Paul uses a few different phrases to describe his experience as he prayed in tongues. In 1 Corinthians 14:15, he was praying ‘with the spirit’. That must mean his own spirit, because at other times he prayed ‘with the mind’. In 1 Corinthians 14:14, his description is ‘my spirit is praying’.
It is a very wonderful kind of prayer that rises direct from a person’s spirit to God in heaven. When we pray with our mind, our prayers are often full of our own desires and thoughts. That cannot be so if we pray with our spirit.
The mind gains nothing from prayer in tongues because prayer in tongues is prayer in an unknown language. The Holy Spirit gives the words (12:10); they may even be words in one of heaven’s languages (13:1). It is our duty to pray with the mind; to pray with the spirit is a gift from God.
Paul did not just pray in tongues; he sang in tongues too. Of course, that means that he sung to praise God. Even as he sung to praise God in his own language, he did that in unknown languages. The Holy Spirit gave him words to sing. Although he could not understand the words, he was confident about their meaning: those words gave thanks to God (14:16)
Paul was not using his mind during prayer in tongues, but he was using his mouth and breath. He did not lose control over his speech. He had the choice whether to speak words that came from his mind, or from his spirit.
His decision was to do both. He would pray with his mind often, and he would also pray with his spirit. He would praise God both with his mind and his spirit. He would use his mind so that people could understand. But he would not neglect the gift that God had given him.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.