Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The tongues of men and angels

Right, God. There's something I want to say.

I've always wanted to speak in tongues. I have no idea why you haven't given me this gift.

Wow, that sounded arrogant, didn't it? As if you need a reason for not giving me a particular spiritual gift and I require you to explain yourself.


I know that there are many spiritual gifts and I know that you have blessed me with some of them. As I get older I am recognising your hand in my life in this department but the gift of tongues I have prayed about and asked for so many times and it has never come.  I have other gifts that I love and try to use, but this one is one that I have longed for.

I would love to experience such evidence of the Holy Spirit in my life. I would love to be able to praise and worship and cry out and intercede on those occasions when I have no words.  There have been times in my life when I've felt so miserable or distressed that all I could do was sob to you and in times like that I have felt it would be such a comfort to speak through the Spirit. I would love to transcend the confines of vocabulary and grammar and inspiration when I lift your Name high. I would love to be able to draw closer to you by allowing your Spirit to speak through me.

But it seems it's not to be. Or at least, it hasn't been yet.

I used to wonder if there was something wrong with me and that was why other people had this gift but not me. I thought that maybe my walk with you was faulty in some way (and perhaps it was; still is!) and that the only reason you weren't gifting me in the way I wanted was that you were waiting for me to have some spiritual breakthrough. Speaking in tongues seemed to be some sort of evidence of having 'made it' spiritually and I never got there. Perhaps it was unconfessed sin, or an inadequacy on my part. I clearly wasn't spiritual enough. Not clean enough. Not holy enough. Not mature enough - in faith or experience.

I don't believe these things any more; or at least I mostly don't.  I have moments of doubt where I wonder if there is still something blocking the flow of you into my life, but for the most part I can see so much of your grace in my life that it doesn't make sense that this particular area is a problem between you and me. Tell me if I'm wrong!

Nearly everyone I know can speak in tongues and every last one of them values this gift so highly. Whether it's praying for someone else, praying when words are absent or difficult or worshipping you in a sublime way, they all say that it is a wonderful experience. Why not me?

See? I'm forty and I can whine like I did when I was a teenager. I think we had this conversation then a time or two. If there is a lurking reason why it's not happening, let me know, Lord God. Let me put it right, so that your grace and your gifts can flow through me freely. I suppose just saying that I show that there is still a little tiny part of me that wonders if it's my fault.

I even bought books on how to receive the gift of the spirit. This was at the time when every Tom Dick or Harry was being 'slain in the spirit' and experience was everything. At one church I attended for a while as a student if you weren't crying or falling over or laughing uncontrollably during a service then you were 'spiritually dead' and required serious prayer (usually in the Spirit). I think I even remember being prayed for once, but I'm not quite sure that it was all it should have been.

So it's all very well when we have sermons on desiring spiritual gifts and allowing God to bestow them on you. I've been desiring for many years, and in this specific area, you aren't feeling in a bestowing mood, are you?

Don't get me wrong, I know that I have gifts that I can use for your glory. I find it hard to talk about them lest someone pipe up, 'What?! You think you're good at that?!' but I have some ideas. Kind and wise people have spoken to me to draw my attention to things that I can do, and talking to you like this is one of them. Maybe I have a gift of prayer - I certainly have the gift of going on a bit. Perhaps that's why you don't want me to speak in tongues. Perhaps if I could, I'd spend my prayer life doing that and not so much this. (I'd like to reassure you that if that's the reason you are withholding this gift, I would definitely make sure that I didn't neglect other means of praying. Honestly. And if you were to double up the gift of tongues with the gift of wisdom and discernment then you could be sure that I would use it according to the Maker's instructions).

Some people say that they were determined to receive the gift of tongues, and so they deliberately started speaking in a gibberish sort of way until they 'found their voice'. This doesn't work for me. Am I too self conscious? I can imagine you looking down at me with amusement on your face as I try to utter streams of nonsense in the hope that at some point you might take over and give me words.

Nope, it seems that it isn't for me. I feel a bit sad about this, Lord, but I'm coming to terms with it. There are other gifts that have a wider application, perhaps. I would love to be wise. I would love to have wisdom and insight and perception and discernment. I would like to see people and see them with your eyes. I would like to be able to tell when you are speaking and when you are not with complete confidence. I would love to have more of your heart.

So if you are happy (in principle; I know it could be so much better) with my level of worship when I am talking to you in a language that I have learned and do understand, then it's up to you, isn't it? You're the only One I want to worship. It isn't for me, much as I love it. My joy in worship comes from pleasing you, and if you are pleased then I should be satisfied. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

I'm going to leave this one with you, God. That sounded magnanimous, didn't it? What I mean is I'm going to try to stop probing this area like a missing tooth and just be happy with what I have. Or start pestering you about something else.

Thankyou for all that you have given me. The stuff that I've known about for years and the stuff I'm discovering each day. Thankyou for people around me to reassure and advise and nudge me back from envy or confusion or frustration or self doubt.

Thankyou that you are a God who loves to give gifts. I know that you haven't left me out.


  1. This had me laughing out loud my friend - tears rolling!! Especially the bit in brackets where you are reassuring God you wouldn't neglect other sorts of prayer)... You are really wonderful. You are a blessing - and you are right you have a gift of prayer - and a wonderful sense of humour. I can just imagine God grinning down on you - see, I made you :-)

  2. Thankyou kindly. I'm glad it made you smile. :-)


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