Some years ago I was preaching on Pentecost and at the end of the service a young man came up to me with blazing eyes. “Are you saying I have got to speak in tongues?” he said rather fiercely.
“Not at all”, I replied.
“Then what are you saying?”
“What I am saying, is wouldn't you like to?”
“Well”, he said “that is quite different.” Which of course it is! “Why would I want to?”
So we looked together at three verses in St Paul's first letter to the Corinthians.
”...anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God.” (14:2)
So it is a proper language, not nonsense or a psychological release. The previous chapter verse 1 confirms this.
”He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself...” (14:4)
It is perfectly true that if you want to edify the church you should speak in a language they understand but, on your own, and I am for now only considering praying in tongues on your own...other considerations apply if you are doing it with others present....but on your own you are building yourself up. Don't you want to do that? Of course you do or you wouldn't pray, read the bible, or go to church.
”For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.” (14:14)
John Wesley used to say that God has bound Himself to do nothing save in answer to prayer. But the trouble is that we tend to restrict our prayers to what we understand the need to be which hugely limits the possibilities...God is much bigger than that. So God inspires our spirit to pray what He needs to hear without our interfering by explaining why He has got it wrong! And do you know what happens? When God in heaven hears the prayer that His spirit has inspired our spirit to pray...He says AMEN.....and things begin to change. It is one tool in God's garden shed for us to do His work.
My friend looked thoughtful. “I need this!” he said.
Jesus says, “if you ask, you receive”. My encouragement to you is to ask and then dare to believe that you have received. We start to pray in another language because we have received, not to see if we have received. That is the way God has chosen to work! Of course I believe we can get to heaven without ever having spoken in tongues...but I can't think why we should want to. It is a very precious gift and I believe open to all.