Some understand praying in tongues to be a “secret code language” that prevents Satan and his demons from understanding our prayers, and thereby gaining an advantage over us. This interpretation is unbiblical for the following reasons: (1) The New Testament consistently describes tongues as a human language. It is unlikely that Satan and his demons are unable to understand human languages. (2) The Bible records countless believers praying in their own language, out loud, with no concern of Satan intercepting the prayer. Even if Satan and/or his demons heard and understood the prayers we pray – they have absolutely no power to prevent God from answering the prayer according to His will. We know that God hears our prayers, and that fact makes it irrelevant whether Satan and his demons hear and understand our prayers.
With all of that said, what of the many Christians who have experienced praying in tongues and find it to be very edifying for themselves? First, we must base our faith and practice on Scripture, not experience. We must view our experiences in light of Scripture, not interpret Scripture in light of our experiences. Second, many of the cults and world religions also report occurrences of speaking and/or praying in tongues. Obviously the Holy Spirit is not gifting
these unbelieving individuals. So it seems that the demons are able to counterfeit the gift of speaking in tongues. This should cause us to even more carefully compare our experiences with Scripture. Third, many studies have shown how speaking / praying in tongues can be a learned behavior. Through hearing and observing others speak in tongues, a person can learn the procedure, even subconsciously. This is the most likely explanation for the vast majority of instances of speaking / praying in tongues among Christians. Fourth, the feeling of “self-edification” is natural. The human body produces adrenaline and endorphins when it experiences something new, exciting, emotionally-induced, and/or disconnected from rational thought.
Praying in tongues is most definitely an issue on which Christians can respectfully and lovingly agree to disagree. Praying in tongues is not what determines salvation. Praying in tongues is not what separates a mature Christian from an immature Christian. Whether or not praying in tongues is a prayer language is not a fundamental of the Christian faith. So while we believe the Biblical interpretation of praying in tongues leads away from the idea of a private prayer language for personal edification, we also recognize that many who practice such are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and are worthy of our love and respect.
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