In the Bible we read that speaking in tongues is a gift of the Holy Spirit. What is speaking in tongues? Does it still happen today?
In the Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel, the early ancestors lose the spirit of God through their pride. The confusion of languages leads to the division and isolation of the one person from the other and from God (Genesis 11:1-9). Christ’s incarnation provides the ‘repair work’ for the Holy Spirit to return to God’s people. At Pentecost, tongues of fire sit on each of the Apostles, and what they say can be understood by each person hearing, in their own language. The Holy Spirit is at work, undoing the curse of Babel.
In the Acts of the Apostles we learn about how the Holy Spirit acts in the early Church. It transforms the scared, illiterate apostles into eloquent and bold preachers of the Gospel, giving them wisdom (Acts 6:3), the power to heal (Acts 3:2-7) and prophecy (Acts 21:10).The Holy Spirit also gives some of the first Christians the power to speak in tongues (Acts 19:6), a gift otherwise known as glossolalia.
When these people speak in tongues, they are in prayerful ecstasy expressing unintelligible words. Someone else, with a separate gift, is needed to interpret what they are saying. The lesson to be learnt is that the faithful should pray not so much externally, but in spirit, from the depths of the heart