February 8, 2017

Battalogeo & a Heavenly Prayer Language

by Eric Davis

I remember the first few times hearing about a heavenly prayer language. Some called it praying, or speaking, in tongues. Not long after coming to faith in Christ, a group of friends took me to a few meetings where this would be happening. We gathered in homes, the forest, and a local church to experience these supposed, Holy-Spirit-induced prayers. What I witnessed was fairly similar: various individuals caught in a trance-like state, speaking, or praying (I wasn’t sure), out loud using non-language noises in somewhat of a repeated fashion. The prayers/noises sounded something like, “Hasha-batta, kala-hasha, nashta-kala, hasha-batta..”

Subsequent to that, others reported that they were having similar experiences during private prayer to God. They said that the Holy Spirit gave them an ability to pray in non-language sounds as a means of infusing their prayers, and encouraged me to seek this out. About one year later, I observed some of the same, a supposed Holy-Spirit-infused prayer language, while attending one of the largest, and most well-known charismatic churches in the nation. These were some of my first experiences with this prayer language phenomena. I soon discovered that it is a widely practiced phenomena (in various forms) both inside and outside Christendom.

I, like many, began to ask: Is this prayer phenomena in Scripture? And, if so, what does Scripture say about it?

Today’s post will not attempt to exhaustively answer those questions. Nate Busenitz has thoroughly demonstrated, for example, that the gift of “tongues” was the miraculous ability to speak a previously unlearned foreign language during the foundation, apostolic days of the church. Additionally, it’s been shown that Scripture does not support the idea of an angelic language or multiple different kinds of spiritual gifts called tongues.

Instead, this post will briefly look at the idea of praying in a supposed Spirit-induced, heavenly and/or angelic prayer language as it pertains to prayer. To do so, we will look at one verse: “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words” (Matt 6:7).

not prayerThe word translated “meaningless repetition,” is from the Greek verb, battalogeo. Similar to the TDNT (1:597), A.T. Robertson comments that the word carries the idea of “stammerers who repeat the words,” “babbling or chattering,” “empty repetition” (Matt 6:7). John Nolland says it’s the idea of the repetition of either intelligible or unintelligible sounds in order to multiply effectiveness (Quoted by Osborne, Matthew, 226). Many commentators agree that the prefix, “batta,” is onomatopoetic. In other words, the prefix sounds similar to the thing it describes: prayers sounding something like, “batta, batta.” Being onomatopoetic does not mean that the word exhaustively covers everything which it describes, but the general idea.

Christ prohibits praying in such a way for two reasons. First, because it is characteristic of Gentiles (Matt 6:7). Praying in a way that piles up language, or non-language, unintelligible, or babbling sounds is prayer characteristic of those who do not know God. Second, because our heavenly Father already knows what we need before we think to pray about it (Matt 6:8).

What are some examples of babbling prayer, characteristic of the Gentiles?

don't do itWe could talk about Buddhist prayer wheels, the Roman Catholic practice of prayer candles, Ave Maria’s and Pater Noster’s, and prayers of the Rosary, for example. We could also discuss the Greek culture in which similar things were observed (and what the Apostle Paul corrects in 1 Corinthians 12-14). At various points in Phaedrus, for example, Socrates is praising the idea of ecstatic mania. A form of non-language, ecstatic prayer was reported to have been practiced through out-of-their-mind, ecstatic oraclers at Delphi and Dodona. (http://sparks.eserver.org/books/plato-phaedrus.pdf, 7). Many more examples could be cited of ancient and contemporary pagan practice.

But more to the point: When Christ forbids such prayer, we would have to include the popular idea of speaking in tongues as a private or heavenly prayer language. As it pertains to the idea of a Spirit-given prayer language, whether heavenly, angelic, or something else, Christ’s command is clarifying: God’s people are not to pray in such a way that resembles babbling repetition of sounds, whether they are supposed to be intelligible or not. He forbids the act of praying in a way, for example, that would resemble a prayer in the form of, “Batta, batta.” Instead, biblical prayer is to have normal, human intelligibility.

In prayer, we need not seek anything beyond simple language expression. Thus, it is unnecessary to feel the need to rev up our spiritual engine in order to perform at some higher level. Nor ought we seek supposed higher blessings or baptisms of the Spirit to attain elevated spiritual experience so that God takes notice or we perceive ourselves on a higher plane. Christian prayer is simply a natural, genuine, intelligible communication to God.

As such, prayer is something available to every single one of God’s people: those eloquent in speech, those not; those who have much to say, those who do not; those with many degrees, those with none; the young, the old, and of every language and articulateness.

Eight brief, closing remarks are needed.

First, the biblical spiritual gift often associated with a tongues-type prayer language is better called “languages.” The biblical gift of languages was the miraculous ability to speak an unlearned language that is known by others for the purpose of exalting Christ and building up others during the foundational, apostolic era of the church. This gift ceased with the apostolic era in the first century as the church foundation was established in Christ’s progressive building of the church (Matt 16:18).

Second, there are various arguments against this position. For example, on one occasion I was faced with an argument along these lines: “I’ve seen/experienced the speaking in tongues as a prayer language. You cannot say it did not happen. It did happen, therefore, it’s something we should pursue. If I experience it, you cannot deny it. I see a giraffe out my window, for example, you cannot tell me it’s not a giraffe.”

hmmmBut the argument fails on the grounds that experience is superior to Scripture. The unspoken reasoning is: “I saw/experienced/heard X, therefore, X is true and should be pursued as a practice of our faith.” But the biblical reasoning must go: “Though I saw/experienced/heard X, I must rigorously test it up against a hermeneutically sound interpretation of Scripture. If X conflicts, it is X that is abandoned as a practice of our faith, not Scripture. Scripture alone is the authority.” Put another way for the sake of argument: “I think I saw a giraffe. Scripture says that giraffes do not exist. Therefore, I saw something, but it was not a giraffe.”

Though we may experience interesting spiritual phenomena, if it is not supported by a sound interpretation of Scripture, then it is not to be pursued as something of the Christian faith.

Third, many who practice this do not suppose they’re engaging in a Gentile/pagan practice (Matt 6:7). Instead, they presume to feel close to God. However, regardless of feeling, Scripture, not feelings, determines true spirituality and what closeness to God means. But we can go to Scripture to learn how to express closeness to God. In portions of the Psalms, for example, we can observe some of the most profound, genuine experiences of closeness to God. As such, they are expressed and inspired in normal, intelligible, human language.

Fourth, some have said, “But the practice of a private, heavenly, or angelic, prayer language is spoken of in 1 Corinthians 14.” But in that passage, the Apostle is correcting non-language, unintelligible utterance and the abuse of the language gift.

Fifth, an additional argument goes: “This private tongues prayer language is not hurting anyone. It’s between me and God, therefore, what’s the problem?” But, we are not to justify an act on whether or not we perceive benefit or injury. An action is right or wrong on the basis of God’s word. If God’s word does not teach something, then we are to follow in step, for his glory and his honor, regardless of how we perceive it may or may not hurt others, or how it may or may not make us feel.

worshipSixth, some suppose that the Holy Spirit is giving them profound words; words of heaven which are too spiritually superior for known human language. But there are no more profound words given by the Holy Spirit than what he has already given us in God-given, sacred Scripture in normal, human intelligibility. If someone desires to pray and speak lofty, spiritual words to God, we have the Psalms, for example, which contain many model prayers expressing profound love for God. On top of that, every single word in the 150 Psalms was inspired in an intelligible language by the Holy Spirit (normal intelligibility, with noun-verb-object, structure). Furthermore, when we observe the prayers of Scripture (i.e. 1 Kings 8, John 17), in every instance, whether Christ or others, individuals are praying in normal, human intelligibility.

Similarly, there is no instance of a heavenly-type prayer language in Scripture. If such a thing were to exist, we would expect to observe it in various charged moments of redemptive history, such as Jesus in his emotional high priestly prayer of John 17 or his distraught prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane or David upon hearing the Davidic Covenant or Psalm 119 or Lamentations, to name a few examples. But we do not. And we can rest confident that the most profound expressions of worship to God are to be done in God-given, human languages with normal intelligibility.

Seventh, being created in the image of God is telling. From the dawn of creation, we notice that one of humanity’s image-bearing attributes is rational, intelligible language. The first humans interact with God in their pre-Fall state using that God-given gift. We can expect, as observed all the way to Christ’s incarnation and into heaven, that intelligible language will be the way to interact with God.

Eighth, the question often goes: “If this is not from God, then from where does this phenomena originate?” Perhaps the power of the flesh showing itself in an individual wanting a memorable spiritual experience. Or, perhaps, an individual wanting to be close to God, but mistaking what that looks like. And in some cases, we must not rule out Satan (2 Cor 11:14-15).

So, though we might practice speaking in tongues as a private, heavenly language, such a thing is not from God since Scripture does not support it. Thus, it is not to be pursued by believers. In fact, the ideas of things like non-language prayer, heavenly language prayer, or prayer sounding something like, “Batta, batta,” is what Christ forbids, in part, because it characterizes the pagans who do not know God.

As Charles Quarles writes: “Although many modern Christians address God in an ecstatic ‘prayer language,’ the practice has no root in the teaching or example of Jesus. Jesus seems to have viewed such practices in paganism as inappropriate for his disciples” (Sermon on the Mount, 184).

prayerFinally, think of it this way. Picture yourself standing in front of Christ seated on his throne in heaven. What would you say? We would be on our knees, humbled, in awe, in worship, saying, if we could say anything at all, something like, “Oh Lord! Thank you! Thank you for dying on the cross! I love you!”

We would not begin speaking to him in a non-language babble. Let’s remember that prayer is the great privilege of speaking to His Majesty; the risen Christ who is seated on his throne in heaven, reigning as our Sovereign Lord. We are not physically there. But we get to speak to him nonetheless. This is to be an action of humbled, human intelligibility.

So let’s enjoy communing with our good God in prayer. We can simply, and reverently, speak to him with plain language. Doing so ascends to the highest form of spirituality.

Eric Davis

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Eric is the pastor of Cornerstone Church in Jackson Hole, WY. He and his team planted the church in 2008. Leslie is his wife of 14 years and mother of their 3 children.
  • John

    Usually the people who knock it are the people who have never experienced it personally. I think you will regret posts like this in eternity when you see many brothers and sisters did have a personal prayer language given to them by the Spirit.

    • John

      I’ll add this- I never asked or chose to receive it, but it happened. It was a yearning that came over me one day when in prayer. Paul does promote it when in private which is when I do it.

      • Jane Hildebrand

        What do you mean, “a yearning that came over you”? You mean you had heard of others having this experience and you wanted it?

      • Jason

        “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What
        am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind
        also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind
        also.” 1 Corinthians 14:14-15

        Here Paul states explicitly that his prayer language will always be one that he understands.

        Many read 1 Corinthians 14:19 and think this means that, since he’s talking about it being wrong in church, it must mean that he is talking about personal prayer. However, that is a false dilemma. All that sentence alone tells us is that it should not be practiced at a church gathering, there are innumerable other situations than church gatherings. However, if we keep reading:

        “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. In the Law it is written, “By
        people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to
        this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers.” 1 Corinthians 14:20-22 (emphases added).

        As you can see, Paul tells us exactly which context he understands to be appropriate for the use of tongues, and it has nothing to do with prayer at all. It’s a matter of evangelism.

        • Eric Davis

          And an intelligible language known by other people groups. Thanks Jason

          • bs

            Jason & Eric, are there still situations where this applies today? And if so,how?

          • Jason

            I believe only the Holy Spirit can make the call (1 Corinthians 12:11). With the language resources available (and fewer and fewer unreached peoples), it is entirely possible that the “perfect” of tongues has long been realized. We know it will cease, but we don’t have a specific date.

            However, having come across this while still attending an AoG church, I can tell you that the gift of tongues is nothing like the modern definition that was at work there. In Strange Fire, John MacArthur does a decent job of going through the history of the modern concept of tongues.

            It started out okay. The idea being that they were speaking legitimate languages, which they even tried to turn into an evangelistic boon.

            Sadly, when it was realized they weren’t actually speaking in other languages, rather than admit that the experience was not keeping with the Biblical description, the idea was pitched that this was a “new kind” of tongues that was equally valid but just couldn’t be confirmed nor denied from scripture, and every time someone found a way someone else just narrowed or changed the definition again.

            It’s similar to modern prophecy. Scripture tells us not to believe every spirit, but to test prophecy. The recipients of that letter already knew full well how to test it (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). Yet today, “prophets” brag about a 70% accuracy and say it takes a lot of practice. That is not prophecy according to scripture, but is a “new kind” that we’re told we just have to trust because otherwise we might be quenching or, worse, blaspheming the Spirit.

            The Spirit has already told me, in the verse just mentioned, that I need not be afraid of such “prophecy”, so the fear tactics stopped being effective when I actually read my Bible.

          • Jane Hildebrand

            Not to mention that with this “new” definition of prophecy, we redefine false prophets as merely bad translators. How convenient for the enemy.

    • Eric Davis

      Hi John – The purpose of this article was not to knock or mock the position of a private prayer language, but present an argument from Scripture as to why the idea is invalid. If you see error in the position presented here, feel free to point that out. Thanks John

    • jpoteet2

      I will tell you this. I was raised in a Pentecostal preacher’s house. I spoke in tongues for many years. When I began to understand true, biblical doctrine, I had to change many things I had used to believe were true. One of the last to go and the most difficult was the belief that ‘speaking in tongues’ was from the Holy Spirit. I had experienced it myself! If it wasn’t true, then what HAD I experienced all those years? But the Bible is clear and it is my authority.
      I just write this to say that I’ve been where you are, John. I know how difficult it can be to acknowledge that you’ve believed a lie for years. I hope you come to see what the Bible teaches on this.

      • Eric Davis

        Thanks for sharing that, jpo. I’m sure many have had to go through similar revisions as you did, including myself.

    • Linda Rice

      I would be one example of someone who experienced it and now no longer practices it. Just because I had the experience does not mean it came from God. As Eric said, Scripture must trump personal experience, not vice versa. After studying the phenomena, I came to realize that what I was interpreting as miraculous could just as well have other explanations. Many unbelievers throughout history have experienced the same phenomena. In light of Scripture, I now interpret those experiences differently and do not practice them. It is much harder work to pray with my mind than in “tongues” but so much more effective and rewarding.

      • Eric Davis

        Great point, Linda. Thanks

    • jmj

      Don’t know who said it, but “experience is not a valid test of truth”. It’s a great maxim to live by.

    • Robert Mahoney

      “Usually the people who knock it are the people who have never experienced it personally.”

      That’s what I heard when I was in Jr. High and High School from the cool kids who began experimenting with drugs, alcohol and sex.

  • alexguggenheim

    Amazingly it is always the alleged tongues of angels/private prayer language people claim to receive and not the instant miraculous ability to speak in a previously unlearned tongue (or be understood by those of a foreign language – whatever nuance you prefer).

    Secondly, it is overwhelmingly an appeal to experience rather than revelation and careful exegetical scrutiny that many proponents use for their insistence it is so.

    I’ll stop short of quoting Mr. Flintstone here.

  • Jane Hildebrand

    What I find confusing is how proponents of modern day tongues ignore those passages in 1 Cor. 14 which confirm these were human languages. For example, Paul made it clear that unless they speak intelligible words, how will anyone know what they’re saying and immediately follows that with, “Undoubtedly, there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning” (1 Cor. 14:10). Languages! All sorts! Clearly, he was not referring to one angelic language here.

    Then interestingly, he accuses the Corinthians of acting like children when he quotes Isaiah 28:11,12 that says, “Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me.”

    He uses this direct prophetic reference of PENTECOST and the Jews rejection of the gospel indicating again human language. If we take the chapter in context it appears the Corinthians were acting like children by showing off in the assembly by speaking in other languages while no one else in the room could understand them, except God of course, who understands all languages and Paul was rebuking them for this.

    Then the clincher, that tongues are a sign, NOT for believers, but for unbelievers. How do they explain that one? And also, if they claim to speak in tongues, why don’t they follow Paul’s admonition to pray that they may interpret what they say. Who does that today?

    All I know is that when scriptures must be ignored or twisted to fit an experience, that experience must be questioned and rejected as false. It is deception.

    • Eric Davis

      Jane – Thanks for bring a bit of 1 Cor 14 into the mix.

  • Michelle Dacus Lesley

    Well said, Eric! If Jesus had wanted us to pray in glossolalia, He had the perfect opportunity to instruct the disciples (the guys who helped establish the church), and us, to do so when the disciples came to Him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Instead, He taught them to pray in a systematic, intelligent, and intelligible way. With real words.

    • Eric Davis

      Michelle – That’s a great point you bring up. Thanks

  • Chris Nelson

    Grudem, Piper, Storms and others are helping to inject this pagan poison deep into evangelicalism. They need to repent also of their fallible prophecy garbage which is even worse, truly evil.

    • TestifyTruth

      Please elucidate on ‘fallible prophecy garbage’

      • Jane Hildebrand
      • Chris Nelson

        It is nothing less then the allowance of blasphemy. It is a horrific heresy which says that someone may say, “thus saith the Lord”, be wrong in their prediction, and not be accountable to excommunication or any discipline whatsoever.

  • LoriF

    Many years ago I was part of a charismatic Bible study and I earnestly sought the gift of speaking in tongues. But it never came to me–and a member of the group told me there must be something in me that was “blocking” it. For years after that, I felt like a second-class citizen in the kingdom of God, and it really hurt my view of God and His love. When I began seriously studying the Bible, I finally realized the error in this and many other things i “experienced” in that group. The Word of God is supreme over “experiences”, whatever they may be.

    • Eric Davis

      Very true, Lori. The word certainly is. Thanks

  • Back in my Charismatic days, I prayed in tongues. I always had a nagging fear that I was making it up. Turns out, I was!

  • bs

    Eric, can I ask please for the reference to Robertson (“Similar to the TDNT (1:597), A.T. Robertson comments that the
    word carries the idea of “stammerers who repeat the words,” “babbling or
    chattering,” “empty repetition” (Matt 6:6).”

    • Eric Davis

      Hi BS – Yes, that is from Robertson’s work, “Word Pictures in the NT,” under his section on Matt. 6:7. Thanks

      • bs

        Thanks Eric

  • hopechurch

    1 Corinthians 14 is the issue of intelligibility. The argument for intelligibility is for the sake of fellow Christians – to be edified. Yes it is corrective. Paul then argue two ways in vv.1-5 and 20-25 he urges that they seek prophecy via tongues because it brings understanding, edification even salvation. But the list of gifts in v.6 plus the argument in vv.6-19 indicate that the real issue is not tongues and prophecy but the building up of the community which can only happen when utterances are understood thereby pointing o prophecy being the critical need. Hence your #4, the issue is not the viability of tongues but intelligibility …in church…thereby supporting the ‘greater gift’ – prophecy.

  • Marcus, not Aurelius

    What I struggle with is the Christians I know who speak in tongues (my denomination does not accept this) who are true, loving disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. Their church is one of the few in town that supports the homeless ministry and food pantry with their money, donations and volunteering – all done with love. So if tongues are false, does not this make them heretics (as some have called them) or following demons (as some have termed it), hence, they are then not Christians, but lost?

    • alexguggenheim

      God has never required us to be perfect in Doctrine and practice or else he refuses to use us at all.

      All of us will discover many errors on our part when we stand before the Lord.

      But what that does not mean is that while we understand it is true God will use many Christians at many levels some erring more greatly than others we do not withhold illumination or providing the illumination I should say with regard to what the ideal God has revealed in his word for Faith and practice and ignore do we simply shrug our shoulders and say well that’s okay we do discriminate levels of Fellowship without going to the excess and declaring everybody demon filled or unregenerate (though they may be both and each and every contacts requires discernment and discrimination) simply because they do not fully understand what we understand

      • Marcus, not Aurelius

        Thank you Alex, well stated and it is greatly appreciated.

        • Marcus, not Aurelius

          I deeply appreciate the arguements on both side. I have never spoken in tongues. I read MacArthurs “Strange Fire” when it came out as well as several writings from the Assemblies of God. I am not trying to pigeonhole anyones statement, however, if it is false doctrine and heretical, how can my brothers and sisters who practice this, whose testimony in their life is clear they love our Lord Jesus Christ, be considered to have obtained the glorious gift of salvation? I am torn on this point and I realize that the truth is not designed to always provide comfort, but the issue of being a heretic preaching a false doctine vs. being a soul who is truly saved is enternally important. (sorry for any typos, on a tablet working outdoors with flood evacuation work near Wilton California.)

    • Chris Nelson

      Charismania is nothing but a retread of the old Montanist heresy, a horrible heresy of the 2nd century. It is paganism. Do not be deceived, Mormons do wonderful things as well.

    • Eric Davis

      Marcus – I would not label someone a heretic, following demons, or unregenerate on the grounds that they suppose to practice a heavenly/Spirit private prayer language. While there are some charismatic streams that do teach heresy, an adherence to a continuationist view of tongues/languages alone would not necessarily put someone in that category. As far as this charismatic church in your town who seems to excel in mercy ministries, that is sometimes common. A church can embrace some form of wrong doctrine and yet still have a passion for mercy ministries. Also, keep in mind that other religions seem to major on humanitarian endeavors as well.

      • Jane Hildebrand

        Eric, I understand and admire your compassion, but this issue of tongues is more than just a wrong doctrine, it is a wrong spirit. It is not learned, it is sought and received.

        I say that because that group of people on Asuza Street had something come over them when they all began speaking in tongues (gibberish) at once. It was a counterfeit Pentecost. And who would be behind that? This is larger than just wrong doctrine and has produced unity among them and division within the church. Sadly, testing of spirits and discernment between spirits has been ignored in this phenomena as long as it is done privately. I believe that is a grave error.

  • 4Commencefiring4

    I can’t help but remember the very real sounding, but completely ad-libbed, “German” or “Italian” or “French” that Sid Caesar was famous for using in his comedy routines. It sounded legit, but he hardly ever said a genuine word in any foreign language.

  • alexguggenheim

    Nate Busenitz, in my view, is both the most readable while exegetically/theologically detailed of all completionists I’ve read on this issue, for that matter any contemporary at any place on the spectrum.

    Now let me add that as I said earlier how coincidental nobody gets the ability to speak in a tongue they haven’t learned before but everybody gets the prayer tongue or the tongue of angels which reminds me of those who claim to have the miraculous gift of healing yet again quinca dently none of them seem to be able to find their way to burn centers.

    • Eric Davis

      Agreed, Alex. Nate B. has blessed us with some very helpful treatments on this. For any who might be curious, they are available above in, “A Guide to Our Series.”

  • Carlos Aguilera

    As someone who lives in south america where pentecostal theology is the norm it has not been easy to admit that it was a mistake to believe I had a prayer language, now I finally have begun to understand that scripture doesn’t teach such a thing, I think that it is psychological relaxation ocurring and that it explains the experience, but once you have understand that it is not a gift from the Spirit of God you have to stop doing it basically because it is taking God’s name in vain, it is a sin against the Holy Spirit diminish the gift He gave to the apostles and level that gift with something that can be acomplished in my own abilities, scripture teaches that the gift was the ability to speak a human language, saying that the Spirit is enabling me to speak gibberish is basically lying and taking his name in vain, it was something I had to repent of

    • Lynn B.

      Carlos, what is “psychological relaxation?”

      DebbieLynn7 wrote, “…I always had a nagging fear that I was making it up. Turns out, I was!”

      I’m interested to know what others who have experienced this believe was the cause in their own life.

      I’ve had Charismatic friends over the years who were precious believers. However, I’ve been in “tongues meetings” where the evil was almost palpable and I no longer attend them even as a guest. I understand the distinction of a prayer language from what happens in those meetings but I still have grave concern about it being demonic. For this reason, I avoid teachers who embrace tongues including Grudem and Piper and I don’t share their ministry for fear of being a stumbling block to others. There is something about a Bible teacher that experiences something that is either fake or demonic that seems disqualifying. I know Piper has no personal experience but his teaching something that is at least sometimes demonic seems different from disagreeing with someone on things like Baptism.

      • Carlos Aguilera

        Well I can answer from my experience, because speaking in tongues is taught as a necessary experience and that if one doesn’t have it or pursue is grieving the Holy Spirit there is a sense in which one feels a burden to have the experience, usually pastors in charismatic circles will tell you that you need to “give control of your tongue to God” and that it implies beginning to mutter monosyllables even if they don’t make sense, and that as you begin to speak more the syllables will begin to form words, at that moment you will have to “let go” so basically it is not a rational exercise, conversely it requires of you to abandon all logic and linguistic rules, that can only happen if you convince yourself that it is ok and that it is pleasing to God.
        I don’t think that all tongue speakers are under demonic influence (I think I wasn’t) some are sincere belivers that want to please the Lord but have a theological mistake that needs to be corrected in love, however the fact that some heretical cults also speak in tongues is a major red flag, oneness pentecostals who deny the trinity and speak in tongues are being deceived, probably by satan in the same way that he lied to the pharisees, he tells them that they are childrens of God because they have had some kind of experience even if they don’t believe in the gospel, one can say the same about mormons who speak in tongues and those charismatics who hold heretic beliefs (the word of faith movement)

        • Lynn B.

          Carlos: Thank you for sharing!

          Maybe it is me but I see a disconnect in your story. Something/someone used your voice to speak erratic things. The only options would seem to be you or a demon.

          You seem to say that you believed a lie (I understand that part) so you let down your guard, put aside common sense, and your voice was then disconnected from your heart/brain and you yourself spoke in tongues. Is that logical?

          When someone is sedated or traumatized, (which would be similar to what you describe) they may speak irrational or disconnected words in their own language but they don’t speak an unknown language or gibberish.

          Please consider what Jane Hildebrand wrote to Eric above when he responded to Marcus, not Aurelius.

          Clearly, the Truth of God’s Word delivered you. Praise God!

      • Ed

        In my case, it was something that all the “really” spiritual people had, and in my desire to experience all of God that I could, I began for months to earnestly seek to speak in tongues. I spent many agonizing nights at the “alter” (as going to the front for prayer was called), only to be disappointed. As msh said, I was encouraged to demonstrate my faith in the Spirit by totally abandoning control, and risking looking foolish. Nothing was to prevent me from pressing in to receive my blessing. I’m a reserved person, and I decided it must be my refusal to do something that would be embarrassing should I fail, but I was desperate. I did as instructed – pushed air through my vocal chords, and formed sounds, praying that this act of faith was what the Spirit was requiring of me. I kept on for a few seconds, and immediately, people around me started shouting, “He’s got the Spirit!”, or something to that effect. I thought, “It can’t be – this is me, waiting for the Spirit to take control with a heavenly language”, but I was encouraged to keep on, that this was the real deal. Privately, I was disappointed, and struggled with this, but had been taught against any negativity, that this was Satan trying to steal my blessing. Long story short, it took years of honest facing of issues in the church in light of Scripture to abandon the teaching. I don’t believe personally that it was demonic. More so, I think, it was the genuine, howbeit misguided, desire of an immature believer who wanted all that God had to offer.
        Somewhere in the Pyromaniac archives is a video of a young lady speaking a number of what sound like languages, but she is a trained linguist, and was demonstrating that complete gibberish can be made to sound genuine.

    • Eric Davis

      Thank you for your testimony and perspective from another continent, Carlos. I’m grateful for how the word has directed your thinking on this issue.

  • msh

    As a former staff member of a charismatic church in the Caribbean and tongues speaker for twenty years I can tell you the pressure to speak in tongues can be intense. The more emotional, less inhibited you are the easier it is. The self-conscious ones are ‘taught’ (they would say ‘encouraged’) to speak in tongues by mimicking certain sounds. That sounds laughable to me now but at the time to my shame I didn’t know any better.

    I had relied on my pastor’s teaching and the notes in my charismatic
    study bible for years which reinforced these ideas. I had been taught a low view of scripture and an exalted view of ‘experience’, bad bible study habits and bad hermeneutics.

    The charismatic movement in my country is pervasive so these ideas are mainstream and ‘normal’. Voices to the contrary do not readily get an audience here.

    • Jason

      Praise God that he is constantly working on us, even when we have to leave behind so much social comfort for the truth.

    • Eric Davis

      Msh, what a fascinating testimony you have. Thank you for sharing that. In my brief experience in the Caribbean, I noticed similar things. I think you touch on something key here, when you mentioned a “high view of experience.” The “well, it happened to me, so…” seems to be a common, overriding argument, notwithstanding the fallacy. May God use his word in your country to bring greater knowledge of the truth.

  • NJ Treadnotter

    Good article. When I was in a weaker state, I sought such a thing to feel better. Foolish of me. The Word is sufficient for what we need.

    • Eric Davis

      Amen, NJ. That is the bottom line: the word is sufficient. Let’s make sure we practice that truth through constant study, submission, prayer, and appropriate hermeneutics.

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