Some time ago, I experimented with an exercise to help me grow in the interpretation of tongues. I felt the Lord was encouraging me to do it so that I would be more disciplined in listening to Him in general.
As you may already know, when we are in a church gathering, if someone gives a public message in tongues, opportunity is supposed to be given for an interpretation of the tongues message. 1 Corinthians 14:27, 28 instructs us about this:
If any man speaks in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church, and let him speak to himself and to God.
1 Corinthians 14:12, 13 tells us a little more:
Even so, since you are zealous about spiritual gifts, seek to excel to the edifying of the church. Therefore, let him who speaks in an unknown tongue pray that he may also interpret.
If you attend a Spirit-filled church where the gifts of the Spirit are welcomed, you have probably been taught these things. What many of us have not been told, however, is that we can (and should) also ask God for the interpretation of our private prayer languages.
In 1 Corinthians 14:18, 19, the apostle Paul said, “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than you all: yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding….” If Paul spoke in tongues more than the rest of them, yet preferred not to do so frequently in the church gathering, the implication is that he privately prayed a lot in tongues. Further, he spoke of the importance of also engaging in interpretation of tongues while in prayer.
Let’s look at verse 13 again. This time, we’ll add verses 14 and 15 to it:
Therefore, let him who speaks in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What 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.
Clearly, we are not only to pray in tongues, but also to hear the interpretation at times.
Here’s how I carried out my experiment:
- I set aside about twenty minutes daily to simply pray in tongues. (I usually pray more in tongues than that, but this was focused time, while usually I pray in tongues as I am doing other things around the house.)
- Before praying in tongues, I asked the Lord to interpret for me some of what I was praying.
- I kept a journal in front of me to record any interpretations I received.
- While I was praying in tongues, if a word, phrase, or picture came to mind, I wrote it in the journal.
Quite often, what I ended up recording were expressions of praise. How nice to find that much of what I prayed was expressing love and adoration for the Lord! That is how it should be.
Some words and phrases followed a theme. The flow along a theme seemed to be intercession – and sometimes there were enough details to unfold a story. In one particular session, I found I was praying about a nursing home (the name was supplied), which was suffering some type of catastrophe. I was praying for the safe evacuation of the residents and safety for the rescue workers. In still another, I was praying for a Christian man who had been blinded in an accident, whom the Lord was intending to heal through an innovative eye surgery. This much detail occurred only rarely, however. Most of the time, because I was only catching words and short phrases, I did not have much clarity.
Some words I heard seemed random and unconnected. This may be an indication that they were just coming from my own mind, not from the Spirit. When they were far between, they may have simply indicated that I was only hearing slight bits before moving on to a new topic.
Some words or phrases were unfamiliar to me. I usually googled those, out of curiosity. Sometimes they were astronomy, medical, or engineering terms. To my surprise, one peculiar phrase was the trademark expression of a character on a TV show I had never heard of, which had been popular in its day. The Spirit must have chosen to use this unique saying to address whatever I was praying into, but I did not understand it.
Sometimes the interpretation was unusually clear, and led me into more extended intercession in English. I could feel the heavy anointing of the Spirit on those expanded prayers. At other times, the interpretations did not lead me into further prayer along a theme.
I did not expect to receive an interpretation for everything I prayed. I believe that many topics we address in our prayer language remain purposely hidden by the Holy Spirit. When we are interceding for others, some information is not any of our business, so He protects the person we are praying for by not revealing it. Some things we pray for our own future would perhaps upset us if we knew prematurely.
I continued the experiment for about four months, and then stopped. It seemed that the unction to keep doing it every day was no longer there. Perhaps that phase of my education in discerning His voice had come to a close. I still pray in tongues, of course, but I don’t regularly listen deeply for an interpretation as I did then.
Perhaps sharing my experience will inspire some of you to listen to the Lord in this way. It takes faith to believe that the words and phrases you hear are really from Him, not just your own imagination. And it takes concentration. But it is one more path to becoming sensitive to His voice. You might find that it opens up a depth of communication between you and the Lord beyond what you currently enjoy.
Why not give it a try?
Yes, You CAN Be an Intercessor! (CD or mp3 set),
by Lee Ann Rubsam
Growing in the Prophetic (CD or mp3 set),
by Lee Ann Rubsam