Archive for September, 2011

A Christmas Carol, Praying in Tongues: 22 September

September 22, 2011

Apologies for another long delay…

On a day off, a few weeks ago, I woke early, as usual, and lay in bed quietly praying, enjoying lying in Jesus. It occurred to me that I hadn’t prayed in tongues for some days, despite an intention to pray in tongues for 10 minutes a day. I settled back and let gobbledegook flow out of my mouth, mostly quietly. After a few minutes of this, it ceased and I settled into a lovely deep peace, very contented. After a few more minutes, a tune came to me, bubbling up from inside, so I sang it out. ‘I wonder what that is?’ I mused. ‘A Christmas Carol,’ seemed to be the answer.

 My wife had drawn my attention a few weeks previously to the Times Christmas Carol Competition. She was thinking of entering, although words are her forte and they were asking for original tunes. I had wondered about making an entry myself, but not done anything more about it. Suddenly I had a carol tune.

 Wondering what words would go with this tune, some favourite words of Lancelot Andrewes, Elizabethan Anglican Bishop came to mind. ‘He was The Word, yet not able to speak a word.’ That was a good start, pointing me to John’s Gospel, Chapter 1. I mused on in the same vein, also reminded of words of Geoffrey ‘Woodbine Willie’ Studdert Kennedy, World War 1 Chaplain and pastor to working men.

 By now I had too much in my head to remember. Downstairs I picked up my MP3 player and recorder (bought to interview Fay Weldon), and sang into it the tune that had come. I wrote down the words. A little later I picked out the tune on our piano, and worked on the words more. I had a chorus and two verses. 5 days later the next and last two verses came, with a little thinking and searching.

 Our highly talented Church organist, pianist, composer, Charles Tebbs, transcribed and improved slightly what I had recorded and written. It is now with the Times Judges. The winner will be announced in November. Charles and I intend to have it sung on our church whatever the Times people say.

 What an amazing gift is praying in tongues! Without the tongues the carol would never have come. Tongues does seem to be a first, often the first, gift of the Spirit, after which other gifts come. But tongues is so weird! Why doesn’t God have people start with something more acceptable, less offensive? He doesn’t always make things easy for us.

 Tongues is like stepping fully into the swimming water. As our legs, and then our tummies, hit the cold water, a sensible, natural, part of us screams ‘No! Too uncomfortable. Back out now!’ We need to push ourselves further in. Soon we are acclimatised, and we can then swim happily in the water, exploring all kinds of places.

 With praying in tongues we ‘step in’ by beginning to make gobbledegook sounds with our voices, asking the Holy Spirit to flow and take over what we say. ‘We speak…  the Spirit [then] gives the ability.’ (Acts 2:4) We start, initiate, turn on the tap. The Holy Spirit then comes in, amplifying, filling out, giving a much greater flow than our hesitant efforts. From then on we can turn on this tap whenever we want. We don’t control what comes out, but we can stop and start again as we want. The Holy Spirit is ‘willing to yield.’ (James 3:17) But the beginning is hard. Our critical, in-control mind, screams ‘No! Too weird. Back out now!’ we have to go ahead in faith trusting that this really is good and helpful, if weird.

 A wonderful older Christian lady with whom I taught ‘Praying and Playing in Tongues’ in workshops in Lichfield Cathedral, began with ‘ping pong, ping pong.’ Only later did the full gobbledegook flow. An American Christian lady wrote to me fairly recently than she had opened her mouth for several days before anything truly flowed. As well as starting and feeling very foolish, it seems that quite often we are left floundering for a short while before God blesses our feeble efforts. He really doesn’t make it all easy at first.

 What a gift we then have! Tongues were great when my father died and I had no idea what to pray. I could express all that was in my heart without effort. Tongues have been powerful when praying with others for their healing or deliverance. ‘It feels like prayer that reaches the parts other prayer doesn’t reach,’ said one woman. Tongues have brought great insight. As I have followed tongues with praying in English, when it seems that I am praying the same thing but in my own language instead, a clear sense of what to pray for or how to proceed has come. Tongues have been miraculous. Twice, in Uganda, in seminars I have led, women who could not speak or understand a word of English, said a few, very pertinent, words in English.

 If you would like to read a paper I wrote explaining praying in tongues for the workshops I led, please write to Have a go! Ask someone to pray with you for the gift. Speak nonsense and keep going until you are aware that it’s not just you praying, but the Holy Spirit praying in you. You are likely to be surprised by what comes!

 Roger Harper