When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. – Acts 2:1-4
I knew when I entered LIFE Bible College that I was called to Pentecostal ministry, but by the time I entered my senior year in 1955, I still hadn’t been baptized in the Holy Spirit. The countdown was on—I was going to graduate in eight months, but I couldn’t become a licensed Foursquare minister without having the experience of speaking in tongues.
It hadn’t yet happened to me because of three presuppositions: First, I thought it was a qualification that you had to speak with tongues before you could receive the Holy Spirit; second, I had a feeling that there was a need to wait or “tarry”; and thirdly, I was confused about, “How does the tongues part start?”.
Somehow, I thought that you had to speak with tongues first to qualify for the fullness of the Spirit. I had it reversed, thinking you needed to have this supernatural experience and then you’d be filled with the Spirit. That was a big hurdle for me. But no where does the Bible say we “earn” anything from God. It’s just as ludicrous to say that after you speak with tongues, you’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit, as if you would say, that after you clean up your act and be good, God will save you.
Rather than being a qualification, tongues is one of the indications that you’ve been filled with the Spirit, the grace and the power of God. Tongues is a gift and a privilege, not a proof.
The second misconception was that there was a need to wait. This was a common practice from the early part of the 20th Century through the 1950s. They’d call it “tarrying,” from Luke 24:49: “Tarry in Jerusalem until you receive power from on high.” A lot of good things came out of people seeking the Lord, humbling their hearts before Him, worshipping and just waiting upon Him. In that environment, people often received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, so there came the conclusion that this “tarrying” was an important part.
In my mind, I thought there was some process of “earning” my spiritual language. Am I worthy? Am I clean enough? I would later come to recognize that when Jesus saved me, He cleansed the vessel of my life completely; and, by the work of that grace, fully qualified me as a worthy vessel to be filled with His Spirit. Right now.
There was one other thing I was confused about: How does the “tongues” part start? I’ve talked with people to this day who think that the Lord is going to make them speak with tongues; that there’s going to be some sort of seizure over which they have no control. I couldn’t imagine how else it would happen…
Before I had left home for college in the fall of 1951, I attended a series of meetings at my home church—a revival led by Rex Humbard. Rex would later become known internationally for his great pastoral and evangelistic ministry in person and on television. In those days, he and his brother Clement preached the grace and power of God as a team in the crusades that the Humbard family conducted. After Clement’s message on Sunday morning, I was incredibly moved. I went to the prayer room after that sermon, and while I was praying, four syllables—words I didn’t know (clearly “another tongue”) came to my mind. Let me emphasize: I was not attempting to “think up” something supernatural, rather the words were simply “there.”
I didn’t know it was the Holy Spirit prompting me to speak, so I didn’t. I simply had those words/syllables suspended in my conscientiousness but I never employed them. Why not? Even though I knew I hadn’t made those “words” up, I wanted to be sure I wasn’t imposing something of my own into or upon God’s working in my heart. People often say to me today, “I want to be sure that I don’t make up “tongues,” to which I will respond, “What makes you think you could? Especially since you don’t want to.” Such fears are needless and ought to be laid at Jesus’ feet. People also say, “I want to be sure it’s all of God.” Of course! We all do, but let me tell you, God Himself wants your involvement. The Holy Spirit doesn’t hypnotize you and then make you speak in another language. The Bible says, “THEY began to speak with tongues as THE SPIRIT gave utterance” (Acts 2:4)—clearly indicating God’s will and pattern incorporates our decision to speak, and the Holy Spirit’s enablement to give the language spoken. He gives the language, but if you’re ever going to speak, you’re going to have to decide to speak, just as much as you had to decide to receive Jesus as Lord.
When we come to Jesus, worshiping Him and asking to be filled with His Spirit, it is not necessary to fear “the devil will get in.” There is no way Satan can impose himself into a situation where your focus is on Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and where His glory is your greatest desire as you open to His gift of the Holy Spirit’s power and presence!
In concluding my testimony, however, it was about three years after that Sunday morning hearing the Humbards, that I was participating in a crusade with Jerry Jensen—then, a youth evangelist, but later to become renown as editor of VOICE magazine. As he ministered the Word of God, suddenly my heart leapt at his words: “If you’re not filled with the Holy Spirit, why not?” My response: “There’s no reason at all.” At the invitation, I went forward and knelt with others who had come for prayer. Praying alone, with no one prompting me, I said:
“Lord, I believe that those syllables that have been there for so long are very likely from You, but I’ve been afraid to speak them for fear I would do something wrong. I’m going to speak those syllables, and I ask that You will, in Your grace, accept it as an offering of worship to You from the hunger of my heart. If indeed it is something that You’ve intended as a launching point for me—as an initiative on Your part that I’ve been afraid to exercise, now, I ask two things: As I employ those ‘words,’ allow me to continue speaking beyond those syllables, enabling ‘utterance’ as I speak in faith. Second, I ask that this be more than a single experience, but that the resource of spiritual language would be a part of my life every day for the rest of my life.”
Ironically, to the best of my awareness, I have never again spoken those same syllables. They were only the Holy Spirit’s ignition switch to release me. I’ve chuckled at the thought that I might arrive in heaven to someday discover those syllables were simply the Holy Spirit whispering, I won’t be surprised if, when I get to heaven, I discover they were simply the Holy Spirit saying, “Jesus, this child of Yours is sincere. I’m trying to get him released in his praise to You.” All I know is that after I prayed that prayer, I did continue praying in tongues (thinking to myself, “Why didn’t I permit this before? This is too easy”; and I do continue—every day—employing the Holy Spirit’s enabling “tongues” in prayer, worship and intercession).
My release of “speaking in tongues” was far more normal than I ever believed it was. Spiritual language is a Holy Spirit, God-given, potential for every believer. For the majority of people I’ve met, receiving their spiritual language flowed out of a basic “opening up”—opening to receive the Spirit’s enabling “utterance,” and continuing with worship to the Lord Jesus. (I’ve found that worshiping in song is often an easier pathway for some to enter into the “release” of speaking/singing in “tongues” – see 1 Corinthians 14:15).
Dear one, don’t be afraid of doing something wrong because you don’t know how. When Jesus was walking on the water, He beckoned Peter to come to Him. There came a moment when Peter had to decide, “I’m standing here and I’m going to go there.” There comes a moment where you decide to step out and walk in a miracle.
And though I could never imagine it happening to me, it did.
When I came home from that meeting that evening and told Anna, “I’ve been baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke with tongues,” she was, of course, excited and affirming. Then, the next morning, as I went to my devotions, I prayed, “Jesus, last night I said that as You make this real, I want this to be a part of my life every day. Now, as I pray today, I ask you, let me move on with exercising my spiritual language.” With that, I pursued my usual prayer time and petitioning “with the understanding,” and following entered into a time of worship, welcoming the Holy Spirit’s continuation of my enablement to speak with tongues. “Tongues” were forthcoming, and have been a regular part of my prayer life to this day.
And that’s how it finally happened to me.
Copyright 2014 by Jack W. Hayford, Jack Hayford Ministries.