27 September 2014 by Michael Cheng –
Michael Cheng has written four articles (see below) for how we can pray according to the acrostic “PRAYER.” In this article, he will be touching on the letter “E”, which stands for edification.
According to the Webster’s Dictionary, the term “edification” means to instruct and improve especially in moral and religious knowledge.” An individual believer is edified when he is built up, or strengthened in his faith through knowledge and understanding of God’s word and also experience of God’s grace and truth.
I understand edification therefore, as the process by which a Christian attains spiritual maturity as he lives according to God’s ways in the light, truth, and authority of His Word. It is important to note first that we are edified through reading and studying God’s word, hearing a sermon preached, fellowshipping with fellow believers and in many other ways that God may use. But as we are here focusing on the act and practice of praying and communing with God, I would like to compare the edification of a believer during prayer to the charging of a car battery. When we pray and seek God’s face, we are being connected to tour power source and our spiritual battery can then be charged up.
Ephesians 4:11-13 says:
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)
The scripture passage above helps us understand God’s plan for individuals and churches. God’s goal in releasing spiritual gifts to the church is to equip leaders so that they can teach believers God’s word with insight and accuracy. These believers will in turn become mature Christians who are able to instruct others and build up the body of Christ.
The gift of tongues is one of the spiritual gifts given by Christ to the church to build it up. In fact, it is specifically mentioned by our Lord Jesus as one of the signs that follow a believer in Mark 16:17.
In 1 Corinthians 14:4, Paul says praying in tongues helps in spiritual edification:
“He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:4)
As mentioned previously, I testify here also within the context of my own church background, I know that my sharing concerning speaking in tongues may be controversial to some Christians from a non-Charismatic background. I’m aware of the controversy that speaking in tongues caused to the Corinthian Church (1 Corinthians 13) and also to the churches today. I am not advocating any spiritual gift as more superior than other gifts and I am of the opinion that even if we have all the gifts and have not love, it is futile. Love is by far superior and no one can dispute that.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1)
The verse above mentions 2 kinds of tongues—tongues of men (known tongues—Greek: dialectos) and tongues of angels (unknown tongues—Greek: glossa). The first kind refers to a known language that you have not learnt but God can enable you to speak it at an opportune time to a specific audience for a specific purpose. This gift of tongues was first poured out on the disciples on the day of Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?” (Acts 2:4-8)
The second type of tongues refers to an unknown tongue that is used to speak to God, not man.
“For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men by to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.” (1 Corinthians 14:2)
This gift of tongues is usually used in private to help us pray more effectively and bring us into more intimate communion with God. I have personally experienced the power of praying in tongues and would encourage all of you to use your gift of tongues in your prayer time, as it is also in the experience of Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:14-15:
“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding in unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.” (1 Corinthians 14:14-15)
When we pray in tongues, we edify or build up our faith, which will encourage us to pray more.
Sometimes, we do not know what to pray for. In such a situation, we start to pray in tongues allowing the Holy Spirit to pray through us so that our prayers are in harmony with God’s will.
“Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27)
Thus, praying in tongues, I believe, helps us to intercede for others in accordance to the perfect will of God. I may not consciously be able to pray using actual words as my vocabulary and language is limited and I do not know the will of God regarding the person or situation I am praying for, but the Holy Spirit knows. When I pray in tongues, I am allowing the Holy Spirit to pray through my spirit, so I can pray the perfect prayer, which is in accordance to the will of God.
God has promised us in 1 John 5:14-15:
“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that HE hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” (1 John 5:14-15)
Therefore, praying in tongues is important as it builds up our faith in God and also helps us to pray more effectively since it is the Holy Spirit praying through us in accordance to the will of God.
It is also my experience that when I pray in tongues, the gifts of the Spirit, such as the gift of prophesy, word of wisdom, and word of knowledge (and etc) are released in my life. There was an occasion when a brother confided in me of his fears about his foot, which was turning gangrenous and might need amputation. As I prayed for him in tongues, the Lord gave me a bible passage in Proverbs 3:25-26 to comfort, encourage, and assure him that healing is on the way.
“Do not be afraid of sudden terror,
Nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes;
For the LORD will be your confidence,
And will keep your foot from being caught.” (Proverbs 3:25-26)
Recently, I met him and enquired about his foot and praised God, he told me that the condition of his foot has improved and his foot is still intact!
Finally, when we pray in tongues, our spirits would be rested, refreshed, and restored, as we can deduce from the following verse:
For with stammering lips and another tongue
He will speak to this people,
To whom He said, “This is the rest with which
You may cause the weary to rest,”
And, “This is the refreshing”;
Yet they would not hear. (Isaiah 28:11-12)
There was a period in my Christian walk when I neglected praying in tongues. As a result, I experienced spiritual dryness and apathy in my life and ministry. However, when I resumed my devotion by using this gift of speaking in tongues, I was fired up again to walk victoriously and serve more in the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.
In summary, while I testify to how praying in tongues edifies me since I am focusing on the act and practice of prayer itself, edification must also come from the other ways mentioned at the beginning of this article, if we desire to be a truly “full gospel” holistic Christian!
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