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How to Interpret what you are Praying in Tongues

Recently I received a request about how to operate in tongues and interpretation. Spirit Life Training does have some tips about using this exercise in the ‘Building a Strong Spirit’ section of the book. However, I felt it was important to put a few tips down here also. Here is the request-

“Hi Tim.. I need help in learning how to activate interpretation of tongues.. I pray alot in tongues and have asked and believe I’ve received interpretation.. I have listened to Curry’s Diversities of tongues from seminar and I want to flow in that.. I know how important it is.. Thanks for any assistance!!”

(FYI- the JGLM seminar that is referred to can be found here- https://store.nexternal.com/jglm/diversities-of-tongues-p607.aspx)

This is a great question- and yes, it is very important to the spiritual life. Paul made it a special point to say this: “Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is 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.” (1Cor. 14:13-15) The overall context is directed toward a corporate application, but there still is a personal benefit that Paul speaks of. The same edification that your spirit receives (and everything that your spirit’s edification positively impacts!), can also be understood and received by the mind through interpretation. Learning to personally pray and interpret your tongues is a skill that will provide an open door for the corporate gift of interpretation for the corporate gift of tongues to more easily flow in your life/church. Honestly, there are quite a few beneficial side effects when you become more confident in interpreting praying in tongues- and I will point out a few for you in this post. Please note: I am not writing this to prove any theological doctrines, just to give some practical pointers for those who want to see this gift become more fluent in their life.

This is what you need to do:

1) Pray that you may interpret. Yes, it is that simple. You ask, and expect to receive. It really is the same way that you received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and started speaking in tongues. You just expected to receive, and started speaking the words and syllables out of your mouth. You need to have the confidence that when you ask for the interpretation, you will receive. A sample prayer could be something like, “Father, I am asking for the interpretation of what I am praying and speaking in tongues. I thank You that I will receive it in Jesus Name.”

2) Start speaking in tongues. When you start speaking in tongues, it is important that you focus your attention on the flow coming from the inside of you- that ‘river of living water’. Be sensitive to the sounds, syllables, cadence, and strength of the words that are coming out of you. Keep your mind ‘ready to receive’ whatever English (or whatever your native language is) words start forming in the ‘hangar’ and are waiting to take off.

3) Speak until you feel you have said enough. This can seem extremely subjective I realize, but it is true. When you feel ‘satisfied’, or ‘full’ or for some reason you can sense you have said a complete thought, you can stop and wait for the interpretation. Of course, English words can start forming before you finish your ‘complete thought’ in tongues, but it will help you to finish your complete thought before you start launching out the interpretation.

4) Speak the interpretation when you have enough English to start speaking. The difference between speaking in tongues, and interpreting, is that when you are speaking in tongues, you do not know the next syllable/word/phrase that is coming out of your mouth until the split second that you speak it. When you are interpreting, you can only start speaking when you have the first few understandable words of the sentence. You might not get the whole sentence right off the bat, but it is important to step out in faith and speak the first few words that you do get. As you keep speaking, the more the interpretation and words will come.

5) Stop speaking when the ‘flow’ stops. Now, there are a few reasons why the ‘flow’ of English (again- whatever your native language is) would taper off and stop. First, fear can shut the flow down. This could be a sense of uncertainty in what you are saying, or fear of what others think (which would be a bit strange if you are doing this in your own private prayer time, but some people do bring their own perceptions of what others think in with them). Like Peter became afraid walking on water and started sinking when he took his eyes off Jesus and started focusing on the wind and the waves, so the flow can taper off when one allows fear to freeze them up. Second, and closely related- allowing yourself to become distracted will also disrupt the flow of interpretation. Don’t lose your focus on the flow coming from inside your spirit, and keep speaking it out until you have finished the ‘thought.’ The third way the flow of interpretation stops is … there is nothing left to interpret! The thought could have been completely communicated to that point, or you could have started speaking out the interpretation in English before you first completed the flow in tongues. In the latter case, don’t try to make up something to finish the interpretation from your own head. (You should be able to tell when you switch channels from your spirit to just speaking from your head). In that instance, if the flow stops, no problem- just start speaking in tongues once again (steps 1-3), until you feel you have said enough. Then do steps 4 and 5 again.

6) Speak the interpretation in the same cadence and strength that you spoke in tongues with. It is for this reason that you must have a sense of liberty when you speak in tongues to begin with. You must be able to articulate exactly what is coming from your inner man in tongues without any intimidation. Lock onto the ‘frequency’ that seems to be inspiring the syllables, tone and strength of the message, and when you speak the interpretation in English, let it flow out in the same manner.

7) Keep up this cycle until you want to stop. You can repeat this process as long as you like!

8) You will probably want to stop and take notes! I can’t tell you enough how inspirational this whole process is. When the Holy Spirit gives you the interpretation, it is full of life and revelation. I have been so awe-struck at times at what is spoken- sometimes those statements are so simple and profound. Truly a ‘word in due season.’ It will be particularly meaningful for your life and situations. Talk it out with God, and see what scriptures He shows you, and practical applications He gives you. This will translate your inspiration and revelation into personal transformation. So make sure to take the time to write it down in your prayer journal, so you can memorize and memorialize what He spoke through you.

9) There is a difference between interpretation and translation. It may seem like splitting hairs, but it is true. A translation is a word-for-word understanding of what is being said and this might not be possible due to a few factors. Tongues is a perfect language, and sometimes what is being said in tongues could not be said any better than that. So an interpretation would be the main understanding of what is being communicated. Not perfect, but still is inspired and powerful. And it is important to understand that what is spoken directly from the spirit (tongues) still does a powerful work IN and THROUGH the spirit. Interpretation gets your mind up to speed and renews it enough to take out some stops that might be hindering your transformation into the image of Christ. Another difference that interpretation will bring is that the length of interpretation might not equal the length of speaking in tongues. Your interpretation might be longer or shorter based on the ability of English to communicate the thought. So it is important not to add to or subtract from anything that comes forth in your interpretation, just let it flow as stated in step 5.

10) There are times when the interpretation is in a different style or timing. Even though it is important to match the same frequency in interpretation as you do in tongues, there are times when your interpretation is not able to be directly interpreted well in English, and you simply get a sense of what is being said, and/or you get a picture that gives the meaning of what is being prayed in tongues. This is still a valid and powerful interpretation, but the message is communicated in a different manner other than a straightforward English meaning. There are rare times also when the interpretation does NOT come right away. But sometimes the interpretation will come later on during the day (or night), and the Holy Spirit will remind you that it was the interpretation you asked for. Please note: when you are interceding in tongues/groaning, do not be surprised if you do not get a direct interpretation. At that point, just trust the Holy Spirit you will tell you what you need to know in order to pray a resolution to the issue at hand. There are a world of uses for tongues, and not all of them need an interpretation. These steps given here are simply related to the passage of scripture in 1 Cor.14:13-15. Also- don’t forget to use ‘singing in the spirit, and singing in the understanding.’ These spirit songs and interpretation songs are incredibly powerful. God not only gives the syllables and words, but also the melody. So amazing. Make sure you do it!

11) Becoming skilled in the flow of interpretation prepares you to flow easier in the prophetic. How the interpretation flows out of you, is almost the same as how the prophetic flows out of you. The faith it took to develop your skills in this area will prepare you in exercising other gifts as well. This is so true.

12) As always- the Word of God is the final authority. Some of the things you receive as a part of the interpretation may be almost directly scripture, and some things may be very unique thoughts. That doesn’t mean they should contradict scriptural principles and doctrine, but it is possible they challenge and change your belief system. If something is not against scripture, but is challenging, it is important to pray about it, and ask God how the Word of God confirms this understanding, and how you can change accordingly. If it is clearly against scripture, just toss it out and move on. Don’t beat yourself up about it, but stay in an attitude of faith that you will receive a clearer interpretation next time. Keep exercising and practicing- Don’t give up- the rewards are definitely worth it!

For more tips how to hone your skills and your spiritual gifting and calling- make sure to take advantage of the exercises in Spirit Life Training. Great for both individuals and small groups! Afterwards, two more supplementary ebooks are Dimensions of Spiritual Breakthrough and Dimensions of Mentality Breakthrough. Both of these ebooks are full of practical exercises to futher strengthen your spirit and renew your mind to release more of the Life and character of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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One Response to "How to Interpret what you are Praying in Tongues"

  • Lionel David Thomas
    Jan 6, 2017 - 12:39 pm Reply

    Great help with response on interpretation of tongues.

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