Then what am I to do? I will pray with my spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me], but I will also pray [intelligently] with my mind and understanding; I will sing with my spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me], but I will sing [intelligently] with my mind and understanding also. — 1 Corinthians 14:15
Earlier I referred to “the mind aiding the spirit.” For many people, this is a difficult concept to grasp. I understand what Paul meant because it’s something I’ve learned to use in my own spiritual growth.
For example, one morning I set aside my usual time for prayer. I began to pray, but my prayers felt flat—nothing energized them—and there was no help from my spirit. As I struggled, I reminded myself that I had made myself available to God, and I wanted the Spirit to use me to change lives.
I continued to pray but nothing changed. This had happened before, so I wasn’t discouraged. I kept on praying and telling God the things about which I was concerned. After several minutes, a powerful energy took hold of me. I knew I had touched the area where the Holy Spirit wanted me to pray. This became more than my concern—this was God’s concern.
I began by praying out of my mind—about things that I knew of and thought needed prayer. I was praying in English because that is my normal language, and I understood what I was saying. But when the energizing power of the Spirit came, without any conscious thought, I began to pray with my prayer language, or what many of us refer to as an unknown tongue.
Paul was our example and teacher in this area. He said he knew how to pray with the Spirit, and he knew how to pray with the understanding. This may not make sense to everyone—and it certainly can confuse people at first. However, I encourage you not to reject a gift of God that is available to you merely because you have not experienced it and don’t understand it. Be open to God, and ask Him to teach you about praying in other tongues.
Think of it this way. God calls us to prayer. That’s our joy as well as our responsibility. Sometimes when we talk to God, we hardly know what to say. We pray, but our words feel inadequate. It’s as if there is a depth to our burdens that transcends words. Something is going on that’s so strong within us—so overwhelming—we have no words to speak. To use English feels utterly useless. No matter what we say to God out of our own minds (understanding), we feel we have not broken through and obtained a victory.
Then comes what I call a prayer release. I speak in words I don’t understand—words that are beyond the grasp of my human mind—and yet my spirit “understands,” or bears witness that my prayers are correct and are getting the job done.
The best biblical reference I can give for this experience is Acts 2, which tells the story of Pentecost. The disciples prayed in an upper room while Jews came from all over the world to the city of Jerusalem. The 120 people in that room were so filled with the Holy Spirit that they burst out speaking in unknown languages—unknown to them. But the visitors heard them, “And when this sound was heard, the multitude came together and they were astonished and bewildered, because each one heard them [the apostles] speaking in his own [particular] dialect” (Acts 2:6).
The apostle Paul thanked God that he spoke in tongues, and he also said that nobody should forbid anyone to do so. There has been a great deal of division in the church over the issue of speaking in tongues, but I encourage you to go straight to your Bible and see what the Word of God says about it. Don’t have a closed mind to any of the precious gifts of the Holy Spirit. We need all the supernatural help we can get to help us live our lives victoriously.
Some people teach that the gift of speaking in tongues went away with the early church, but there are millions of people worldwide who speak in tongues today. Those who speak in other tongues are certainly no better, nor are they more spiritual than those who do not speak in tongues, but once again, I encourage you to seek God for yourself in this area, so your prayers can be as powerful as possible.
When we pray in the Spirit, our minds and our spirits work together. Our minds yield to our spirits, and we are praying the perfect prayer that God desires.
Holy Spirit, I desire all the supernatural gifts You have made available. I need all the help I can get to enable me to live victoriously. I want to pray powerful prayers that are led by the Holy Spirit. I know You hear and answer the prayers I pray in my known language, but I am open to receiving the gift of an unknown language that will enable me to speak secrets and mysteries unto You. I trust You, Jesus, to lead me in the right direction. Amen.