We have already considered to a small degree the dynamic of the ‘spirit of prayer’. We will here be more particularly focused upon what the Bible terms ‘praying in (or with) the spirit’ (1 Cor 14:15). These expressions include the following:
- Prophetic utterance and declaration
- Simple tongues
- Groanings and travail
What Is Prayer in the Spirit?
Prayer in the Spirit essentially is any utterance in prayer that proceeds not from the understanding but directly from the spirit of the believer. It is certainly one of the manifestations prophesied by Jesus in John 7:38-39 when He spoke of rivers flowing from the inner man of believing saints. Effective prayer in the Spirit can be made in one of two ways. Paul the Apostle said in Corinthians:
“What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.” (1Cor 14:15 KJV)
Paul here speaks of two dynamics in prayer that the believer is invited to enter into: Praying with the understanding (in a known language understandable to the hearer), and praying in the Spirit (in an unknown language whose utterance is inspired by the Holy Spirit Himself, and not necessarily understood by the hearer).
Kenneth Hagin defines praying in the Spirit this way in ‘The Art of Prayer’:
“Spiritual praying is praying out of your spirit in Spirit-given utterances – utterances in your known language, in a tongue that is unknown to you, and sometimes in groaning.” ‘The Art of Prayer’, Kenneth Hagin
Praying in the Spirit with the understanding
We need to qualify these notes again, and make it clear that the student must not begin to categorise prayer too strictly. Nevertheless, in order to aid our search of the Scriptures concerning this great subject we will touch on some specific flows of prayer anointing, realising that these are not the only areas of prayer that are distinctively in the spirit, and that in a sense all prayer is, or should be, in the spirit.
What we mean here by praying in the Spirit with the understanding is when the person praying becomes less conscious of self and natural surroundings, and more conscious of God and the eternal realm.
In this place it is no longer we that pray, but Christ and His Spirit praying in and through us. The Scriptures make it clear that the Holy Spirit lives in the believer and that He is instrumental in causing the believer to speak forth things beyond their natural ability or understanding. Consider the following Scriptures:
“But rather what we are setting forth is a wisdom of God once hidden [from the human understanding] and now revealed to us by God—[that wisdom] which God devised and decreed before the ages for our glorification [to lift us into the glory of His presence]. None of the rulers of this age or world perceived and recognized and understood this, for if they had, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory. But, on the contrary, as the Scripture says, What eye has not seen and ear has not heard and has not entered into the heart of man, [all that] God has prepared (made and keeps ready) for those who love Him [who hold Him in affectionate reverence, promptly obeying Him and gratefully recognizing the benefits He has bestowed].Yet to us God has unveiled and revealed them by and through His Spirit, for the [Holy] Spirit searches diligently, exploring and examining everything, even sounding the profound and bottomless things of God [the divine counsels and things hidden and beyond man’s scrutiny]. Now we have not received the spirit [that belongs to] the world, but the [Holy] Spirit Who is from God, [given to us] that we might realize and comprehend and appreciate the gifts [of divine favor and blessing so freely and lavishly] bestowed on us by God. And we are setting these truths forth in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the [Holy] Spirit, combining and interpreting spiritual truths with spiritual language [to those who possess the Holy Spirit].” (1Corinthians 2:7-10,12-13 AMPLIFIED)
“And He Who searches the hearts of men knows what is in the mind of the [Holy] Spirit [what His intent is], because the Spirit intercedes and pleads [before God] in behalf of the saints according to and in harmony with God’s will.” (Rom 8:27 AMP)
“to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,” (Eph 3:10 NKJV)
Our spirit is engaged with God’s Spirit and He speaks out things in prayer that could never otherwise have occurred to us. These are not prepared prayers but spontaneous, Spirit-led utterances in our known language. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would “show us things to come” (John 16:13), so at times such utterance may take the form of praying for future events understood only in the infinite mind of God. It could include prophetic utterances speaking forth the perfect will of God into certain situations, or proclamations of God’s Kingdom and will, establishing them in the spiritual realm.
Such utterance proceeds from the same well as the supernatural utterance in tongues. At times the Holy Spirit may prompt you to pray in tongues, and then directly from the same flow bring forth interpretation of what has just been said, thus establishing it in the heart and mind of the believer, and affecting God’s will in the spiritual realm.
Such prayer is powerful and carries great authority. We are no longer ‘asking’. When spiritual utterance in our known language begins to flow from our inner man, the answer is coming forth. It carries the authority of the One who is speaking, the Spirit Himself. It may include the declaration of Scripture, or the
proclamation of known or unknown truths, yet is endued with creative power; it has the stamp of divine endorsement.
The student is encouraged to press into this as well as other kinds of prayer, knowing that the Lord is the Spirit (2 Cor 3:17), and that He is looking for someone who will yield their heart and voice to Him in order that He can birth God’s purposes in to the earth. Such prayer is speaking under divine inspiration just like the gift of prophecy, and is open for all believers who will work with the Holy Spirit in the realm of prayer.
Before we embark on our study of tongues it is important that we first distinguish between two forms of the gift revealed in Scripture. One is given by the Holy Spirit as a ministry gift, and is used in public assembly as a means of exhortation and edification of the Body. Paul refers to this form of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14:27-28 and 1 Corinthians 12:29-30. It is a gift given specifically for a purpose in the public assembly, and is not given to all believers at all times. It is a manifestation of the ‘gifts of the Spirit’.
The other form of the gift is available for all believers and is a private devotional gift. This kind of prayer in the spirit is what is commonly known as ‘praying in tongues’ and can be enjoyed by all who believe God.
The Scriptures clearly define a major category of ‘praying in the Spirit’ as praying in tongues. Consider the following Scriptures:
“praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—” (Ephesians 6:18 NKJV)
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,” (Jude 1:20 NKJV)
“For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.” (1 Corinthians 14:2 NKJV)
“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.” (1 Cor 14:14-15 NKJV)
Clearly the Scriptures couple the idea of praying in the Spirit with tongues.
Paul refers to tongues as being either the tongues of men or the tongues of angels. Both are supernaturally inspired and carry significance in the spiritual world:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels…” (1Cor 13:1)
“There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them is without significance.” (1 Cor 14:10 NKJV)
Tongues in the book of Acts
Jesus Himself prophesied that one of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament covenant would be tongues:
“And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will…speak with new tongues;” (Mark 16:17 NKJV)
This sign was first manifest on the day of Pentecost, as recorded in the book of Acts:
“AND WHEN the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all assembled together in one place, When suddenly there came a sound from heaven like the rushing of a violent tempest blast, and it filled the whole house in which they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were separated and distributed and which settled on each one of them. And they were all filled (diffused throughout their souls) with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other (different, foreign) languages (tongues), as the Spirit kept giving them clear and loud expression [in each tongue in appropriate words].” (Acts 2:1-4 AMPLIFIED)
Examples of believers being filled with the spirit and speaking in tongues are found throughout the Book of Acts. Examples include:
- The Jewish disciples in the upper room. Acts 2:1-4
- The Gentiles in Cornelius’ house. Acts 10:44-47
- The Ephesians believers. Acts 19:1-6
- The New Testament letters, written during this period, abound with references and instruction concerning this vital area of spiritual life. Paul himself said that he exercised this gift so often that he praying in tongues more than all. (1 Cor 14:18)
It is interesting to note that where the Scripture mentions the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the proof was utterance in tongues. When we are baptised in the Holy Spirit we should expect tongues to be the initial proof.
The uses of tongues in prayer
Tongues has many benefits for the believer who exercises the gift. It is not just a one-time manifestation, but a permanent gift given when the believer who receives baptism in the Spirit, and is thereafter at the believer’s disposal. Tongues can be exercised at the will of the believer. We do not have to wait for a special anointing to come upon us; we can open our spirit at any moment and speak forth in our prayer language.
Benefits of tongues include the following (the benefits listed are not in any order of importance):
- The ability to speak directly to the Father (deeper intimacy)
- The ability to build yourself up spiritually
- The ability to worship God in Spirit and truth
- The ability to pray the perfect will of God (even when it is unknown)
- The ability to engage in spiritual warfare at a higher level
- The ability to speak and call forth God’s prophetic purposes
- The ability to release spiritual refreshment
- The ability to operate in the spiritual realm with greater accuracy and effectiveness
We will now look briefly at each of these benefits, with the belief that in doing so the student will be encouraged to pray in tongues more often and with greater faith.
The ability to speak directly to the Father (deeper intimacy)
“For one who speaks in an [unknown] tongue speaks not to men but to God…” (1Cor 14:2 AMP)
Tongues provides an avenue of intimacy with the Father. It allows spirit-to-Spirit communication. God is a Spirit and has provided a language of the spirit whereby we can speak directly from our spirit, without the filter of intellect or reason. We should be aware that every time we open our mouth to speak in tongues it is a supernatural event.
At times we should take opportunity to speak and sing in the spirit in an affectionate way, developing capacity for intimacy with God. At other times we might speak in tongues with the Father concerning a particular need or concern, coming to Him simply and honestly saying, “Right now Father I am going to talk to You about this situation. I don’t know all the details but I need some answers so right now I want to speak to Someone with the answers…” Then begin to speak, listening all the time for prophetic flow with which God will answer.
The ability to build yourself up spiritually
“He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself…” (1Cor 14:4 NKJV)
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” (Jude 1:20-21 NKJV)
Tongues provides an a way in which the believer can wilfully build him or herself up spiritually. Jude 20 in the Amplified says:
“But you, beloved, build yourselves up [founded] on your most holy faith [make progress, rise like an edifice higher and higher], praying in the Holy Spirit;” (Jude 1:20 AMP)
Having laid the proper foundation of salvation through Christ, God has endowed the believer not only with the Word as a means of growing spiritually, but also a spiritual language, which, when exercised on an ongoing basis, develops strength and spiritual stamina in the believer. There is no limit to our growth should we choose to avail ourselves of this opportunity.
Strong’s concordance and Mounce’s Analytical Lexicon renders the word ‘edify’ as follows:
#3618. oikodomeo, oy-kod-om-eh´-o; from the same as 3619; to be a house-builder, i.e. construct or (figuratively) confirm: — (be in) build(-er, -ing, up), edify, embolden.
The Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament – William D Mounce
to build a house; to build, Matt 7:24; to repair, embellish, and amplify a building, Matt 23:29; to construct, establish, Matt 16:18; met. to contribute to advancement in religious knowledge, to edify, 1 Cor 14:4, 17; to advance a person’s spiritual condition, to edify, 1 Cor 8:1; pass. to make spiritual advancement, be edified, Acts 9:31
Clearly the ability to advance spiritually, to rise like an edifice, to confirm one’s steps and progress, to be built up and to be emboldened in faith, are great benefits. We would be foolish not to develop the ability to speak in tongues with maturity in the light of such advantages. All this can be received as we choose to set time aside to speak in tongues. Tongues can also be exercised during the day as circumstance allows (as we are driving etc) in order to continually build ourselves up in faith, and keep ourselves in the love of God.
As we exercise the gift in this manner, we develop inner strength to apprehend and take hold of God’s will for our lives.
The ability to worship God in Spirit and truth
“God is a Spirit (a spiritual Being) and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (reality).” (John 4:24 AMP)
“For they heard them talking in [unknown] tongues (languages) and extolling and magnifying God…” (Acts 10:46 AMP)
“For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified.” (1 Cor 14:17)
Tongues allows us “(actively) to express gratitude (towards)” God (Strong’s Concordance). Through the exercise of tongues we can extol, magnify and worship God. They allow us to go beyond our own limited vocabulary and join with angels in the exaltation of our God. How awesome is this gift!
As the disciple develops in tongues they learn to sense the different flows from the inner man (Jesus said rivers (plural) would flow from the inner man). There are worshipful flows, aggressive flows, prophetic declarative flows, intimate flows; all proceed from the resident Holy Spirit within our heart. As we grow accustomed to His ways we can learn to yield to the particular stream arising from within our spirit, and move together with Him to accomplish His purpose. This flow of magnifying God is such a wonderful one, where we are lifted from the limitations of this world and caught up in heaven’s worship!
The ability to pray the perfect will of God (even when it is unknown)
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Rom 8:26-28 NKJV)
These ‘groanings’ (literally ‘sighs’) which cannot be uttered include in their simplest form the utterance in tongues.
Kenneth Hagin points out in ‘The Art of Intercession’:
“The late P C Nelson was a noted linguist. Some 30 years ago, a secular magazine called him the leading authority of the day on Greek and second-ranked authority on Hebrew. He could read and write 32 languages. Nelson said that the Greek in Romans 8:26 actually implies “with groanings that cannot be uttered in articulate speech.” They are uttered – but not in articulate speech. Articulate speech is your regular speech. These groanings…come from within you, out of your spirit, but to be effective they must escape your lips.”
Mary Alice Isleib in ‘Effective Fervent Prayer’ says:
“What that means is that the Holy Spirit prays with expressions that are beyond our natural language and past our articulate, or known, speech…Speaking and praying in tongues is one form of groaning, because when we pray that way, the prayer is created with sounds past our natural, known language. Speaking in tongues is not our own understandable vocabulary; it is a heavenly language. In it, with the Holy Spirit’s help, we form syllables and make sounds that are too deep for human utterance and expression.”
Tongues allows the disciple to pray in a manner which brings forth and prays according to the perfect will of God. It allows us to harmonise our prayers with the prayers of Christ, through His Spirit, and intercede on behalf of the saints. Yielding to the Spirit at this basic level often carries the praying believer into the deeper levels of utterance which we will consider in detail in the next section on ‘groaning and travail’.
The ability to engage in spiritual warfare at a higher level
God has given us a sword in the Word, but He has also provided other weapons in our arsenal to defeat the plans of the enemy and establish the victory of Christ. One of these spiritual weapons is tongues. We will consider this area of prayer in greater detail in a later session, but touch upon some pertinent points here.
In regard to tongues and other spiritual utterance the Scripture says:
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Rom 8:26 NKJV)
The interesting element of this verse is discovered when we look at the original meaning of the word that is translated “helps”.
Strong’s 4878. sunantilambanomai, soon-an-tee-lam-ban´-om-ahee; from 4862 and 482; to take hold of opposite together, i.e. co-operate (assist): — help.
It literally means, “to take hold together with against”.
When we engage in spiritual warfare, the Holy Spirit through tongues and spiritual utterance “takes hold together with us against” those things which are contrary to the will of God being done in our lives, and the lives of those we are praying for.
It is also worth noting that the word translated ‘weaknesses’ in verse 26 literally means “inability to produce results”. When we face situations which refuse to yield to the will of God, or in which the will of God is unknown, the Holy Spirit takes hold together with us against those forces which prevent us producing desired results. This could be anything from ignorance, which requires revelation to be released, to outright demonic resistance. The Holy Ghost is present to aid us in our weakness, releasing through tongues the necessary supplication to obtain the answers we need.
Tongues allows us to intercede and pray in a manner which accurately addresses areas we have no knowledge or insight to tackle, and subdue them into conformation to God’s will and purpose. The same verse from Romans is rendered as follows in the Amplified Bible:
“So too the [Holy] Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance.” (Rom 8:26 AMP)
At times the Lord by His Spirit may roar and cry out through us in holy indignation against His enemies and ours:
“The Lord will go forth like a mighty man, He will rouse up His zealous indignation and vengeance like a warrior; He will cry, yes, He will shout aloud, He will do mightily against His enemies.” (Is 42:13 AMP)
The disciple must learn to yield to many flows from the inner man, including aggressive flows that devastate the enemy, and destroy demonic bondages.
The ability to speak and call forth God’s prophetic purposes
Tongues is a supernatural utterance inspired by the indwelling Holy Spirit, bypassing the reason and mind of the person speaking. It is understood by God, but not by the natural mind. The Holy Spirit has the ability to search the heart of God and comprehend His purposes (He is indeed God Himself), and therefore, as we yield to Him, He can bring forth prophetic and creative utterance which will release God’s purposes in the spiritual world. These purposes, once established in the spirit, will inevitably manifest in the natural world.
Yielding to the Holy Spirit in tongues allows the creative word to go forth, and provides spiritual substance for God’s purpose to be prepared and established in our lives. Read the following verses carefully in this regard:
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:26-28 KJV)
As we yield to the Holy Spirit in prayer the will of God is uttered and released, thus causing all things to work together toward the fulfilment of that purpose. If we refuse or fail to pray in this manner, God has little to work with in the spiritual realm and many of God’s desires and plans for our lives remain incomplete.
Proverbs 20, verse 5, says:
“Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.” (Prov 20:5 KJV)
As we pray in the Spirit we draw forth the counsel of God, communing with the very Spirit of counsel who lives within us:
“And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;” (Is 11:2 KJV)
As we exercise tongues in this way ideas will come up within us, direction and counsel regarding what to do, when and how. It is essential that we do not lean to our own understanding, but draw from the infinite resource resident in our heart. This is accomplished in times of communion with our God.
Coupled with the gift of interpretation of tongues this can be very powerful and revealing (1 Cor 12:10).
The ability to release spiritual refreshment
One of the helpful aspects of tongues and prayer in the spirit is that it releases spiritual refreshment to those who exercise the gift. Similar to the fact that tongues builds the believer’s spiritual strength, so tongues can also release spiritual refreshment.
Just as fresh water drawn from a natural well can refresh those who partake of it, so the spiritual waters that are drawn from the heart of the believer can similarly grant refreshment.
Jesus said, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit…)” (John 7:38-39 KJV).
This water is drawn up from the spiritual well of our inner man through prayer, just as counsel is drawn from the deep waters of the heart.
“For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.” (Is 28:11-12 KJV)
In 1 Cor 14:21 Paul interprets these verses as referring to the exercise of tongues.
The ability to operate in the spiritual realm with greater accuracy and effectiveness
Tongues allows the believer to operate in the spiritual realm much more effectively. Just as a natural language gives the speaker greater insight and ability to operate in the country of that language, so our spiritual language allows us to operate and negotiate the spiritual world with a great deal more accuracy.
Tongues helps sensitise the heart to spiritual realities, making the praying saint more perceptive of his or her spiritual nature, and of the invisible world around them. The inner man is built up through tongues, so takes the ascendancy over our soul and flesh. We begin to operate out of our spirit rather than react from the soul/flesh area of our lives.
How to focus when praying in tongues
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Rom 10:17).
This is why it has been important for us to look carefully at what the scriptures say about tongues. Part of the problem people have in this realm is that they wander off in their mind when praying in tongues. This is often because they have never studied what the Bible says about tongues, and therefore have no basis for faith and direction when the gift is exercised. Once we have an understanding, and have revelation about the important benefits of tongues we will begin to recognise and flow in faith with the Holy Spirit as He moves in diverse manifestations through prayer.
Become familiar with the different flows and set your mind in agreement. If you are in a warfare flow know that you engaging powers of darkness. Release your faith that you are pulling up, tearing down and establishing the will of God through your utterance in tongues. Sometimes the Holy Spirit may bring to your mind a picture, or a Scripture. These also give something for your mind to concentrate on as your release your faith.
Lynne Hammond touches upon this in ‘The Master is Calling’
“Speaking in tongues is a vocal miracle. So, no matter how often we do it, we must never cease to reverence it. We must be careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit by flippantly turning our mouth on automatic pilot, chattering away in tongues while our minds wander off to the baseball field or the shopping mall. Such a heartless manifestation of tongues is not only unprofitable for us, it is rude…
…(many) have the mistaken idea that because our minds don’t understand the words we are saying, it makes no difference what we do with them. Nothing could be further from the truth. For tongues to be the genuine form of communication God designed it to be, we must have our hearts and minds hooked up to Him. Mentally we may not be able to grasp exactly what we are saying but we can maintain an attitude of reverence and appreciation for God, turning our attention toward Him as we speak.
Making that one adjustment alone will change the way many of us now use tongues. For if we must employ our whole selves – heart, mind and mouth – in the effort, we won’t be so apt to resort to tongues simply because we’re too lazy to put together a prayer with our understanding.”
“How can you release your faith if you don’t know what your saying? It’s easy. You just believe that as you speak in tongues, the Holy Spirit is accomplishing your intended purpose. For example, if you are worshipping, you believe you are giving thanks well just like the Bible says. By faith, you expect God to inhabit your praises and manifest His presence to you.”
‘The Master is calling’, Lynne Hammond
Concentrate and listen to your spirit
Acts 2:4 in the Amplified says:
“And they were all filled (diffused throughout their souls) with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other (different, foreign) languages (tongues), as the Spirit kept giving them clear and loud expression [in each tongue in appropriate words].” (Acts 2:4 AMP)
Furthermore Paul describes how each expression has meaning and purpose:
“There are, I suppose, all these many [to us unknown] tongues in the world [somewhere], and none is destitute of [its own power of] expression and meaning.” (1Cor 14:10 AMP)
Although we may not understand exactly what we are saying, a simple key to concentrate the mind and release the force of faith when we pray in tongues is to make sure we speak with clear, loud expression, enough to be able to hear ourselves. Articulate your expression, don’t dribble your tongues, but learn to speak from your spirit fluently and eloquently. Listen to the words as they flow from your spirit. Engage your whole man in the exercise, not just your mouth. As you do this you will find that you begin to form and flow in new and fresh expressions. Your fluency will increase, and with it the sense of power flowing from your inner man.
Set your sails
At times you can simply engage the Holy Spirit and set your course in tongues, believing that as you do so the desired expression will be released. For example, you might say to the Holy Spirit, “Right now I want to speak forth the counsel of God into this situation, so I am going to speak in tongues, believing that You will give me clear and loud expressions which will do just that.” Then speak forth in faith, yielding to the flow of the Holy Spirit from your inner man.
Interpret your tongues
Another powerful way to focus the mind is to interpret our tongues. The Bible speak of this in a number of places and Paul encourages His readers to believe God for this supernatural manifestation:
“Therefore, the person who speaks in an [unknown] tongue should pray [for the power] to interpret and explain what he says.” (1 Cor 14:13 AMP)
Tongues alone can leave the mind ‘unfruitful’, but together with interpretation edifies both soul and spirit:
“For if I pray in an [unknown] tongue, my spirit [by the Holy Spirit within me] prays, but my mind is unproductive [it bears no fruit and helps nobody]. Then what am I to do? I will pray with my spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me], but I will also pray [intelligently] with my mind and understanding; I will sing with my spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me], but I will sing [intelligently] with my mind and understanding also.” (1 Cor 14:14-15 AMP)
The same well from which the supernatural utterance in tongues proceeds is also the source of the supernatural utterance in interpretation. Faith can be engaged for interpretation as simply as for the initial tongue. Sometimes we become so familiar with expression in tongues that we forget that it is impossible to speak fluently in a language we have never learned! It is no less supernatural than an interpretation in our known language, yet sometimes our mind chokes on the idea of interpretation. Paul did not think this way, he simply says, “Hey, when you speak in tongues you don’t understand what you are saying, ask God to give you the interpretation. Speak in tongues and then speak the same thing with your understanding. That way you receive edification for the whole man.”
Interpretation may come in different ways also. We may see a picture on the canvas of our imagination, we may just get a very real sense of what we are praying for. Sometimes certain things will just be revealed to your spirit. Interpretation may also come later, as you are going about your daily business. Maybe you were praying in tongues for direction and counsel, and the following day or week you receive a revelation in your spirit giving you the answer. You may pray in tongues one day and pray forth the English interpretation the following day during prayer. Sometimes interpreting your tongues is not the problem, it is simply recognising the interpretation when it comes!