It was in 1972, while living in Duluth Minnesota, that some friends invited us to go with them to their church on a Sunday night. We worshiped with those at the Gospel Tabernacle and then while the children went off for their own time of teaching, the men and women separated for a time of prayer. The ladies headed to a smaller room on the right side of the altar area. I clearly remember sitting on a chair in this room listening to the women in prayer. They were all on their knees, hands folded and heads bowed as they prayed to God quietly in their individual prayer languages. It was the first time I had ever heard "speaking in tongues" and I was fascinated with it. Very quickly I began to feel such a peace around and in me that it was almost palpable. I went home that night with a deep desire to have that special gift of speaking in tongues. I wanted to experience again what I know now to be the presence of God.
So I went home and asked God for the gift and I did receive it, but not that night. It was not until 40 years later in February of 2012 that I was given the gift of a prayer language.
Forty years! One friend said to me, "you had forty years in the wilderness just like the Israelites!" Forty is a significant number in the Bible, and I expect there is some significance to the 40 year wait. I know I waited a long time to be connected with Holy Spirit in such a way, not because He did not want me to have this gift, but because I was not ready.
It was not the only time I had heard people speaking in tongues, but that night in Duluth was the first. In the Philippines I had two good friends who both had the gift. Again, I prayed for it but believed at the time that only a few actually receive the gift, that it is not for all. I learned later that was not the truth. Joel was never really open to having this gift and I did not really pursue it once he started seminary. And yet, he received a prayer language before me. It came as an affirmation of his overnight healing from Lyme Disease and two co-infections, from arthritis, sleep apnea, recurrent corneal erosion, thyroid disease and Parkinson's-like neurological problems from the Lyme in his brain. Yeah......a miracle to behold!
I had asked Joel the night before his healing if he would ever want the gift of speaking in tongues and his reply had been, "I am Lutheran, what would I do with that?!" So he did not ask for the gift, but God bestowed it on him as a confirmation of his healing. I think God has quite a sense of humor! Once Joel had the gift I felt the door open for me, and I pursued having a prayer language until blessed with it just a month later.
So what is the purpose of this gift? The Bible says it edifies and builds up, it intercedes for us when we don't know what to pray(I Corth./Romans). Paul also tells us that it is the least of the gifts, but goes on to say he uses it more than anyone else. (I Corth. 14) I had one family member tell us it was the least of the gifts in very dismissive tone, but I replied that IF I receive such joy and strength from the least of the gifts, I am richly blessed and willing to pursue them all~ just imagine what the others will do to deepen our relationship with God.
Some people wonder whether when you have the gift you have control over when you use it, when to start it and when to stop. It is always available, waiting to bubble out of you, but only if you choose to use it. It is definitely spirit speaking to Spirit as you do not decide what to say, nor understand the language you are using. A great book to read about it was written by John Sherrill, a writer/author for Guideposts, who set out to discount it and after a great deal of research realized it was real. Needless to say, he uses the gift himself and has since the 60's. I have also heard a counterfeit language while living in the Philippines. Someone stood up to speak in tongues and when this man started to pray my friend and I both had a strong feeling this was not from God and we walked out of the meeting. The devil always tries to counterfeit God's gifts to us, but we can discern what is good and what is not. A couple of months ago I heard a woman speak in tongues and have it interpreted. When she prayed her voice sounded so melodic and pure, and the peace of God descended like a warm blanket over me. Yes, it is real.
God provides the gifts of the Spirit for our benefit and for others, and having the gift of a prayer language is just one of the many gifts He shares with His children. I suggest that if you are open to it, do your own research, and talk to God about it. He desires to bring you into a closer relationship with Him, and this is one of the many ways.
I am so grateful that God put me in that room with those women. He blessed me greatly and sent me on a long journey that continues today, seeking more of Him. I give thanks, even with the 40 year wait.