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Singing In Tongues - why do you sing in tongues in worship?
This article was written in response to numerous questions I have received relating to the long passages of singing in tongues that are found on some of my albums. Here is one such question, and my response.
“I listened to a sample of your new cd, it sounds wonderful. One friend was a little curious about you singing in tongues cause there is no interpretation of them. How do you know what you are saying?”
Speaking in an unknown tongue is one of the blessings given to the believer as an aid to prayer. This is because sometimes, “we do not know how to pray as we ought”. Through the gift of tongues we are given the ability to communicate with the Father in a language unknown to us, and unless the Holy spirit gives us the interpretation of our prayer, the meaning of it remains unknown. We do not know how to pray, so the Holy spirit comes to our aid. But exactly what we have prayed, we still do not know! You can pray for an interpretation, and that can be useful, but it is quite acceptable to just pray ( and sing ) in an unknown tongue.
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One of the reasons why I sing in tongues, is because just as praying in tongues is an aid to prayer when "we do not know how to pray", so too is singing in tongues an aid when we do not know how ( or what ) to sing!
Paul says, "I will sing with the spirit, I will sing also with the understanding." Singing with the spirit then is obviously singing without the understanding, since it is contrasted in this verse of scripture with “singing with the understanding.” We are expected then - as in Paul's demonstration of the gift - to sing with the understanding and also sing without understanding. Why this would be the case, is one of the mysteries of being a spirit-filled believer, but our understanding does not have to be complete in order for us to benefit from it.
This may raise the question in the minds of some as to why I record singing in tongues for others to listen to, when neither they nor myself can understand it. I have several thoughts on this, but my main reason is that I believe the words minister life to the human spirit. Our human mind does not need to understand the language for our spirit to draw life from it. Jesus said, "the Words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." In other words, there is a relationship between words spoken and the spirit of a person. When a person speaks they are speaking out of their spirit. This is the difference between the animal kingdom and spirit beings created in the image of God. Those words can carry life or death.
As human beings we feed off words. We have all been on the end of words that have carried death and have wounded us. "Death and life is in the power of the tongue." This is a spiritual thing, and the realm of the spirit is not limited by the natural realm of language. By that I mean, I believe the power of the spirit behind words can be felt whether or not the meaning of the words is intellectually understood. So there is still a blessing in the realm of the spirit by listening to singing in tongues whether or not the words are understood. Words are merely containers, they contain life or death. If the words originate from the life-source of the Holy Spirit, they will be containers of life, they will be life-giving words, and they will minister life to the spirit of those who receive them. The mind remains unfruitful, but that is not a bad thing. I have many emails from people who testify of being greatly blessed by these spiritual songs.
For me, I have no issue with it, it sounds perfectly natural to me. In some ways when I sing in tongues it is like having an instrumental interlude in the middle of a recorded song. The voice is an instrument like any other, capable of producing a variety of sounds, and I allow the Holy Spirit to play me like a solo instrument as He wills.
I do not need to have an interpretation of the musical part for it to carry a meaningful role in the song. I do not understand what the bass line is "saying", nor do I have an "interpretation" of the piano accompaniment. I have no interpretation of what these different instrumental parts are communicating, but I still use them, because the music itself is a blessing. I use the human voice in the same way. For me, it is just another instrument, and one that I can use with great flexibility since it is a natural part of me.
When I sing in tongues my spirit is free to soar in realms of spiritual blessing unhindered to a large extent by the constraints of my natural human ability. Unhindered by the natural mental faculties, the human vessel becomes an unblocked conduit which the Holy Spirit is able to flow through and minister.
This is particularly relevant when I am singing a spontaneous song. The flow is difficult to maintain if I must always sing in English. Anyone who has sung a totally spontaneous song will understand the challenge of not knowing where to go next, vocally, melodically, harmonically etc. It just makes it a lot easier to come up with something that has a natural flow to it, if you do not always have to be thinking about what words you have to come up with next. As I mentioned earlier in this article, one of the reasons why I sing in tongues, is because just as praying in tongues is an aid to prayer when “we do not know how to pray”, so too is singing in tongues an aid when we do not know how ( or what ) to sing!
If the Holy Spirit is flowing through you prophetically then this is not a problem, you just rely on him for the words in English, though my experience of this is that we are co-workers with the Holy Spirit, and there is always a measure of your natural gift involved as well. It just makes it a whole lot easier if you can drift off into tongues for a season while you "catch your breath" so to speak, before you begin to sing spontaneously in English again.
I guess the fact that “tongues” is an actual language, and as such is actually supposed to embody thought and communicate the same, that we have the question of why it is being used in this way. It is not just a vocal instrumental part as I have suggested, but it is also a language for the purpose of communication, so what is it communicating and to whom?
The Bible again has the answer on this, and Paul clearly states that he who speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not to men but to God. So why have it on my albums? Well, that is the whole point. My albums contain songs that are not just about God, but songs that are primarily worship directed to God. The listener has an opportunity here to be part of the creative worship process and offer up their own thanksgiving and worship. I am not just “performing” a song for someone to listen to. I am simply enjoying my own time with God and just happen to press “record” on my recording software at the same time. The result is a private worship event that others may also participate in and make their own, including the passages of singing in tongues.
1. The passages of singing in tongues are directed toward God as part of my personal worship. This is simply a natural extension of the personal nature and purpose of the album.
2. The listener has the opportunity to listen to a passage of singing in tongues as if it were a vocal “instrumental,” and be blessed by the musical and spiritual impartation of the moment ( because the words will carry life whether they are understood or not )
3. These recordings of private worship were never intended to be just “listened” to. The listener can make use of the opportunity to offer up their own thanksgiving and free worship, thus making the event a moment of corporate worship.
Someone who has a more passive approach to the album, may wonder what the singing in tongues is for. But I don’t think it is an issue for people who use the album for the purpose for which it was intended, and that is as an aid for personal worship.
Some people have an issue with tongues itself, i.e. whether it is of God or not, and I guess I just didn’t record this album for those people.
Beyond all the explanations of why, and trying to satisfy the human mind about the whole process, quite simply, on a personal level, I just find the whole experience so beautiful and spiritually refreshing, that I think it merits sharing with others.
There is an aspect here also of the natural man not being able to receive the things of the spirit. There are times when we simply acknowledge that His ways are higher than our ways, and He sometimes chooses the foolish things to confound our over-educated intellect. Jesus said we would know it by its fruit, not by our ability to understand it or figure it all out.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good!”
Resources - Best books about the gift of tongues
An Apologia - A reasoned argument in defense of speaking in tongues - Free pdf download
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