I don’t speak or pray in tongues. I never have. It’s not that I wouldn’t be open to that, it just hasn’t been my experience. I’ve had some well-meaning Christian brothers and sisters offer to teach me how to pray in tongues in the past. But I’ve graciously declined their offer. I have no problem with the fact that some Christians do speak or pray in tongues. I see that affirmed in many places in Scripture, and I’ve personally known some outstanding believers who have this gift. I’ve been in prayer meetings where pastors from other churches have prayed in tongues, and I’m fine with that. I think that I’d even be okay with God giving me that particular gift of the Spirit, if He chose to. But I’m not asking for it in particular.
Instead, I ask every day to be filled by the Holy Spirit. That’s what I want and seek. I believe that how the Spirit’s Presence shows itself in people will differ, based on how He chooses to do that. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of the one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one just as he determines.”
In my search to better understand how to be filled with, and led by, the Holy Spirit, I learned to seek the Giver of the gifts, rather than the gifts themselves. I was reminded that the evidence of the dwelling of the Holy Spirit in my life is the fruit of His presence: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). I want these qualities to be obvious in my life more and more, because these are the characteristics of a life lived by the Spirit. These characteristics (or fruit, as the Bible calls them) are common to all Spirit-filled Christians, and should be visible in their lives in increasing measure. So as I ask the Lord to fill me with the Spirit, I ask that there would be more evidence in my life of love, joy, peace, etc.
When I think of how God wants me to serve Him, then I think of how He has made and empowered me. This is where the gifts come in. And the gifts are His to give, as He chooses. It’s not up to me to desire someone else’s gift – but rather to understand my own, and to take full responsibility for it! The fact that the gifts are dispersed throughout the body as the Spirit desires reminds me that the work of God is designed to be done in, and by, a community of believers. I may not have every gift – but someone in the body has the gift I need at any particular moment. So I need to recognize the gifts in others, acknowledge them as having been given by the same Spirit by which I am gifted, and work together to accomplish the will of God as He reveals it to us.
I want to be open to whatever God chooses for me. I am grateful for the many biographies I have read, of Christians who have walked this path of the Spirit ahead of me. And for the testimonies of those I know in person. I have shared some of their experiences, but certainly not all. The Holy Spirit has His own will for me, and how He wants to develop the faith relationship He wants with me. And I am learning to keep in step with Him.
I want that for you too.