Why is the gift of tongues such a powerful gift? Rev Chew explains.
Every revival movement has restored certain truths that were discarded by believers. The Reformation brought forth the central doctrine of salvation—justification by faith. The Wesleyan revival birthed the holiness movement. The Welsh revival brought forth holiness and purity in the church, as well as the prophetic element. Through the Azusa Street revival, the Pentecostals brought with them the defining doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the initial evidence of speaking in tongues. In the 1990s, Third Wave teachings made their rounds amongst the churches. Also known as the Neo-Charismatic movement, followers believed in a second experience with the Holy Spirit, but taught that tongues is not the initial evidence of this second experience.
Many Pentecostals were influenced by this teaching and began to turn away from the gift of tongues. The reason: many who have received the gift of tongues do not fully understand its power. To many Pentecostals, the gift of tongues is merely the “initial evidence” of one’s infilling of the Spirit. Without experiencing its power, the gift of tongues becomes a mere doctrine—no wonder they turned away.
The gift of tongues is more than just “initial evidence”. Over time I have come to learn that it is a very powerful gift. Here’s why.
- Praying in tongues breaks cultural and language barriers
From the Bible, we learn that on the day of Pentecost, the 120 were in the upper room. I imagine that the words of Jesus kept echoing in their hearts and mind: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father… You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…” There were expectations, but they really didn’t know what exactly was going to happen. Suddenly the Holy Spirit fell, they heard the sound of a mighty wind accompanied by a great fire appearing and dividing itself into cloven fire upon each head. They began to stutter and “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:4, KJV) As they came out of the upper room,still speaking in tongues, the different nationalities present were surprised to hear the disciples speaking in their native languages and the unknown tongues declaring the wonderful works of God.
Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians made this statement: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels” (1 Corinthians 13:1a), implying that when a person speaks in an unknown tongue, what’s uttered can be either a human or an angelic language. On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were speaking in languages known to the different nationalities present.
This helped to break language and cultural barriers, and eventually led to 3,000 being saved.
Some years ago, I travelled to Mongolia with a team of pastors to minister at a conference. As we prayed for believers to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and receive the gift of tongues at the altar call, one of the people that came forward was a lady who feared the gift of tongues. As my friend Pastor Kerry prayed for her, this lady heard Kerry say in Mongolian, “Speak in tongues. Speak in tongues.” She was gloriously filled with the Holy Spirit and started speaking in tongues. Pastor Kerry is American, and does not know the Mongolian language. In that moment of ministry, the Holy Spirit must have given her the ability to do so!
- Speaking in tongues helps you pray according to the will of God
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)
While some dispute that Paul isn’t talking about tongues here, I believe this passage refers to travailing prayers as well as praying in tongues. When we pray in tongues, the Holy Spirit gives us the words to utter. When we pray with our human mind, our understanding of the will of God is limited and as such we might not be praying completely according to His will. Praying in tongues is powerful because you can be assured that your prayer is aligned to the perfect will of God, thus producing wonderful results.
There are moments when the human mind doesn’t know how to pray at all. I was once part of a missions team travelling to Surathani, Thailand to minister in a church. We had three days of powerful meetings—people were saved and the sick got healed. We also had a day for relaxation, when our host took us on a boat ride out on a famous lake. Halfway through the journey, the unthinkable happened, and the boat capsized. The next few minutes were chaotic. Everyone panicked, but thankfully everyone was wearing life vests—a real lifesaver for those who could not swim. But when everyone surfaced, one of the team members realized her three-year-old daughter was missing. Chaos ensued again as people started to panic. It was at that moment when I heard the Spirit say, “Command everyone to stop screaming and pray in tongues.”
There we were, floating in the middle of a lake with a child missing and God commanded us to pray in tongues. Doesn’t it sound crazy? Not at all! Everyone started to pray loudly in tongues and a miracle unfolded. Within ten seconds the child floated up to the surface, completely unharmed. In that chaotic moment our human minds did not know how to pray, but as we prayed in tongues I believe the Holy Spirit released the perfect prayer to save the child.
- Speaking in tongues releases the anointing for the supernatural
The first time I preached, I was a college student and didn’t really know what I was doing. So three days before the day, I locked myself in my room for hours, praying in tongues and listening to Reinhard Bonnke’s message. On the day itself, I arrived at a HDB flat facing a crowd of more than 20 students and preached Reinhard’s message word for word. God downloaded a Word of Knowledge and I spoke it out in faith. A girl came forward with a knee problem. I laid my hands on her, and prayed for healing in the name of Jesus. That moment I felt power released and I declared that she was healed even though I didn’t know about her problem! Some time later, I discovered she actually had a cancerous tumor on her knee. The tumor disappeared after I prayed and I have been led since by the Spirit to pray in tongues hours before I minister to anyone.
I’ve always known that praying in tongues releases anointing into my ministry, but theologically I could not explain it. One day the Holy Spirit instructed me to include this into my teaching. I told the Lord that while I always knew this to be the truth, I had never taught it, because I couldn’t explain it from scripture. For the next 15 minutes, the Holy Spirit revealed to me the mechanics of speaking in tongues.
When a person accepts Jesus, he enters into a born-again experience and his spirit man is regenerated through the Holy Spirit. When the believer prays in tongues, He gives the words in tongues to his spirit man, who then releases the words through our utterance. In other words, when we pray in tongues, our spirit man communicates with the Holy Spirit. This helps us to be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit! I finally understood why for years the Lord had been leading me into this practice! When we are sensitive to the leading of the Spirit, and obey His voice, it releases the anointing for the supernatural and miracles to take place!
The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:18, “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.” It’s no wonder Paul had such a powerful ministry. I urge you to start using this wonderful gift so that its power may work through your life for the expansion of the Kingdom of God.
About Rev Benjamin Chew
Rev Benjamin is the Senior Pastor of Living Spring Fellowship (AG). An evangelist and revivalist at heart, he ministers regularly in churches, camps and conferences both locally and internationally. A passionate and fiery speaker, he desires to see the body of Christ revived and to be prepared for the end time revival and harvest. Ben is married to Lillian and has a son, William.