I remember what it felt like the moment I prayed through, the heavenly touch as the Spirit took over. I can’t imagine living without this now. It’s crazy to me that people told me I didn’t need this.
Doctrine can be debated, but personal experience cannot.
I used to think people who did that speaking in tongues thing were out of their mind, rolling on the floor, probably foaming at the mouth. I expected them to be screaming insanity and dramatically dropping like flies in some sort of out-of-reality psychologically-induced spiritual trip. Also, I had never actually seen anybody speak in tongues until a few weeks before I experienced it for myself. I thought they were a little insane. Maybe this outlandish behavior was how they released stress. I thought it’d be entertaining to see. I had visited churches, but the Pentecostal churches I went to did not visibly have anyone speaking in tongues. I wanted to see it.
What is that all about anyway? Isn’t that people speaking in an actual language they hadn’t previously learned? Wasn’t the whole point of that to spread the gospel in the early days? It’s not a thing anymore, right?
I knew what the Holy Spirit was though. I could tell you the Holy Spirit was with us who believed in Jesus Christ. I knew sometimes I could feel a small presence of God. What a blessing and privilege to feel that presence. Anytime someone mentioned being born again I thought that meant the transformation of becoming a believer. I thought that because I was previously atheist and becoming Christian felt like a born-again experience.
A bible study changed my life.
I became a Christian in November of 2005. I started actually going to church in 2009. In January of 2011 I visited a church I fell in love with. Long story short, I started going there regularly in early 2011. This is where I was offered a bible study. The church was Apostolic Pentecostal.
This was also the first place I’d ever seen anybody speak in tongues. I remember who was praying with me. She took me by the hand and sweetly prayed. She spoke in tongues, but she wasn’t yelling or acting any different. Her tone was the same as normal prayer. This wasn’t what I expected. I opened my eyes and watched her. There was something peaceful and kind of beautiful about this strange thing. Every church service there, people prayed in tongues. What I once thought would entertain me, I found to intrigue me.
In the bible study, we talked about what it meant to be born again and we talked about what it meant to receive the Holy Ghost. The scriptures we were reviewing seemed to have a different message than what I had been taught before. I was previously told we received the Holy Spirit automatically when we become believers, but these stories in Acts show people praying to receive the Holy Spirit. That baffled me a bit. The whole speaking in tongues as evidence thing seemed a bit far-fetched. Most Christians don’t do that. How can you say that’s evidence? I went over the scriptures again and again. I’d study them day and night trying to make sense of it all. Were they insinuating that I didn’t have the Holy Spirit? What do these verses mean? I’d like to share here what some of the verses are that I was studying. (All verses are American Standard Version)
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born anew. The wind bloweth where it will, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
But when they believed Philip preaching good tidings concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. And Simon also himself believed: and being baptized, he continued with Philip; and beholding signs and great miracles wrought, he was amazed. Now when the apostles that were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit: for as yet it was fallen upon none of them: only they had been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the word. And they of the circumcision that believed were amazed, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid the water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples: and he said unto them, Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed? And they said unto him, Nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was given. And he said, Into what then were ye baptized? And they said, Into John’s baptism. And Paul said, John baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on him that should come after him, that is, on Jesus. And when they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. And they were in all about twelve men.
For they that are after the flesh mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace: because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be: and they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you. So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh: for if ye live after the flesh, ye must die; but if by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him.
1 Corinthians chapters 12 through 14 talks of speaking in tongues. Chapter 14 verse 39 in particular really jumped out at me.
1 Corinthians 14:39
Wherefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
The more I went over this, the more I felt like God was pulling me towards something. I was missing something. Somehow, I knew that I had never received the Holy Spirit. No one had taught me this truth according to the scriptures.
I would watch them, the worshippers. I would watch people pray in tongues. I would listen, and I knew I didn’t have what they had. I would go over these verses in my bible again and again. I began to want this for myself.
At church, I saw people receive the Holy Spirit or what they often call “getting the Holy Ghost”. I would watch, but I wouldn’t go near. They would gather around to pray for a person. The idea of group prayer terrified me. The idea of going up front to be prayed for in front of everybody triggered my anxiety. After studying the scriptures and observing other people get the Holy Ghost in church, I decided I thought I could do this on my own. I did NOT want to be crowded around! This is next level introvert right here. I was determined to pray through when it was just me and Jesus. Besides, I didn’t know how to pray in front of other people. It made me nervous, and I would shut down. I felt like I could have deeper prayer when I was alone. I still feel that way. My deepest prayers, my breakthrough prayers, my life-changing prayers have all been when I’m alone and it’s the middle of the night.
It was March of 2011. I think it was around 10 o’clock at night. I had prayed for this a few times, but struggled to pray for more than a quick minute. I admit as a writer I’m not much of a talker. I had spent some time listening to worship music on my phone, and I began to pray. I was talking to Jesus about how I wanted to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I wanted to receive this. I wanted God living inside of me. I wanted to be born again. I wanted this. I kept praying. Prayer was getting deep. I knew there was more. I kept pressing. I didn’t stop praying. I lingered. I began to feel different. I began to feel the presence of the Lord. I pressed into prayer. I knew there was more. I wasn’t asking to speak in tongues or hoping it would happen. I was seeking to receive the Holy Spirit. I expected to speak in tongues because in the bible that’s the evidence given. I trusted in that. And in a moment, I felt a touch of God. My tongue felt loosed. I don’t know how else to explain that other than it felt like something was loosed. I heard words coming out of my mouth that were not English. I kept praying. This was the moment I first experienced praying in the Spirit. It felt so beautiful. It’s been 11 years since that night; I still remember how powerful the experience was. Once I experienced that, I could never deny or disagree that speaking in tongues is legitimate.
Since that day, I am always able to pray in tongues whenever I choose to. There are also times I feel the Spirit and begin to pray in tongues without it being an active decision. For me, this is always something during prayer. I don’t scream. There’s no yelling. I’m not rolling around or anything like that. I pray in the Spirit as a normal part of my prayer life.
More importantly, there was a change in my spiritual walk after this experience of receiving the Holy Spirit. I produced more fruit of the Spirit. It’s easier to discipline my flesh and follow after the Spirit. I pray better. I worship easier. I am more in tune with the voice of God. I have more direction and discernment. I feel his presence so much stronger. There have been times that his presence is so strong it’s life-changing. To me, God’s presence feels like being wrapped in warm sunshine. Sometimes it feels like a consuming fire. I never felt that way before I received the Spirit. You’ll never convince me that it’s not real. I’d argue that anyone who has experienced getting the Holy Ghost and receiving evidence (speaking in tongues) who is still living for the Lord would tell you the same. Once you’ve experienced it for yourself, you’ll testify to its validity and truth.
If you have experienced this, I encourage you to share your story.
If you are a Christian who has not experienced this, I encourage you to seek God on the matter. Study the bible. Pray about it. Press into what God has for you.