Waiting for the Utterance…

75c698b093fbe8504d666901de0a33f5I speak in tongues. I am so thankful to be a Pentecostal believer. I would not want to be without that special experience and the ongoing strength that it brings.

I know that there are many (usually charismatic believers) who have the conviction that one can pray in tongues at will, any time. I am content to leave each to their own convictions and I believe one has to work out, with God, their own approach to spirituality. I rejoice that they speak in tongues! But I for one find great confirmation in waiting on the utterance.

The Language of Utterance

The language of utterance comes from Acts 2:4. Here it is in context:

1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

They began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. The KJV actually says, “as the Spirit gave them utterance.” The idea being, of course, that they did not speak in tongues at their own volition but, rather, that the Holy Spirit made them able to, prompted them, etc. So, the view of classical Pentecostals is that the same principle applies going forward: the Holy Spirit at specific times, with whatever frequency, enables the Pentecostal believer to speak in tongues.

Scriptural Evidence

I once asked someone who believes that one can speak in tongues at will where he found Scriptural evidence to do so. He was unable to answer the question. That’s OK. I offered him an answer for the next time someone asks. I told him that I could see how one might see the giving of utterance as a one time act, good from now on. (I don’t think that interpretation can hold up grammatically. The text implies that they only spoke in tongues as he gave them utterance. The utterance given would seem to have a beginning an an end just as their speaking in tongues did on that occasion. Logically, if the Holy Spirit is always giving utterance wouldn’t we be grieving Him if we are not at all times speaking in tongues?)

At any rate, I know there are those who see it that way. But, here is how I find encouragement and confirmation in waiting for the Holy Spirit to give the utterance. When I am praying, there comes a moment when I recognize the Spirit’s urging to pray in tongues. I don’t pray in tongues because I think it is time to, nor do I pray in tongues because I think it will be more efficient (wouldn’t we need to pray exclusively in tongues if that were the case?). I also don’t pray in tongues because I arrive at the conclusion that I don’t know what to pray for. I pray in tongues when I sense the freedom from the Holy Spirit to do so. In a distinct, unmistakable moment in time I go from not even thinking about praying in tongues to being certain that the Holy Spirit is praying through me. In that moment I know that He, the Holy Spirit, is praying according to the will of God and that “he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will (Romans 8:27).”

The Variety of Language

I believe there is an added benefit to waiting for the utterance and that is that I very often experience and utter a unique language. That is, it is not the same phrases every time, but rather news words that come forth.

Have you ever noticed that some people, when they speak in tongues, always seem to be saying the same thing? Now, I can certainly allow that there would be some things that the Holy Spirit would pray consistently in a person’s life. But, if we are indeed speaking a language, it would seem that there would be fresh words and tongues coming forth as the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and for the world relevant to the times we are in.

Renewed Faith

Over the years, the enemy has tried to convince me to doubt my faith in God and even my belief in God. That’s his job. But one of the things that he simply cannot refute or take away from me is the reality that I have experienced what the New Testament calls the “baptism with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5).” Every time the Spirit gives me the utterance, He confirms Scripture, the reality of the existence of God, and the veracity of the Bible all over again.

And Now a Word from Ralph Waldo Emerson . . .

 

Now society in towns is infested by persons who, seeing that the sentiments please, counterfeit the expression of them. These we call sentimentalists,—talkers who mistake the description for the thing, saying for having. They have, they tell you, an intense love of nature; poetry,—O, they adore poetry, and roses, and the moon, and the cavalry regiment, and the governor; they love liberty, “dear liberty!” they worship virtue, “dear virtue!” Yes, they adopt whatever merit is in good repute, and almost make it hateful with their praise. The warmer their expressions, the colder we feel; we shiver with cold. A little experience acquaints us with the unconvertibility of the sentimentalist, the soul that is lost by mimicking soul. Cure the drunkard, heal the insane, mollify the homicide, civilize the Pawnee, but what lessons can be devised for the debauchee of sentiment? Was ever one converted? The innocence and ignorance of the patient is the first difficulty: he believes his disease is blooming health. A rough realist, or a phalanx of realists, would be prescribed; but that is like proposing to mend your bad road with diamonds. Then poverty, famine, war, imprisonment, might be tried. Another cure would be to fight fire with fire, to match a sentimentalist with a sentimentalist. I think each might begin to suspect that something was wrong.[1]Emerson_seatededit

What grabbed my attention in this passage of Emerson’s essay, Social Aims, is the line, “talkers who mistake the description for the thing, saying for having.” Emerson called these people sentimentalists—people who “adopt whatever merit is in good repute.” For my purposes, it helps me to describe Christians who mistake their faith profession for the thing itself.

Unfortunately, modern Christian spirituality is such that if it expects anything to happen at all it expects it to happen instantly with little to no effort. Because of this, we frequently allow ourselves to be satisfied with our faith profession. That is, instead of pressing through until we receive an answer, we simply say, “Well, by faith I receive the answer,” and we walk away from the place of prayer unchanged. This . . . taps into our repulsion against anything that makes us feel inadequate or lacking in any way. We bristle against the idea that we are lacking in anything. Rather than allowing the pain of spiritual lack to drive us to prayer, instead we walk away with only our faith profession.

Now don’t get me wrong! I am not suggesting that we should not walk by faith. Nor am I suggesting that every time we go to prayer we leave the secret place having experienced every possible experience. But we must remember that, in prayer, we genuinely come into contact with the Living Lord! Prayer is not therapy or emotional catharsis. It is real and will have real results! Pray until you experience real results![2]

 

[1] Ralph Waldo Emerson, Letters and Social Aims, (Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1876), 94-95.

[2] Adapted from, C. Scott Fowler, Contending for the Habit of Daily Prayer, (Smithtown, NY: Issachar Imprints, 2016), 112.