Praising God in new,unlearned languages seems so often to be part of being drenched in the Holy Spirit in the New Testament.I believe that those who are overflowing with the Spirit of God have been given the ability to do just this.But because God would never force us to use any of his gifts,we need to ask him for them and also to understand that receiving them will require some participation from us, even if it is just opening our mouths and speaking out in faith.

For those who may be seeking this wonderful experience,a few words of advice.First,don ’t look at the gift,look at the giver;don ’t think about speaking in tongues,think about praising Jesus.

Second,don ’t be in fear that what you receive may come from the evil one or even be of your own making.Believe Matthew 7 when Jesus says how his Father in heaven will give good gifts to those who ask him.Remember,our heavenly Father is much more powerful than the evil one and you and me,and he wants us to have the best.

Third,don ’t panic if you don ’t feel much different,or nothing seems to happen while you are being prayed for You have asked in faith,and it has been given.You will notice the new power in your life once you start witnessing to others,and you will probably start praising in tongues when you are relaxed and by yourself.

Fourth,the more you praise in new tongues,the more fluent the language or languages seem to become,so with- out making an exhibition of yourself, keep praising God at every opportunity The day of ‘heavy-handed ’people putting their hands on your head and shaking it until you speak in tongues is thankfully disappearing.Those who pray for others must realize it is wrong to try and force one of God ’s gifts on to someone.It is,as the word says,‘a gift from God ’,and only he can give it.

Finally,you must always bear in mind that God won ’t use your gift for you;he gave it to you for you to use,so use it whenever he leads you to,and use it wisely I ’ve mentioned tongues first,not so much because it is the initial evidence, although it is certainly the evidence that most people experience first.Paul says in I Corinthians 14:4 that speaking in tongues edifies us;in other words,as we praise God with this gift,we actually get built up.We will also realize that we have been filled with power from on high so that we can go and give out more to others.Giving will,in time,drain us, so it makes sense that time needs to be spent praising in tongues so that we can re-stoke our boilers,or get plugged back into the power source for a recharge.We may only get baptized in the Holy Spirit once,but we do need constant refilling with the Holy Spirit.

So what is the big controversy?Well, we don ’t need to make it one.When folk come up to me and say that speaking in tongues isn ’t for them —fine,I must respect their viewpoint.But on the other hand,if I say to them that it is for me,they must also respect mine. Nowadays I refuse to argue about it.It is more important for me to stay in good fellowship with people than to win a theological argument.After all,at the end of the day it is going to be the Holy Spirit who will change people ’s minds on issues like these,not me.

Children are the problem

So that is that —everybody ’s happy Well no,not really!Most would find this highly acceptable for adults,but once children are mentioned,nearly everyone ’s viewpoint changes.

Biblically,I don ’t see why it should.I can find no reference to baptism in the spirit and the gift of tongues being for adults only.Surely if we are talking about this being a supernatural gift from God,God would not allow children to have it if it was bad for them,or even if there was the remotest chance of there being any adverse effect.The main problem that Christians have with this concept is that it has never really been part of their thinking.It seems that the main area of renewed churches that still has very limited anointing is our children ’s work (with some notable exceptions).We are still telling the same, sometimes unbiblical,stories in the same way,and singing the same old songs,with the same expectations as our great~great~great (ad infinitum)grandparents had.The only difference today is we are using more modern communication methods,but the results,sadly, still leave us with small groups of powerless children.

I knew that God had something new and refreshing for our children,as well as for the rest of the church,and I was convinced that part of this was to introduce them to God the Holy Spirit.In most churches,all they had known was the Father,the Son and their own version of Holy Scripture.

Again I repeat,scripturally we are given no age limits for most of the things we as Christians need to learn and experience.The prophet Joel prophesies that God will pour out his Spirit on ‘all ’people,and surely that ‘all ’ must include children.I also find from Scripture that the Lord Jesus delivered a little girl who had an evil spirit.If a child is capable of being demon-possessed this shows me that children are involved in spiritual warfare.

That is why I not only desire to see that my children are Spirit-filled,but I want them to have everything that Jesus has provided for them,both for their defence and to help them attack the evil one.I ’m convinced that if the church equipped and trained children for battle,we could save a lot of their suffering and falling away —which I definitely do not see as the normal ‘phase ’through which they must pass as they move into adolescence.

If we choose to place them in secular schools,we owe it to them to prepare them for the onslaughts and temptations that they are going to face.More important than this,we are shown in the Bible that there are things which are harmful,and we should shelter,protect and guard our children from them.How can any genuine Christian put the Holy Spirit in this category?

We must also realize that we are talking about a supernatural gift.Our finite minds,whether adult or child,will not be able to comprehend it fully.But books like 1 Corinthians give all sorts of instructions to help us,and these are so simple that,dare I say,even a child can understand them.It is certainly a lot more straightforward than teaching the meaning of water baptism,or what happens when we take communion,or the principles behind tithing and giving, which most of us would see as a priority in our children ’s education.

The power and the Glories

For the reader who knows little about me,I ought to explain that as well as preaching,my main means of communication is through music.Twenty years ago,I decided to make a record all about this subject,which hopefully children could relate to.It was a story album about some little characters called Glories,and in very simple terms it looked at the Holy Spirit and his gifts or presents in a way that most ages could understand.

I had decided to use both my sister ’s children and my children on the album, but really wanted the children to experience what they were singing about before they went into the studio.I told the Lord that I really did not want to pray for them myself these children would do anything for me,but sadly at this time people travelling around willing to pray for children to be filled with the Holy Spirit were not only very few, but also very far between.And 1 did not know any of them.The Lord seemed to understand my predicament and gave me peace of mind,telling me that the next time we met for a rehearsal I was to inform the children that they were going to receive what they had been singing about.

I’ll never forget that evening in the front room of our small semi~detached house.I stood looking at them,wondering whom I should pray for first -the oldest or the youngest.I decided in a very human fashion that the oldest might be the easiest.As I walked over to begin praying for her,they all individually and spontaneously were filled with the Holy Spirit and started praising God in other tongues.As I stood watching them,I was a bit disappointed,really After all,I hadn ’t done anything.It was then that the Holy Spirit seemed to whisper in my ear and remind me that I had told him I wanted someone else to do it and not me.

I looked and saw one of my little nieces giggling and laughing.Now I was a good Pentecostal,and I believed a serious thing was happening here and that it would be right to have a gentle word in her ear about being flippant.As I started to walk toward her,the Lord said,‘Where are you going now?’Before I could explain,He told me to let her be. He reminded me that she was a little child who loved giggling -and that I should not expect my adult,intense, heavy way of doing things to be imitated or copied by children.Then,as I looked at this little girl again,it was like seeing her with a new set of eyes.Without instruction,she had raised her hands in the air,and I saw that she was totally absorbed in worshipping her Lord.

The children ’s praise went on for ages and seemed to grow louder and louder as they ignored me,forgot about their own inhibitions and concentrated on the Lord.I wondered what the neighbours thought.Since then I have been privileged to pray for thousands of children and see them become Christians and filled with the Holy Spirit.

I’m not perfect but it’s not all my fault Yes,I made my mistakes.Sometimes I got a bit carried away in a meeting and encouraged the children to go further in gifts of the Holy Spirit than their leaders had gone.Quite rightly,I got my knuckles rapped.But just as the children were learning,so was I.Since then,I have become just a fraction more sensitive.

I don ’t take all the blame for upsetting people,however.I was in one church and had just finished preaching in the Family Service when a mother brought her nine~year-old daughter up to see me.She explained that God had been speaking to the little girl and she asked if I would pray with her to become a Christian.I told the mother that I would love to,and then invited her to stay with me while I prayed,but she felt that for one reason or another she would rather not and walked off to the back of the hall.

I explained a bit more about what becoming a Christian was to this little girl and then invited her to repeat a short prayer after me.After she had done this,I told her to start thanking God in her own words for hearing and answering her prayers.This was when the trouble started.This church had not been encouraged to use the supernatural gifts,so I had been very careful not to over-step my brief and deliberately avoided mentioning them.Then this little girl,without any instruction from me, started praising God not in English but in tongues,and her little face was radiant.

I must admit that even I was surprised,but not half as surprised as her mum.She must have had good ears, because she came flying down from the back of the hall,shouting at me and asking me what I had been teaching her daughter.She continued,before whisking the poor little girl out,‘I only wanted her to become a Christian.I didn ’t want her to have this.’

I ’ve had this happen several times, the most embarrassing time being when a whole Brownie pack started praising God in new languages and the Brown Owl,who was not quite as wise as her position might suggest,flew out of the hall,her feathers very ruffled.

At another camp,I invited anyone who wanted prayer for the Holy Spirit to join me in my room.A teenage lad walked in with a guitar.I prayed for him for ages,but nothing seemed to happen. I then told him to play his guitar and sing to the Lord,and immediately he started singing in new languages.

It ’s a learning process.The Holy Spirit rarely seems to do the same thing in the same way with any two people. He treats everyone as an individual.I have also learned that I cannot give the Holy Spirit restrictions.As Scripture says,‘The wind blows wherever it pleases.You hear its sound,but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.So it is with everyone born of the Spirit ’ ((John 3:8).

As long as it is the Holy Spirit doing the work and not Ishmael,I can ’t go wrong -well,in his eyes,anyway.