Would being baptized with “tongues” help me experience God’s presence more?

Q. I gave my life to Jesus over 40 years ago and throughout those years, I have had times where my walk with Him has been blessed and I knew He was with me. However, many of these years have been done by will power. I know God is with me, but that is mostly an intellectual choice. I have been water baptized, but I have never been “baptized” with tongues, although I have prayed and prayed and prayed for it. I love God as best I can, but I feel like God has chosen my life with Him to be one of service by willpower with drops of his Spirit to keep me going. This can’t be what He wants for anyone who wants Him. Do you think it is because I haven’t been “baptized” in His Spirit by speaking in tongues? I know there are disputes about what baptism means, but if it is, why wouldn’t He want this for someone. Any thoughts you have would be appreciated. God Bless.

Thank you for your question. I do sympathize with what you are feeling and I understand what you are asking. Let me respond to your specific question about “speaking in tongues” first, and then let me respond to your general concern.

The phrase “speaking in tongues” refers to a spiritual gift that God gives that allows people to speak a language that they have not learned. (The word “tongues” in this phrase is being used in the older sense of “languages.” So “speaking in tongues” means “speaking in languages,” that is, languages that the speaker has not learned.)

I believe that the teaching of the Bible is quite clear that not every Christian receives this gift. Paul asks, rhetorically, in his first letter to the Corinthians, “Do all speak in tongues?” The expected answer is “no,” just as that answer is expected to his other questions, for example, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?” (I say this with no disrespect for the Christian traditions that teach that “tongues” in the form of a “prayer language” is a gift available to all believers. I do not find that the Bible teaches that, but as I said, I intend no disrespect for those who hold that it does.)

So while I do believe that this gift is still available today, I do not believe that every Christian should seek it or expect it. I certainly would not say that having it is the key to a life in which someone experiences the presence of God all the time. In fact, if you have prayed and prayed and prayed for it and God has not given it to you, then I would conclude that you are not one of the Christians who is going to get this gift. But this only means that God has another wonderful gift for you. It is probably already in your life and you just need to recognize it for what it is and develop it for God’s glory and for greater fulfillment in his service. Please see this post: Why haven’t I received a spiritual gift like tongues or prophecy? Please also see this post regarding the “baptism of the Holy Spirit”: Are people “filled with the Holy Spirit” once or multiple times?

Beyond this, to speak to your larger concern, I would encourage you to consider that perhaps you are someone who will experience God’s presence in your life not primarily through your emotions but through other means. Every person is different, and every person who knows God experiences God differently. Jesus said that we should love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Perhaps different people will love God more with some of these than with others. I actually hear in your question how you are already loving God with your mind (intellectually) and with your strength (willpower). Maybe the thing to do is to recognize these as genuine ways of loving God and to realize how much God values and appreciates receiving love from you in these ways.

If the feeling of God’s presence continues to come and go, please don’t be discouraged by that. That is the nature of feelings. They come and go. But I hope you can always experience satisfaction in your faithfulness to God. Our hope is not that when we stand before God in heaven, he will say, “It was so nice that you felt I was there all the time.” No, our hope is that he will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” So let us seek to be good servants and faithful servants. If we are, we can be sure that God is pleased with our lives, no matter what we are or are not feeling at any given time.

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is an an ordained minister, a writer, and a biblical scholar. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the New International Version (NIV) that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He was also a consultant to Tyndale House for the Immerse Bible, an edition of the New Living Translation (NLT) that similarly presents the Scriptures in their natural literary forms, without chapters and verses or section headings. He has a B.A. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

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