If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?—1st Corinthians 14:23 (ESV)

There are passages in Scripture that caution those who speak in tongues to refrain if there is no one to translate. In my very limited exposure to the practice, I don't believe I've observed such a discipline. Are there specific cases of congregations / denominations with such rules?

  • 1
    Good question... my experience has been the same as yours.
    – Flimzy
    Jul 3, 2013 at 5:45
  • In my own experience, I've heard someone speak out for the whole congregation to hear in a tongue exactly twice, maybe thrice, and each time, it was translated. Jul 3, 2013 at 5:47
  • I am skeptical of how the method of "speaking in tongues" is done. If speaking in tongues means "speaking in known foreign languages, such as Spanish, without prior knowledge of that language," then I do not understand how this is feasibly, psychologically possible.
    – Double U
    Jul 3, 2013 at 12:19
  • It's miraculous if it happens. My fear, not my emphatic accusation, is that biblical practices that don't follow biblical guidelines are not something I want to be a part of.
    – pterandon
    Jul 3, 2013 at 12:28

2 Answers 2


There are denominations who emphasize the use of tongues, for example, Assemblies of God. In such kind of Churches, there are occasions where someone would prophesy while speaking in tongues and the same person or sometimes others will interpret it.

There are many prophets who always start their prophetic words with tongues first and then interpret it again. I don't know why they always utter those tongues first and then interpret it instead of directly speaking out the words in their own language. I can only guess that they receive the message first in heavenly language, which we call it tongues, and at the same time God gives them the meaning also.

I don't know if there are any denomination which has a strict policy that tongues should have interpretations. What I know is that it is interpreted whenever there is a need. What I observed is that many times, those who speak in tongues also don't know what they are uttering but when it is required, God gives them the meaning.


I attended a small baptist church where tongues was rarely used for its actual purpose (delivering prophecy or undeniable message from God). However, it was somewhat common that when group prayer got very intense someone would utter a sentence or two in what sounded like a different language.

The pastor told me that they were prayer languages (see this study). They do not serve a purpose for anyone except the one praying; no translation is required. They are the most intimate prayers that can be given while on earth.

He gave me a few verses that support the idea:

1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues,[c] unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified. 1 Cor 14

The chapter goes on to say that tongues are acceptable (verse 18), however, many times less important than prophecy.

Finally, of course, there is Romans 8:26:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

The logic is pretty easy to infer here. A prayer language is spoken when your own words cannot suffice. When you cannot express truly the "groanings" of your heart the Spirit may intercede and "groan" on your behalf.

The pastor and the congregation were passive about them and never really discussed them or boasted about them occurring to them or another. If it happened, that was fine; if it didn't, that was fine too.

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