Why has there been a lot of emphasis on speaking in tongues?

Hello guys,
This has been heavy on me for a while now. Why has there been so much emphasis on speaking in tongues in our churches, with less on prophecy? (1 Corinthians 14)
Also what happened to the interpretation and the tongues of men?
In the book of Acts the apostles spoke in the tongues that people understood although the apostles knew not what they were saying. Why don’t we experience such these days?

It weighs heavy on me because I feel like people are being pushed to speak in tongues (tongues of Angels) and to fit in they might be forcing themselves to speak, and without us knowing what we are saying, how can we be certain that it is not faked or forced?


@Mein That is a wonderful question :slight_smile: What denomination do you belong to? I ask because in my denomination there is little emphasis on tongues, so a little context may help the discussion.

Apart from that, there are a few reasons I think that speaking in tongues is appealing to people:

  • science shows that tongue speakers experience an altered state not unlike meditation - so the experience of speaking in tongues may make the speaker feel good about their relationship with God. Whether or not that feeling reflects reality is another question.
  • speaking in tongues is loud - obvious - attention catching - as a sign of salvation it is much easier to point to than the fruit of the Spirit, which may make it an attractive means of demonstrating one’s faith. That does not mean this is the Biblical approach, but it is one possible reason.
  • culture - some people may have grown up speaking tongues and it is just part of who they are - it is part of their faith experience
  • a desire to experience all spiritual gifts - some people may feel their experience of God is incomplete if they do not experience tongues, though whether tongues is an earthly language or angelic languages is another question

When it comes to spiritual, gifts, I think the advice Paul gives in Thessalonians is very helpful. Whether it is prophecy or tongues (with an interpreter), we should test and weigh all things and hold fast to that which is good, not despising the way people engage with God.

“Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything careful­ly; hold fast to that which is good ” (1 Thess. 5:19-21)

Here are some additional threads you might find meaningful. Christ grant you wisdom :slight_smile:

NY Times Article

Here is an interesting article. I would say that kataphatic prayer is the way the Bible teaches us to pray. We are taught to reflect on God’s attributes, His faithfulness in our lives, and Scripture - not to empty our minds.

There are, broadly speaking, two kinds of Christian prayer practice, beyond rote recitation. “Apophatic” prayer, which looks a lot like meditation and mindfulness, asks one to still the mind and disengage from thought. The classic example is the 14th century “Cloud of Unknowing,” a monastic text whose anonymous author advised: “Thought cannot comprehend God. And so, I prefer to abandon all I can know, choosing rather to love him who I cannot know.”

In “kataphatic” prayer, one fills one’s imagination with thoughts from Scripture. The classic example is the 16th-century spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who called worshipers to see “with the eye of the imagination the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem, considering how long it is and how wide, and whether it is level or goes through valleys and over hills.” American evangelicals seeking daydreamlike encounters with God are praying in this tradition.

The apophatic method is probably more effective in shifting attention from the everyday, but harder to achieve. That seems to be what the fifth-century monk Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite meant when he described kataphatic prayer as a steppingstone for those who could not pray in other ways. Many of us know people who have tried to meditate and failed, defeated by thoughts that refused to stay put — what skilled practitioners call “monkey mind.” In an experiment, I assigned participants for one month to meditation, to imagination-rich prayer or to lectures on the gospels. Many who meditated didn’t like it; those who did reported deep spiritual experiences, like the expert meditators studied by the neurologist James H. Austin (“Zen and the Brain”) and other scientists.

As a technique, tongues capture the attention but focus it on something meaningless (but understood by the speaker to be divine). So it is like meditation — but without the monkey mind. And the practice changes people. They report that as their prayer continues, they feel increasingly more involved. They feel lighter, freer and better. The scientific data suggest that tongue speakers enter a different mental state.


Thanks Sean. Really informative writing. I attended ECWA (referred to as orthodox) and sometimes The Tribe (referred to as Penticostal) .

I do believe in speaking in tongues and it effects. I have had my own experiences of it a couple times. I have had experiences also which lead to this questions.

  1. I attended a service at a church I was invited to. While the minister’s wife was preaching, I think she was lead by the spirit cos she kept speaking in tongues at intervals. At a point she asked everyone to stand up and begin to pray in the Holy Ghost (speak in tongues) and she said this; “if your neighbor is not speaking in tongues he has no idea what is happening in the spiritual realm” (paraphrased). My first thought was “this sounds wrong”.

  2. Recently, I was in a prayer meeting and the lady leading was speaking in tongues but she kept repeating the same phrase over and over again. I got distracted and for some reason was not in the prayer mood any longer.

Back one of the question, why are there no interpreters? In my whole life I have never heard anyone interpret. All one hears is the speaking with no interpretation. I also have this understanding, I might not be right, but, I feel like the interpretation of tongues itself is prophecy.

Although 1 These. 5: 19 - 21 as you quoted was really helpful.


@Mein Thanks for sharing - I had not heard of The Tribe. My Korean pastor that I served under for some time also said that he had spoken in tongues and he was a very godly man, though I have never personally had this experience and may have a different opinion.

  1. I believe your instinct is correct. To be honest, this behavior sounds manipulative to me and is exactly the type of thing that the apostle Paul warned against. In 1 Corinthians, Paul makes it very clear that the measure of our spiritual knowledge is our love for God and others; not our ability to speak in tongues. 1 Cor 13:1 - “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” So I would say that this is the exact reason Paul wrote 1 Cor 12-14.

  2. I also find repetitive noises distracting in worship. I remember at one more pentecostal Church a dear brother kept clapping his hands in rapid bursts right in my ears. It was extremely distracting. I think one reason we need to maintain order during worship is out of respect for one another.

Why are there no interpreters? Logically, there are a few possible reasons:

  1. No one in the room has the gift of interpretation
  2. The tongues are not genuine manifestations of the Spirit
  3. No one is encouraging those with this gift to use it

Honestly, I would say that interpretation is just as dangerous as tongues because someone can claim that they have received a revelation from God and that everyone else needs to listen. This both appeals to human pride and provides opportunity for false teaching. That is why we must always test and weigh everything we hear by God’s Word, which it sounds like you are doing brother!


Thanks Sean. I actually never thought of the interpretation aspect in that way. Thanks for the new insight.
Really appreciate your perspective. :pray:t5:


@Mein Sure thing - may the Lord Jesus bless you with a spirit of wisdom and revelation in knowledge of Him and be with you in all that you do :slight_smile:


Amen and may he bless you immensely that you too will be a blessing to those around you.