It is funny that I often find myself in a position of defending a spiritual gift such as speaking in tongues. I have no Pentecostal background neither have I had any involvement with the Charismatic movement, but what I am is a student of the Word of God and Holy Spirit possessed. The gift of tongues is real, it is special and it is given for our private edification with God. You could call it a love language between you and God. It is not necessary for your salvation nor is it the only sign of being possessed by the Holy Spirit, but it is wonderfully special and mysterious.
In Paul's argument as to the place of tongues in the life of a follower of Jesus, he gave us a bit of insight into what takes place with this gift. Paul is adamant that the gift of tongues should not fill our meetings because it holds no value for anyone without Jesus. As he explains this he also tells us what transpires as we use this gift. He points out some dangers:
For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. (1 Corinthians 14:14-15)
The gift of tongues is a wonderful mystery. You can hear yourself praying but you don't understand any of it, yet you know that the deep longing, desires, passions and love are being communicated to God. You can feel the possession of God throughout but at the same time your mind is left disengaged from the communication. There is a real danger that your mind can wonder and wherever it wonders to your heart will be sure to follow. It is important that while your spirit is engaged that you engage your mind in prayer as well. It is a difficult thing to explain the process but it is wonderfully fulfilling and encouraging. Most people have no idea the incredible experience of singing with their spirit.
Too many people dismiss speaking in tongues as useless and plain bunk. It is useless for other people. It communicates nothing to anyone but yourself. It holds no value in the higher priority of communicating the message of Jesus to the lost, as Paul explained to the Corinthians:
If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified. (1 Corinthians 14:16-17)
This is plainly understood. Our public worship and thanksgiving glorifies God to other people. Paul states clearly here:
I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. (1 Corinthians 14:18-19)
However, just because it has no place in our public meetings does not mean it does not have a great value in our relationship with God. It has great importance in our personal growth with Jesus and it is a very personal gift that he has given to us through the Holy Spirit. It is a gift I strongly encourage you to explore as you seek to love God with all your mind, heart, soul and strength. It truly is a great personal spiritual gift from our loving Lord Jesus. Don't dismiss it just because you don't understand it. The Spirit gives understanding to everyone who seeks it. God ahead, enjoy this gift from God.