My earliest memory of when I first knew about speaking in tongues was as a young child in my home church. It happens to be an orthodox church and speaking in tongues was never part of the order of service. I remember that there was only one woman who could speak in tongues in the whole church. She would holler and shout in tongues (repeating the same things over and over) during any prayer meeting, and it was the most hilarious thing I had ever seen at that time. My sister and I would imitate her and laugh so hard about it when we got home after church services. After a while, she relocated abroad, and for many years growing up, I had no close experience with anyone speaking in tongues.
When I finally got into the university, I got baptized with the Holy Spirit. I also started speaking in tongues, but except I was praying in church or my house, you would never know.
I lived in Kenya for a while. Kenya has some of the most amazing forest parks where one can hike for hours. One day, I was on a hike in one of the forest parks with a professional friend I had met in Kenya. He was not a Christian, but we got on well. As we walked deep into the forest, we met all sorts of people and finally got to an interesting group of people. These people, I suppose, were Christians. They were praying intensely in tongues repeating the same words over and over. My friend looked at me and he told me he was developing goose pimples and was getting scared. He felt concerned that the people might not be mentally stable, and it seemed almost cultish to him the way they were moving around. I smiled in my heart, but I said nothing. He knew I was a Christian, but honestly, I was too ashamed that day to tell him that I too speak in tongues.
Romans 1:16 a: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.
Although I do not feel ashamed about that fact anymore, it brought about some concern to me. I am increasingly alarmed when I watch online services in some churches, and 3 or 4 people are on a pulpit leading prayer over loud microphones and speaking aggressively in tongues. As believers in Christ, I think it is important for us to indeed understand the proper conduct for worshipping and praying in public, especially for the sake of those who are not yet saved or the unbelieving. Paul admonishes us on the use of tongues.
1st Corinthians 14: 18-19,22-28: 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. Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.
Tongues are not a sign to show you are spiritual or spirit-filled. I am convinced that most tongues being spoken today in public are gibberish and for public show versus praying to the Lord. Can we be humble enough to pray silently in our spirits when we worship communally? Can we be humble to stop the showmanship associated with tongues-speaking publicly today? Can we be humble enough to pray for the interpretation of our tongues, that we might indeed know that which we pray about?
May God increase our understanding of these things – Amen!