Speaking in Tongues

Speaking in Tongues

I read an article in the New York Times last week titled “Why We Talk in Tongues,” written by T.M. Luhrmann, a professor of anthropology at Stanford University. The author had traveled to Accra, Ghana, to study the charismatic Christian churches becoming popular in that part of the world, and there she encountered many people who prayed, both publicly and privately, by speaking in tongues.

In her article, Luhrmann says this: “What dawned on me in Accra is that speaking in tongues might actually be a more effective way to pray than speaking in ordinary language—if by prayer one means the mental technique of detaching from the everyday world, and from everyday thought, to experience God.”

I’d like to speak in tongues. This, as well as other prayer practices considered Pentecostal, are appealing because of the complete surrender one must undergo to fully experience the gift. Giving oneself over to God is not easy; in a world in which we fight to control the comings and goings of our lives, where we are taught that we can do and be anything we want, surrendering to the workings of the divine Creator is truly an art.

At one point in my life, during a time of both spiritual and life crisis, I believe I did speak in tongues—although it seems a bit presumptuous to say so. What I do know is that for that period of time, several months if I remember correctly, I would often wake in the middle of the night, disturbed, and the only thing that could bring a degree of solace was to walk around and pray. And sometimes, when my thoughts and words became too much, language would flow out that I did not recognize. It could be seen as madness, but it was not.

As my life goes on, more than anything I long for total abandonment to God, to be able to let go and fall totally and completely into the arms of the Creator—and perhaps speak in tongues as I fall.  That is a gift worth praying for.

Is speaking in tongues a Catholic practice? See this article on the Busted Halo site for more information.


About the Author

Mary Carol Kendzia is a product development director for Franciscan Media Books. She lives in Rhode Island, where she occasionally dips her toes into the Atlantic and reflects on the mysteries of life, among other things.