Today’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 14
An article in a Detroit newspaper, titled “Remedy for a Prune Face,” said, “Ladies, do you want to stay young? Then join a church choir. Women who sing stay younger-looking. A singer’s cheek muscles are so well developed by exercise that her face will not wrinkle nearly as soon as a nonsinger!”
Singing makes you look good. And that’s biblical. Psalm 33:1 says, “Praise is becoming to the upright.” The Detroit newspaper article was confirming what the psalmist claimed: that you look good when you praise God.
So let me help our praise. In 1 Corinthians 14, our singing and praying are about to get expanded. Paul is going to show us how to take our singing and praying to a new level. Here it is: “What’s the solution? The answer is simple enough. Do both. I should be spiritually free and expressive as I pray, but I should also be thoughtful and mindful as I pray. I should sing with my spirit, and sing with my mind” (verse 15, MSG).
Here is how the Living Bible says it: “Well, then, what shall I do? I will do both. I will pray in unknown tongues and also in ordinary language that everyone understands. I will sing in unknown tongues and also in ordinary language so that I can understand the praise I am giving.”
It’s easy to get stuck in ordinary language. Paul tells us to go to another level—to pray and sing in the spirit. Is this Pentecostal? No, this is 1 Corinthians 14. Paul encourages us to sing and pray two ways—to pray with the spirit and pray with the mind. I believe the simple way of putting this is in English (the mind) and in tongues (with the spirit). Sometimes we sing what’s on the screen and sometimes we sing from what is filling our hearts. To sing in the spirit is to sing in tongues; we go off script.
Paul is saying the same about prayer. Sometimes it’s in English and sometimes in tongues. How do we know this “with the spirit” is tongues? Look at the next verse: “Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying?”
When you pray or sing in the spirit, as verse 16 tells us, people do not know what we are saying. Why? Because we are praying and singing to God. When we are praying and singing in the spirit, what is happening? It’s just a new level, a new way of saying, “Thank You.” As verse 17 shows us: “For you are giving thanks well enough.”
The story goes that Niccolo Paganini (1782–1840), an amazingly gifted violinist, willed his violin to the city of Genoa, Italy, on one condition: that no one would ever play it. What he failed to understand was that when the wood on the instrument was handled and used, the violin would wear only slightly. But unused, it would decay. Today Paganini’s lovely violin has become worm-eaten and useless.
We are given a gift by the Spirit to be used not simply to discuss the theological implications. Use it!
If the Bible gives me the option to expand my singing and praying to a new level, I’m all in. Mind is what I am comfortable with, but spirit and mind together give me another tool, another weapon, but also takes it out of my control and now under the control of the Spirit. This is important because this is something that is part of Paul’s life.
He tells us in verse 18: “I speak in tongues more than you all.”
Jackie Pullinger has made an enormous impact in Hong Kong. She is the author of Chasing the Dragon, in which she tells the story of how she went to the walled city of Kowloon in Hong Kong to minister to the Triad gang members. Because of who and where she was, Jackie says she committed herself to praying in the spirit every day for fifteen minutes—by the clock. After about six weeks of this, she found new power in her evangelism, and people were much more open to receiving Christ.
Remember, Paul is not giving you a denominational slant but a new level of singing and praying, which makes us more powerful.