).
  • Then off to Galatia (central region of Turkey) and then Phrygia (Acts 18:23).
  • Then Paul arrives at Ephesus (Acts 20:31) and he preached in the synagogue for 3 months (Acts 19:8). He disputed daily in the school of Tyrannus for 2 years (Acts 19:9-10), so that all that dwelt in Asia heard the word.
  • Paul had come to Troas and continued to Macedonia (2 Corinthians 2:12-13 and 7:5)
  • Then Paul went to Assos, Mitylene, Chios, Samos, Trogylium, and Miletus (now in southwestern Turkey). From here, Paul addresses Ephesian elders whom he had called to meet him (Acts 20:17-38)
  • Sailing to Coos, Rhodes, Patara, and passing on the south side of Cyprus, they came to Tyre (which is now in Lebanon) where they stayed one week. Then they went south to Ptolemais and to Caesarea where they stayed many days (Acts 21:10).
  • Paul is at Caesarea, “many years” (Acts 24:10) Paul then spends 2 years in prison in Caesarea in Judea.
  • Paul, still a prisoner, sails to Sidon with Luke and Aristarchus (Acts 27:1-2) on the way to Italy.
  • Sailed to Myra (now southern Turkey) and on to Lasea, on large island of Crete, 50 miles southeast of Greece, where much time was spent (Acts 27:7-13).

We need to read the scripture setting aside our indoctrinated beliefs, rituals, traditions, and experiences and read the scriptures as they are written plainly. The scripture read from 1 Corinthians 12-14 just does not support “two types” of the gift of tongues (i.e.) The Gift of Tongues and then a “second type” a sort of “private prayer language” or angelic tongues, often called a “heavenly language” and used interchangeably to mean that “every believer has” even though scripture is clear “not all have the gift of tongues.”

If we take the position that all have a “private prayer language” or as some will even hold (erroneously that if you don’t speak in tongues then you have “not received the baptism of the Holy Spirit” or “not saved at all” would be a direct contradiction of Gods Word regarding spiritual gifts. No where in Scripture does it indicate a person must posses a gift as evidence of being saved we know according to scripture that the Holy Spirit sanctifies a believer ongoing throughout their life and a true born again believer will produce fruit, fruit is not equivalent to gifts. We are not saved by “possessing a gift” we are saved by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.

Many proponents of a “private prayer language” will cite only part of Romans 8:26 : …“the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us ….“The rest of that verse is “with groanings which cannot be uttered.” A language (a tongue) must be uttered and words come forth, so this verse is not teaching a private prayer language whereby the person initiates speech, nor is anything (speech) uttered.

Paul concludes his admonition to the Corinthians with the most excellent way (contrasting the competition and pride in Corinth) and what is the most important to pursue which is agape. The problem in Corinth is very much the same today, spiritual pride. Paul was addressing that sin of pride and emphasizing the need for love amongst the brethren, Paul was not emphasizing an angelic tongue. God is not the author of confusion or chaos which was also an issue in Corinth that Paul was addressing. Paul was reestablishing the proper order of the spiritual gifts, calling the Corinthians out of their sinful lifestyle, (to be separate from the paganism around them) they had fallen into and exhorting them to love. These letters Paul wrote were not to make a doctrine of a “private prayer language” or “speaking angelic languages.”

“But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching?”

Primary Scripture Sources:

1 Corinthians 12

1 Corinthians 13

1 Corinthians 14

Below is an example of what the gift of tongues is not.

The Lord is quite clear how not to pray and Jesus Christ Himself gives a very detailed structural way to pray:

“Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” And He said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us day by day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

If God intended for us to speak to Him in unknown tongues, angelic tongues, or “secret code” private prayer languages I have to wonder why God is then so specific on how not to pray and on how we ought to pray. Much scripture is written that calls us to be actively engaged in mind, speech, actions, etc. when speaking, praying, interacting with God and to have our minds be unfruitful just lends itself to much of what we are seeing in contemplative prayer and lectio divina.

Misuse/abuse and in some cases outright unbiblical use of the gifts are most often seen in these areas within Christendom: The Word of Faith Movement and The New Apostolic Reformation.

I wanted to write about this issue because I know people who have been made to feel less than and worse over this issue. So Pauls letter (s) to the Corinthians is alive and active today! Many people today hold this practice of speaking in tongues and elevating it to some sort of sign of maturity or spirituality. And if a person doesn’t have a “private prayer language” then something “is wrong with their relationship with Christ” or they are looked at as “less spiritual” and this sort of childish behavior is exactly what Paul was addressing with the Corinthians. Paul chided the Corinthians for their carnality.

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”