In Tongues as Prayer Language, we looked into 4 guiding principles concerning it. We learned an important apostolic principle–praying and singing without understanding what we are praying and singing about, is unfruitful, unproductive, and useless. That’s why, Paul wrote, the individual speaker of tongues should himself pray that he may interpret what he is praying about.
“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful” (1 Cor. 14:14, NKJV, emphasis added). This applies to both private prayer and public church meetings. The apostle states that private or public praying in tongues without interpretation is still “unfruitful.” The adjective, “unfruitful,” is from akarpos, “useless” (Concise Greek-English Dictionary, s. v. ακαρος); “unproductive” (Greek-English Lexicon, s. v. ακαρος). Paul is saying that if he prays in tongues without interpretation, his understanding is useless and unproductive. He himself would not understand what he was praying about. He may be caught up in spirit when he prays in tongues. He may feel ecstative about the experience. Yet he understands nothing about it. And since God edifies believers primarily through the mind, then praying in tongues without interpretation is futile (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23; Phil. 2:5; 2 Thess. 2:2). That is why Paul urged the Corinthians to pray with the understanding (1 Cor. 14:13-15).
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