IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT” AND “SPEAKING IN TONGUES?”9 min read
Despite the close similarity between Praying in the Spirit and Speaking in tongues, there still lies a difference between them, although they both come from the same source — The Holy Spirit.
Speaking in an unknown tongue or tongues of angels means utterances that can not be understood by any man (including the speaker unless the gift of interpretation of tongues is given), but are inspired by the Holy Spirit, while “Praying in Spirit” means, any Prayer done with the conscious awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit surrounding us and sanctifying both us and our prayer, the language of praying notwithstanding.
Yesterday I woke up asking myself, who translated “praying in the spirit” to mean “speaking in tongues”? And as the concern grew stronger I smiled it off…
The thing is that I ask a lot of questions, especially when it’s related to my Christian faith this is because I have come to discover that most of the things we know are just what we were told by our pastors, Mentors, fathers in the Lord, parents or we just met them and we believe without questioning them.
Later that same day, I was discussing with a dear sister, and she used both phrases interchangeably and the question broke out of my mind again… so I asked her if “Praying in the Spirit” is the same as “Speaking in tongues”?
She didn’t answer, she just laughed it off and we continued our conversation. It was obvious she didn’t know or by default, she believed they were the same without any scriptural backing, maybe because that’s what she was told as a young Christian, just like thousands of Christians out there.
I thought about the concept throughout the night…but didn’t bother to search the scriptures.
The next day (Sunday) while I was having my breakfast, I heard a church praying in tongues and I remembered the question again.
I then decided to satisfy my curiosity by searching the scriptures. I went through all the text that “Praying in the Spirit” was mentioned. And discovered something different. But then I decided to dig deeper. I decided to go on the internet to sample the wisdom of other great men of God out there.
Interestingly I saw something different from what is popularly practiced and it made sense to me and was in line with the scripture.
For this topic, we will be considering 3 scriptures
Scripture 1: 1Cor. 14:13 -15
“For this reason, the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.”
Scripture 2: Eph. 6:18
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”
Scripture 3: Jude 1:20
“But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit.”
WHAT IS SPEAKING IN TONGUES:
Speaking in tongues is an Angelic language that a believer receives as a gift when he/she is baptized in the Holy Spirit, which enables him/her to pray with his spirit according to the will of God, by praying the mysteries of God.
It is not learned, it is a gift, but can be improved upon by the Help of the Holy Spirit as you speak. Just like every other language, the more you speak, the more fluent you become.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE SPEAK IN TONGUES
“For if you can speak in tongues, you will be talking only to God, since people won’t be able to understand you. You will be speaking by the power of the Spirit, but it will all be mysterious.” - 1 Corinthians 14:2 NLT
- No man (including the speaker) understands what you are speaking unless the gift of interpretation of tongues is given.
- You are not speaking to people but God.
- You pray “with” his spirit by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- You advance your spiritual progress (edifies, builds, or charges yourself)
WHAT IS PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT?
Just like Living and walking in the Spirit, “Praying the Spirit,” means to pray with the conscious awareness of God’s presence surrounding us and sanctifying both us and our prayer.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE PRAY IN THE SPIRIT
- We build ourselves up in our most Holy faith
- Since it is inspired by the Holy Spirit, we pray for the will of God.
- We can pray all kinds of prayer and supplication.
- We can pray all the time.
SIMILARITIES BETWEEN PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT AND SPEAKING IN TONGUES.
- They are both faith-based.
- They are both Holy Spirit-inspired, enabled, or powered.
- They both help us pray according to the will of God
- The Holy Spirit is the Source of both prayers
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT AND SPEAKING IN TONGUES.
- Speaking in tongues involves speaking a language that no man can understand. While we can pray IN the Spirit with knowledgeable utterances.
- In 1Cor. 14:15: Apostle. Paul tells us that “I will pray in the “spirit”, and I will also pray in words I understand. I will sing in the “spirit”, and I will also sing in words I understand.” If we compare this with the praying in the “Spirit” talked about in Ephesians 6:18 – “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests”. We will readily see the difference in the “spirits” referenced here.
As Christians and Bible scholars, we understand that the scripture is case-sensitive. When studying the scriptures we know that.
- Spirit = The Spirit of God, that is the Holy Spirit
- spirit = The spirit of man.
So when we examine 1Cor. 14:15 Apostle Paul was saying that when he speaks in tongues he is praying in or with HIS spirit powered by the Holy Spirit, who gives him utterances but Praying in the Spirit, is praying with the conscious awareness of the Presence of God.
- According to 1Cor. 14:15-17 Apostle Paul makes us understand that when he prays, sings, or praises with his spirit, he needs to also do likewise in words that he understands, to edify the body of Christ. But when you pray in the Spirit as Paul admonished in Eph: 6:18 “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests”, there won’t be any need for interpretation as it is often done with a language everyone understands.
- Eph. 6:18 We considered earlier Teaches us that Anytime you want to Pray, your Prayer should Always be in the Spirit, as that is only when we can pray according to the “will of God”. But we see Apostle Paul telling us not to speak in tongues in the church if there are no interpreters, does this mean we shouldn’t pray or we should pray out of the Spirit in church when there are no interpreters? Certainly not, so we readily see another difference here, that one can Pray in the Spirit but not in tongues.
- Finally, it is important to bear in mind that speaking in tongues is a gift and not everyone has it. If this is true and we argue that speaking in tongues and praying in the Spirit is the same thing, it then implies that those that do not have the “gift of tongues” cannot pray in the spirit, which then further implies that they will be unable to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” according to Eph: 6:18 which now makes God unjust, as it is not their fault they didn’t receive the gift of tongues. And we know this is against the character of God. Immediately we see another difference here.
Just as being in the Spirit, Walking in the Spirit, Sensing or perceiving in the Spirit, giving thanks in the Spirit, and worshipping in the Spirit, one can likewise pray in the Spirit, but not necessarily in unknown tongues.
Typical examples of ministers who “sing and worship in the Spirit,” which is what Paul calls spiritual songs are Theophilus Sunday, Lawrence Oyo, Dunsin Oyekan, etc who sings in the Spirit, yet we hear and understand the words they speak, and our hearts are cut up, the same mechanism applies to praying in the Spirit.
While Praying in the Spirit or Speaking in tongues might be powered by the same entity, which is the Holy Spirit, Praying in the Spirit is praying with the conscious awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit, which might be in tongues or not and praying in tongues is praying with your spirit in a language that no man understands.
Above all, whenever you pray, whether in tongues or not, heed the advice of Paul in Ephesians 6:18 “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” That is Pray with the Conscious awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Please, feel free to share your thoughts, comments, questions, and contributions in the comment section.