By Virginia S. Saunders
THE PRAYER TONGUE is a gift from the Holy Spirit. First given to the apostles and disciples at the birth of the church on Pentecost Sunday 2000 years ago, it was revealed in Acts 2:1-47. It is a significant gift that increased fervor among the early fathers of the church, a physical manifestation of the presence of the Promised One, a fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that He will not leave us orphans. It gave meat and bones to the concept of a God who cares for us. Prior to the distribution of this gift, we were just grasping onto a notion of a god that created the universe. Did this god really speak to the prophets? How do we know?
On Pentecost Sunday, God’s manifestation was physically given in the form of praying tongues. It was a phenomenon then, and it is still a phenomenon now. Even recipients of this gift are staggered by the personal connection to a spiritual realm that can be bridged and established just by the use of the tongue.
“They will cast out devils, they shall speak with new tongues,” said Mark 16:17. Acts 2:4 said “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” The Greek translation referred to this new tongue as “unprecedented”, meaning it has not been uttered, experienced or revealed ever. Thus, those disciples who have never been to Cappadocia or Libya or even uttered languages from those places, spoke in those languages. Imagine the marvel it created. While the tongues vary in each recipient, even today that would have blown the average mind.
The prayer tongue is also referred in the Bible as “rivers of living water”. It was revealed in John 7:37-39 which said, “On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, “Let anyone who thirst come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says, “rivers of living water will flow from within him.” He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive. There was, of course, no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.” Earlier translations said “out of their belly shall flow rivers of living water”.
There is so much imagery in John’s verse. And yet it is real. I have the gift of prayer tongue and have experienced how the prayer tongue flow like rivers of living water whenever I use this gift. While praying for Ukraine, Russia, and Venezuela two nights ago, I started with the familiar prayer words given to me in 1993. Repeating those words and syllables over and over, my ears just listened to what my lips were uttering. What was I saying? What did these words mean? The mind is never engaged in the formulation of the words.
All of a sudden the words and syllables changed and the tongue moved up and down faster and faster, creating sounds that were not mine, and yet coming from within me. It was like a wall of water which rushed in torrents as my tongue went tak-tak-tak-tak. When I first experienced this in 1993, I was truly frightened and perplexed that a phenomenon was happening within me. It took mental focus on the image of Jesus Christ while my tongue went alive on its own. Many years of praying and reading the Scriptures have told me that Acts 2:1-47 was being repeated in me. Mine is not an isolated experience. Many others who have been given the gift of praying tongues also pray this way. I have matured since that first encounter, and nowadays I look forward to this physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit whenever I use this gift.
But no gift has been more ridiculed, disdained, corrupted, refused and dismissed vehemently than the gift of prayer tongue. Satan must be very proud of his success. Over the past two thousand years it has caused grief to the Holy Spirit that His gift would be so rejected. What a waste.
There are cesationists, those who claim that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were only for first century Christians and would cease, wrongly applying what the Bible said about charity in 1 Corinthians 13:8: “Without charity, prophecies will fail, tongues shall cease, knowledge shall vanish away.” There are non-believers who gave the gift a “scientific” name by calling it “glossolalia”, as if the new word would adequately describe a supernatural gift from above. There were Christians who labeled those with these gifts as “witches” and burned them at stake. And until the word “anointing” succumbed all fears of supernatural encounters, those who spoke and prayed in tongues were described as “misguided”.
Christians against gifted Christians. The church was fragmented. In my book ENTER THE HOLY SPIRIT, EXIT ME, I wrote that those who had the gift were torn between edifying themselves or discarding the gift altogether. There were those who were given the gift but became bored with it because the mind is never engaged when prayer tongue is used. Subscribing to Paul’s words, “in the church I would rather speak five words with my mind, so as to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue,” they forget that Paul prefaced his statement with “I give thanks to God that I speak in tongues more than any of you.” He told the Corinthians to contain themselves and stop the abuse and word-fights that made the church in Corinth appear riotous.
In the first century, the gift of the Holy Spirit spread throughout like rivers of living waters, and nowhere was the gift more strong than in Corinth. There, believers, unaware of the dynamics of the gift, used it for purposes other than speaking to God. They had word-fights, using the gift to throw curses or impress others with their religiosity or spiritual superiority. Disturbed by the unmitigated misuse of the gift, Paul told them that it will cease if not used with charity (love).
Timothy was very specific. He said, “Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.” 1 Timothy 4:1. As churches split through the Great Schism, the prayer tongue was abandoned by others. In comparison, Believers and churches who held on to the gift saw their prayer lives strengthened and their prayers granted.
These rivers of living water are still within us more than ever. The Holy Spirit has not withdrawn the gift. It is a very powerful gift because when we use it, we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in bringing intercessions, petitions, concerns, and our own praises to the Lord. 1 Corinthians 14:2 said, “One who speaks in tongues does not speak to human beings but to God, for no one listens; he utters mysteries in spirit.”
God would not distribute this gift if it was not important. Be encouraged, be inspired, and seek this gift. We are being called to proclaim His kingdom, bring solace to the broken and hurting, and as we reject the prejudices and fears that have strangled us, out of our belly shall flow rivers of living waters.
By Virginia S. Saunders
March 4, 2014
First posted at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2014/03/04/the-prayer-tongue-rivers-of-living-water/