I had a fallen away period in my faith and now have since returned to it, but am wondering if I have lost the gift of tongues permanently when I am praying?
Acts 2:1 - 47
ESV - 1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
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There are a number of factors that could come into play when there is a seeming change in the spiritual gifts we are active in: A) The spirit does not take away spiritual gifts, but spiritual gifts need used and practiced to grow. If one does not engage in a spiritual gift for some time, it can become 'rusty' just like a talent or learned skill might grow dull if not practiced. For example, someone with the gift of teaching who has taken a break for several years might find it difficult to get back into the swing of things. That doesn't mean the gift is gone, but that it has stagnated. B) The primary purpose of spiritual gifts is for the edification of the church, not our own purposes. (I Cor 14:12, I Cor 14:5) and as such the spiritual gifts are best used not just for ourselves, but in a manner that will grow or strengthen the church. If one has only been using a gift for themselves, and not for others, then perhaps the Holy Spirit is trying to point out that the gift is being misused. Tongues is a frequently misused gift on this point. If one has only used it for self, and never for the church, then the gift is not being productive in the larger body of Christ. The spirit might not allow a gift to be used in such cases. C) If one has been through a spiritually rough patch, then meditating on God's word and 'praying with the mind' can be more fruitful than merely praying with the spirit. (I Cor 14:13-15) As such, it is more important to get one's relationship with God back on track and mindfully pray and study the Bible than it is to say a thousand prayers in tongues you do not comprehend. The Spirit might be teaching that it is more important to be praying mindfully right now than praying in tongues. D) The Holy Spirit does not take away spiritual gifts, but sometimes we think we have a spiritual gift that is merely a learned skill or natural talent. 'Glossolalia' - the ability to speak in language-like syllables - is a surprisingly easy skill for any human to practice and learn - not just Christians. It's a common practice in many middle eastern religions, and one can even find youtube tutorials on it. Glossolalia is a different thing that the spiritual gift of tongues - as the spiritual gift of tongues is an actual language (human or angelic - I Cor 13:1) with syntax, grammar, etc. It should also come alongside interpretation. Glossolalia, conversely, is made up of language-like noises but has no underlying syntax or structure. It can even be a repeated string of sounds. While it can be hard to tell the difference between the two, some easy distinguishing marks is a) interpretation (have you or anyone else ever confirmed the tongues by interpretation) and b) analyzing the sounds (if the syllables are primarily ones that sound like syllables from your native tongue, ones you can easily pronounce without supernatural aid, or are usually repetitive, it is likely glossolalia and not a human or angelic language. I have encountered a number of Christians who learned glossolalia (generally from others in a group where everyone practiced praying in it) and mistook it for tongues. Some were surprised and disappointed to find that the ability later disappeared and they were worried there was something wrong with their spiritual walk. However, in those cases, the opposite was true! The cessation of glossolalia could be traced back to a prayer for truth or honesty before God, a prayer against deception from the evil one, or a step forward in their spiritual growth. For any gift we believe we have, it is good to run the gift through scripture, make sure it is being used to edify the church, and seek confirmation that the gift is genuine from other believers. E) Simply having a spiritual gift doesn't mean it is able to be used in all instances. Paul had the gift of healing, but left Trophimus sick in Ephesus (II Tim 4:20.) Part of learning to use spiritual gifts is also learning the time and place God wants them used.
If we look on speaking in tongues as a 'gift' as indicated in the question, the answer is contained in the question. A 'gift' is given and not taken back particularly when the giver is God. If there is any rejection, is it on behalf of the receiver.
The gift of tongues is just that, it's a gift if in fact you are speaking of the personal prayer language of tongues and not that indicated in I Cor 9. Though it too is a gift but one may only operate in it as the spirit wills. It is good to remember that any gift that one receives from anyone is just that, it's a gift. If you receive a Christmas gift or birthday gift and don't use it or go to jail for any reason the fact is that the gift remains yours to use. When you return from jail and choose not to use your gift that is your prerogative and the person that gave that gift to you surely did not come to your home and take back the gift and so it is with God. You may also want to remember that the gift of tongues not only is given by God but through the Holy Spirit whom lives and abides in you forever as He states here; Hebrews 13:5.........“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. The gift is also used according to your faith and though you may have heard things like "You lost it because you backslid, or your sin will keep it from operating" but if you look at the Corinthian church you will see they had a lot of sin going on especially sexual sin but still operated in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. That being said, all you need to do is believe you can still speak in tongues and do so just as you did before. Lastly be encouraged that all things of God are eternal, to include His Son, His Holy Spirit and His spiritual gifts for the mere reason that they are spiritual. 2 Cor 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. The gift of tongues is spiritual and not seen and so it is eternal. Continue in your walk, be encouraged and use your gift often. Love God and love others.
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