And so, I am tired and stressed and overwhelmed. Or anxious, my heart beating faster. Or I simply don’t know what to do. Or happy and at peace and joyful.
And almost without realizing it, I find myself praying. In tongues.
* * *
How do I find myself in Oxford, England, in the 21st century, praying in tongues, this ancient first century gift vividly described in The Acts of the Apostles?
Well, 30ish years ago, when I was 17, I was visiting my grandmother in Mangalore, a pretty Catholic seacoast town on the west coast of India, where both my grandparents and Roy’s were born.
And there was a visiting Spanish priest called Marcellino Iragui who was running a Charismatic retreat.
It was a little like the Alpha course. We went through forgiveness, repentance, renouncing occult involvements, and on the last evening, the priest was to pray for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Well, I drank it all in like mead. Not so my father, who was amused, and a trifle bored, and flatly refused to take me to the Charismatic Crusade for another day.
* * *
And so I asked a friend who knew the priest to introduce me, and asked for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit there and then.
(I have an instinctive distaste for rules–Anita Antinomian, my friend Paul calls me–and it amuses me that even in this holy encounter, I sought to jump the queue and do it my own way.)
“Is she hungry?” he asked my friend, Joyce Fernandes. “Yes,” she assured him, having no idea at all. (Indian women can be very nice!)
And so we went through the theory: tongues, gifts of the spirit, fruits of the spirit, and then he laid his hands on me, and prayed for the Baptism of the Spirit, having me repeat after him.
When he came to, “And Lord, please give me the gift of tongues,” I interrupted him.
“I don’t want that,” I said. “It would be too embarrassing. My family would tease me.”
“You can’t pick and choose among the gifts of God,” he said sternly.
And so we prayed. I felt nothing. I guess I was both disappointed and relieved.
I rejoined my father. “So are you now a Charismatic?” he said, amused by the whole business. “Have you the gift of tongues?”
“No,” I assured him.
We returned to my grandmother’s. “Do you have the gift of tongues?” “No,” I said.
* * *
Well, I spoke too soon. I woke that night with rushing, gushing joy, a river threatening to break the bounds of my personality. It was overwhelming: joy so ecstatic, so seismic, it was akin to pain.
I knelt by the side of my bed, and prayed in tongues, praising God for the beauty of the world, for himself, strange, barbarous-sounding unintelligible language bursting out of me.
I prayed in tongues, and I prayed with my mind, in rapture, in sentiments new to me, prayed in English and in the spirit-language, thanking God for his incomprehensible goodness, which I suddenly perceived. “Oh, Lord, I just praise you, I praise you, I praise you.”
* * *
And well, that language never left me. A month later, I was in Mother Teresa’s convent, as an aspirant, training to be a nun. I asked her in a one-on-one meeting, “Mother, what do you think about speaking in tongues?”
“One tongue is enough for a woman,” she said brusquely.
And that was that!
* * *
Well, but I still prayed in tongues; I couldn’t help it—remember that Anita Antinomian bit?–and have done so for the last 30 years.
Tense: I find myself praying in tongues. Anxious: Are we going to catch the plane, get round the bureaucratic no-men–I find myself praying in tongues.
And when my spirit soars, swells, for no good reason, I find myself again praying in tongues.
When I am unreasonably happy and exhilarated in my garden, or by the seashore, I find myself praying in ecstatic tongues. And, more restrained but slowly coursing into joy, I pray in tongues when I am sad, stressed or overwhelmed.
It is the greatest mood-changer, and wisdom-infuser I know. The greatest shortcut to joy.
* * *
And how did this language of my own come? Out of the blue, hours after I first heard about it–by the laying on of hands.
And sadly, my spirit-tongue hasn’t changed, and sadly, it sounds rather ugly to my years, barbaric even. It’s not Greek, or Latin, or French, languages I love. I heard my pastor sing in tongues once, and it sounded like Persian. Mine, it’s a cave man tongue long forgotten.
And that’s just as well, for if I spoke Old French, I would have been tempted to show off about my lovely spirit language. Instead, I have kept quiet about it, and prayed quietly as God meant, no doubt, for the last thirty years.
Some people say that one’s spirit language develops as we mature spiritually. Well, I have matured spiritually (ask Roy what an angel I can be when he is impossible. Well, sometimes!), but my language has stayed basically static.
And isn’t it strange that the one gift I specifically said I didn’t want was the one gift I got? Though, about 15-20 years, the gift of prophetic knowledge and insight began to manifest itself in me, and slowly be recognized by others, and it is now my most treasured spiritual gift
* * *
Rejoice always, pray constantly, in everything give thanks. How on earth is that possible?
Well, praying in tongues is one way. I pray when I go on a long walk, and soon flag. Or do manual work. Or in the winter when the night finds me too tired to read or write, but not quite tired enough to sleep. Too tired to pray coherently, but not tired enough to fall asleep.
And then the Spirit, left within my spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing my inheritance, prays in sounds without any words I understand, and God hears His intercession, and so I know that all will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well.
(Edited archive post)
Image Credit: http://pegponderingagain.files.wordpress.com/