“… i have a prayer language,” he said, almost hesitatingly, as though i might suddenly storm out of the restaurant.
“oh, cool,” i said.
“i’ve had it since i was younger. i’ve never had any kind of public pronouncement or anything, it’s something done in private, during my personal prayer time.”
“Oh, well that’s Scriptural.” and it’s true.
despite my background in non-charismatic churches, i have no problem with tongues and prayer languages that are exhibited in a Scriptural manner and context. why? um. well, it’s Scriptural, duh! now, having said all that, i have never been so moved by the Spirit to speak in tongues or prophecy, or any other type of Spirit-motivated manifestation of messages from God.
but the conversation i had with my new friend greg the other day brought back a rather amusing conversation had several years ago during bible college.
several of us were sitting around talking about the fruits of the spirit – my college was not a big tongues kind of place – if i remember correctly they believe that speaking in tongues ceased a couple generations after the apostles. i must’ve been sleeping during that class.
but there we were, talking away, and one of the guys was from the church of god movement – a charismatic / pentecostal / full gospel denomination that, if this dude represented all we knew about them, then the representation would be rather frightening – he began telling us how, when he was a young boy in the CoG church, they would “help the Spirit along” with certain phrases.
and we genuinely didn’t have any idea what he was talking about.
“certain ‘phrases’ – what does that mean?”
“well, if we were at a revival or something and we weren’t speaking in tongues, we were taught that after a while we should start saying the phrase ‘my knee, my toe’ over and over, slowly at first, then faster, ‘mykneemytoemykneemytoemykneemytoe’ until the Spirit finally kicked in.”
“kicked in,” i said, “like a lawn mower or something?” i had begun to visualize the Spirit waiting for the gas to meet the spark and then saying, “ok! here i come! you got the right combination at last!”
“well, kind of. it seemed to produce the right atmosphere for the Spirit to come.”
and the rest of us didn’t know what to say. so we said nothing, sitting in awkward silence until class started.
later, two of us were recounting this conversation with one of our professors. he said the phrases varied and the one he heard the most was “see my tie, tie my tie” – again, starting off slowly, increasing in speed until miraculously you were “filled with the Holy Spirit” and suddenly you’re speaking in genuine tongue-like fashion.
that kind of “priming the pump” completely takes away from everything the bible says about this type of spiritual gift – there’s no magic incantation or phrase or hokus pocus that will suddenly motivate the Spirit like this.
but when greg talked about tongues as a private prayer language, there is evidence of this in Scripture. to be certain, we could argue (and many have) until we’re blue in the face on the question of whether speaking in tongues genuinely exists in the present or not, but the bottom line is that the focus needs to be on the giver of the gift, not the recipient – working yourself into a babbling lather with ‘conducive’ phrases gives no glory to God.
gosh. i have no pithy one-liner with which to end this post.