Prayer Languages
prayer language tongues
   Prayer Language | Speaking in Tongues

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Prayer language: an overview

Prayer language has recently become more widely known as a result of certain charismatic churches and religions that have been becoming increasingly more widespread and popular. The term prayer language is a euphemism for what is commonly known as the practice of speaking in tongues. Speaking in tongues is not a new idea, and has been documented for many hundreds of years. Another name for speaking in tongues is glossolalia. People who speak in tongues may either speak in their own language, a second language, or even a language that is unknown to them. Speaking in a language that is unknown to the speaker is also known as xenoglossy, where 'xeno' means outsider. When people speak in tongues, it is usually part of a religious experience or as part of religious practice. Some people do not consider the words or syllables uttered during glossolalia to be meaningful in any way, while to others they have religious significance.

Some of those who practice glossolalia, or who seek it out as part of a religious experience believe that prayer language or speaking in tongues is a gift that shows that the speaker is devout and touched by the Lord. They may consider the words spoken when a person is speaking in tongues to be the words of the Lord, or of the Holy Spirit, or other significant being. Some people consider that while the gift of glossolalia can be positive and spiritual if it is a heavenly being speaking through a person, it can also be negative if a demon or evil spirit inhabits the person and uses them as vessel through which to communicate.

A number of explanations have been given for the experience of prayer language. These include both material and spiritual explanations. Some material explanations include that the speaker is suffering from mental illness, is under hypnosis, or is expressing learned behavior. Some psychologists in the mid 20th century believed that speaking in tongues was something experienced by people of low ability; this has since been debunked. Hypnosis and trance-like states were thought to be another potential cause of glossolalia, but research has indicated that speaking in tongues can also occur during heightened states in addition to trance-like states. The idea that glossolalia is learned behavior is the common conclusion of a number of studies. That is, follows learn to produce language-like speech after seeing another experience glossolalia. This has been recreated in experimental studies.

However, many Christians believe that speaking in tongues has spiritual, rather than physical origins. Many believe that a spirit is speaking through those who experience glossolalia. Pentecostals in particular believe that glossolalia is the language of angels, or the voice of the spirit. Glossolalia is believed to have first occurred during the day of Pentecost. While it was not emphasized for many years, it returned to prominence during the early twentieth century, and with the growth of the Pentecostal faith. It is believed that speaking in tongues is practiced by between one hundred million and four hundred million Christians today, or perhaps twenty per cent of all Christians. However, these numbers should not be taken as fact or for granted, given that people's experiences differ, and it is difficult to pinpoint instances of speaking in tongues.
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