How do I receive the gift of tongues? 

This is the question that people have always asked having heard about the gift of tongues.

I am personally unable to teach you how to speak in tongues, as it is the Lord who gives this gift and all gifts that are manifested by His Spirit.  

But I can help you identify obstacles in receiving this wonderful gift, then help you learn how to express it.

Get Empowered by the Holy Spirit

One does not begin by asking for the gift of tongues, nor any of the gifts of the Holy Spirit for that matter.

The first step is ask to be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

In PRMI’s vocabulary, we often refer to the first time we ask for and receive this promise as the baptism with the Holy Spirit.  

Afterwords, we may identify this event as the Holy Spirit falling upon us (Acts 1:8) or being filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4).    

After that initial experience, you can ask anytime to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  

Through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, (or empowerment of the Holy Spirit or filling of the Holy Spirit) we may be equipped to be faithful witnesses to do what Jesus calls us to do.

Read more: Clothed, Baptism, Filled, or Empowered

To receive the gift of tongues or any of the gifts of the Holy Spirit we start with praying for the baptism with the Holy Spirit.  

As we step out in obedience, we may ask for and receive the any of gifts of the Spirit that we need to fulfill Jesus’ work.  

We may expect that Jesus will give us the spiritual gifts that are needed to accomplish the work that He has called us into.

Through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we may be equipped to be faithful witnesses to the life-giving work found in Jesus Christ.

Cooperate with the Holy Spirit

You might be afraid that the Holy Spirit would take over and that you’d lose control. You might be afraid of impulsively blurting out strange sounds.

But the experience of tongues is not like that. Instead it’s an act of divine human cooperation.

We are unable to teach a person how to speak in tongues or any other manifestation of the Holy Spirit. 

Tongues is a spiritual gift, given by God. 

In all of the manifestational gifts of the Holy Spirit, there is a divine and human cooperation.

We then, must learn how to receive and express these gifts through cooperation with the spirit.

“To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a 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 speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”

1 Corinthians 12:8-11 (NIV) 

A word of knowledge will come as a thought, amid the thoughts of our own minds. 

Healing will take place, as we stretch out our own hands. 

The gift of tongues will come,as we speak sounds made with our own voices.   

But the inspiration and what is accomplished will be divine.  This is part of what we call the dance of cooperation.

This implies that to exercise any of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, one must be careful to nurture the gift of discernment to distinguish what is coming from ourselves, and what is truly from the Holy Spirit. 

One may learn how to express the gifts of the Spirit and manifestations of the Spirit, in a manner that is appropriate and timely of appropriate context. 

“The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—”

1 Corinthians 14:32-33 (NIV) 
In all gifts there is a divine and human cooperation at work, so we must learn how to receive and express this gift accordingly.

Remove Obstacles to Receive the Gift of Tongues

We cannot teach a person how to speak in tongues, nor force them to. It is a free gift given by God when God desires.

Some wise advice on the gift of tongues came from J.E. Stiles.

Stiles was a Pentecostal believer in the 1940’s. He helped many people remove blocks to receiving the gift of tongues, in both the United States and in Canada. He was based in Oakdale, California.

Stiles wrote:

Very often it has been said, concerning speaking with tongues,

The Holy Spirit speaks through the man. Or to someone upon whom the Spirit was moving. We have said, “Now just let the Spirit speak through you.”

These expressions convey the idea that the Holy Spirit actually does the speaking Himself. The fact is that this is not true.

The Holy Spirit does not speak. The Word plainly teaches that the man DOES the speaking, but the Spirit supernaturally DIRECTS it (Acts 2:4).

There is nothing supernatural about the fact that the man speaks with tongues. That is based on an act of will.

We freely admit that very often there is a strong urge by the Spirit to speak with tongues, but still the man’s will is in control.

The man can stop any time he wants to, and if he knows it, he can start at any time. Then what is the miracle connected with speaking with tongues?

For certainly there is a miracle involved. The miracle is not in the fact that the man speaks, but in what he speaks.

As long as a man speaks with other tongues, he has absolutely no control as to what he says. What he says is entirely supernatural.

Since it is completely impossible to speak two languages at the same moment, therefore the position of faith is this, that the man will cast away all thought of speaking his natural words, and will, in faith, look up and expect a supernatural moving by the Spirit which dwells within.

Then, when he feels the moving of the Spirit, his step of faith is to lift his voice and begin to speak whatever sounds come, as the result of the Spirit’s moving.

It is none of the man’s business what the sounds are which he speaks.

That is God’s part. The one who has real faith will trust God to do His part, that is, prompt him to form the words on his lips, and then he will lift up his voice and speak out whatever comes.

(We would describe this “supernatural moving of the Holy Spirit” as the Holy Spirit falling upon a person for power. In this case the power to speak in tongues.)

…most people do not obey these instructions. They are too completely bound to the tradition of praising the Lord in their own language.

However, there are some who will think this through, and see that the position of faith is to absolutely cast aside their own words, and wait for the Spirit to prompt them, and when He does so to lift up their voices and speak out whatever sounds come, with reckless indifference as to what they are.

That is faith.

If it is only stammering lips at first (Isaiah 28:11-12), do not let that bother you in the least.

Go right on praising God with these stammering sounds, and soon you will be speaking a clear language, if you will rejoice to speak whatever God puts on your lips.

The Gift of the Holy Spirit (Burbank, CA: Church Press)

When did Paul receive the gift of tongues?

It is clear that Paul is teaching on tongues out of first hand personal experience. 

As a context for this we need to ask, “When did he receive the gift of tongues?

I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.”

1 Corinthians 14:18-19 (NIV)

Was it when he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus?

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Or was it when Ananias laid hands on him and prayed that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit?

Acts 9:17-18 (NIV)
What we do know is that Paul did speak in tongues and that he was one of the most powerful witnesses to Jesus Christ who has ever walked the earth.

There is no reference in the Bible to tongues being a part of Paul’s initial experience of the infilling with the Holy Spirit.

Receiving this gift may have occurred later. What we do know is that Paul spoke, sang and prayed in tongues and that he was one of the most powerful witnesses to Jesus Christ who has ever walked the earth.

Build Your Faith

Some will receive this gift spontaneously—others receive as an act of the will.

In receiving all gifts, we must respond in obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4).

You cannot speak in English and Spanish at the same time—likewise do not block tongues by speaking in your known language or learned additional languages.

In faith ask the Holy Spirit for the gifts you need to follow Jesus and then get on with the work you are called to do.

Leave it up to the Holy Spirit to give you whatever gifts or manifestations that will enable you to give Jesus glory by building up the Church and advancing the gospel.

I am ready to learn more!

Please watch and continue to pray through the following video lessons.

1. Ask for the Baptism and/or Infilling With the Holy Spirit 

Read More: Where are Tongues Found in the Bible?

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the initiation or the gateway, to the all of the empowering gifts of the Holy Spirit, not just the gift of tongues. 

Read more: 7 Principles to Receiving the Empowerment of the Holy Spirit 

2. Remove Hindrances to the Gift of Tongues 

Read More: The Dance of Cooperation

I encourage you to apply what you have learned, prayerfully ask for this gift and receive the gift of tongues.    

This article is an edited excerpt from Dunamis Project 2: In the Spirit’s Power, Chapter 9, where we deal with obstacles that people have in receiving the gift of tongues.

For the full teaching on the gifts of tongues and the power of the Holy Spirit, consider attending a Dunamis Project near you!

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