As we continue going through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, we’re learning about some of the usages of the spiritual gifts. What we need to remember is that Paul’s not writing a complete teaching on the gifts of prophecy and tongues.
He was dealing with specific problems that were in this church. His goal in this letter is to help the Corinthians to expand their love-walk. Their goal should be to bless others.
So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.
1 Corinthians 14:15
Because Paul doesn’t want to exclude anyone with his gifts, he makes sure that everyone can understand him. There are times he prays in the spirit and also prays in his native language.
That being said, this verse is very important in understanding the usage of the gift of prayer in the spirit (tongues). Some people erroneously believe that absolutely every time you pray in an unknown tongue there must be an interpretation. This verse explains why that’s not true.
Paul uses the exact same word for both prayer in the spirit and with his mind. So the keyword is prayer. Prayer in the spirit is another form of prayer. This means that all the normal protocols for prayer apply.
There are times when we’re at a prayer meeting and everyone is praying all at the same time. I’m not listening closely to what you’re praying; we’re simply all together, praying.
However, when someone prays loudly enough to get everyone’s attention, we begin listening to them and agreeing with them in our hearts. It’s the same with tongues.
It’s perfectly acceptable for a group of believers to all be praying in the spirit together with no interpretation. But if someone “takes the floor” and their tongue becomes the central focus, then there must be an interpretation. This is so that everyone, not just the speaker, can be edified.
This also includes singing in the spirit, or as some call it, the song of the Lord. We can all sing in the spirit together. Actually, some of the most powerful moves of God that I’ve seen began as God’s people sang in the spirit together.
If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.
1 Corinthians 14:16-17
Paul keeps reminding them that the goal of the church gathering is mutual edification. It’s never “every man for himself.”
We have to realize that everything Paul’s written so far is about the public use of this gift. In our private prayer times, we’re free to pray in the spirit as often and as long as we desire. It’s a powerful tool for our own strengthening.
I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.
1 Corinthians 14:18-19
Paul makes it clear in this passage that everything he said was concerning their public gatherings. Outside of the church meeting, Paul had a rich spiritual prayer life. I believe this is what prepared him to write so much of the New Testament.
As we pray in the spirit, we allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us in a very strong way. Spend as much time as you can in this pursuit of the Spirit.
Question: How have you seen prayer in the spirit strengthen your walk with God?
© 2019 Nick Zaccardi