Saturday, July 23, 2005

Downloading in the Spirit

For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however in the spirit he speaks mysteries. (1 Corinthians 14:2)
Someone asked “What do you think it means in this verse when it says, ‘in the spirit he speaks mysteries?’” To answer that, let us first look at 1 Corinthians 14:14, where Paul says: “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.”

Praying in tongues does not primarily yield something to the intelligence of the mind. Nonetheless, there is something going on in the spirit. It is a kind of prayer that the mind does not understand.

What is a mystery? Usually in the Bible, a mystery is a secret, not one that God is keeping from His people, but one that He is revealing.

That is what is going on in 1 Corinthians 14:2, “in the spirit he speaks mysteries.” He is downloading something from God that is ministering to his inner man. For in verse 4, Paul says “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself.”

“What is the conclusion then?” Paul asks in verse 15. “I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.”

In other words, Paul recognized that some of what he prayed was not going to be intelligible to his mind, but there would be edification going on in his spirit — the speaking of mysteries, or downloads from the Spirit of God, so to speak.

That seems to be quite okay with Paul, who decided he was going to pray both ways in his personal prayer life. “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all,” he says in verse 18.

Then in verse 19, he draws the distinction between the dynamics of private prayer and public assembly: “Yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.”

That is why tongues, when addressed to the church, must be accompanied by interpretation. At that point, the mysteries a man speaks when he prays in tongues can become a prophesy that edifies the congregation.

(See also The Benefits of Praying in the Spirit.)

Are you hearing from God when you pray?