I have some questions about 1 Corinthians 14:14: "If I pray in tongues, my spirit is in prayer but my mind is unfruitful." I understand that today there no longer exists the gift of tongue-speaking. [I would agree. - Ed.] My questions:

  1. If I pray in Chinese, my spirit will be in prayer but my mind will be unfruitful. What does that mean, praying in the spirit?
  2. My mind is unfruitful because I don't understand Chinese, so I cannot get the message of the prayer. Is that right?
  3. Praying in the Spirit doesn't meant praying in tongues.

Thank you. -- Guy Bavahe Bertrand (Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire)

Here are my thoughts:

Most Pentecostals think that praying in the spirit means praying in a mystical language. This is an unnecessary conclusion. The Bible never defines praying in the Spirit as anything miraculous. As I reason in my book The Spirit:

  • "Praying in the spirit" – the term found in 1 Corinthians and Jude -- simply means praying spiritually. A second possibility, esp. if Paul means "spirit" and not "Spirit," would be that we should pray wholeheartedly. (In this case the spirit is the human spirit -- the part of us that comes from God, possessed by believers and non-believers alike.)
  • Praying with my mind means I and others understand my prayers. I'm focused.
    Paul is saying that we should pray with our mind and our spirit (both) whenever we pray.