Genesis 11:5

The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. Genesis 11:5

Speaking in Tongues, Tomorrow

I remember one of the first times that I was prayed over in tongues. I was on the only student who completed the Foundations of Faith class for fifth graders at Full Gospel Church of God, and after my completion of the course was announced before the Sunday morning congregation, I was taken before the altar. A group of spirit-filled adults prayed that I would receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. They were shouting over me with unrecognizable languages and weeping. They prayed, but to no avail. They told me to raise my hands higher to God, and I did. I tried to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, I really tried. After more than an hour of laborious prayers, I still was not speaking fluently in a foreign, heavenly language. The pastor in front of me told me that there was something inside my heart or my head that was holding back a flood. I was holding back the Holy Spirit of God.

Throughout my years in middle school and high school, others made an effort to ensure I was baptized by the Holy Spirit. After all, how could I be a true Pentecostal Bible-believing witness of the Gospel without speaking in tongues? I remember when Barb gave me the Joyce Meyer cassette tape with a lesson on baptism of the Holy Spirit. At the end there was a literal practice session, where Joyce Meyer spoke in tongues, and the listener was to repeat after her. I remember Winterfest, when groups of Holy Ghost filled strangers would pray over me, pleading with me to speak in tongues, to let my tongue loose. They accused me of not being open enough to God when I didn't. I remember the time that I surrendered to them--I had no choice, because they were pushing me over. And eventually they pushed me flat on my back onto that concrete turned worship service floor. Maybe I fooled everyone else, but I knew I didn't feel that I had lost control, as if the Holy Spirit had taken me over.

I remember still believing that I was filled with the Holy Spirit, as my good actions were my evidence. I prayed every morning that the Holy Spirit of God would fill me with peace and wisdom and abilities beyond my own. And actually, I am not terribly uncomfortable with that idea, even now.

Now I am praying five times a day. More than half of that is in Arabic, considering Al Fatihah is prayed in Arabic, along with two memorized segments of the Quran. Sometimes I think, here it is! I listen to myself and think, this is the closest to praying in tongues that I've ever been. I imagine myself wandering back into Full Gospel, and calling out Al Fatihah among all of those evangelical spirit-filled Christians with my hands raised high and my head back. I can hear them shouting Amen! Hallelujah! Praise God! If they knew this is a Muslim prayer in Arabic, I suspect they would cast it off as a false religion, but what they don't know, doesn't hurt them.

To speak in tongues is not my goal. Here I am simply wondering why during all of those years in the Christian church, despite all of the times I tried to pray in tongues and to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, I genuinely could not manage to speak in tongues. I was a prominent and respected Christian, and most sincerely practiced what I believed at that time to be ultimate truth. Perhaps some people legitimately speak languages that they do not know. I know a little girl from Saudi Arabia who gets jealous when her older brother speaks English--she begins to mumble random, meaningless syllables and thinks that she is speaking English. That makes her feel better about herself.

Last week when I attended the Greek Orthodox Liturgy at Holy Trinity, I read several Bible passages. Sometimes I crave the Bible, and this time I was sure to bring my New Oxford Annotated Bible (NRSV) back to England with me. You see, sometimes I feel that Islam helps me practice Biblical mandates. James writes to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion (James 4:13-17):
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money." Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
James is a straight talker, and exposes the overconfidence we all demonstrate in our day to day lives, simply by behaving as if we can actually be sure of the next minute, let alone the next day.
Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.
This truth is one of the first that Islam taught me. To be honest, this is one of the first concepts of the Arabic language that I learned: ان شاء الله

InshaAllah - if God wills. Muslims and Arabic speakers say this all of time, with every intention to go somewhere or do something. I will go to the store, inshaAllah. I will pay my bills, inshaAllah. I will see you soon, inshaAllah. To me, the phrase and concept of inshaAllah meant becoming comfortable, once again, with God being concerned with my day to day actions. Perhaps this means I had to become comfortable admitting that God is aware of my behavior and my desires. And inshaAllah means that I don't want to do anything if God does not will for it to happen. So, I will speak in tongues ان شاء الله تعالى

No comments:

Post a Comment