Speaking in tongues is both voluntary and involuntary. I know this sounds absurd but I will explain. There are aspects of speaking in tongues that you do voluntarily while other aspects happen involuntarily.
The voluntary aspects of speaking in tongues vary widely as well as the involuntary aspects. In other words, what may be a voluntary act of speaking in tongues today may be an involuntary act another day.
Sometimes there is no telling whether speaking in tongues is voluntary or involuntary.
Because I have the gift of speaking in tongues, I will do my best to explain the voluntary and involuntary nature of speaking in tongues.
The Voluntary Aspect of Speaking in Tongues
For any session of speaking in tongues, there is always a voluntary aspect. The most basic is faith. The Holy Spirit is the one who helps us to pray with groans that are too deep for words which we know as speaking in tongues.
Despite the Holy Spirit praying through us, we have our own will that God gave to us. The Holy Spirit is gentle and can never violate our will.
For anyone to speak in tongues, he must give the Holy Spirit permission to use his tongue. The act of giving the Holy Spirit access to the tongue is voluntary.
However, there is a level you get to where the Holy Spirit takes over your tongue whenever He wills because you gave Him permanent access.
At that level, it will feel as if speaking in tongues is involuntary but in reality, you voluntarily gave the Holy Spirit access.
For those who are new to speaking in tongues, they have to give the Holy Spirit permission every so often.
I remember I had to tell the Holy Spirit to use my tongue for me to start speaking in tongues during the early days after receiving the gift. Somehow words would not come unless I had asked the Holy Spirit to give them to me.
But as I progressed, it became easier and easier to start speaking in tongues to the point that I no longer needed to ask the Holy Spirit to give me words to speak.
It was at that point that the line between voluntary and involuntary speaking of tongues became blurred.
Honestly speaking, it feels good when the Holy Spirit takes over without your conscious decision. You feel important and purposeful to God.
The bottom line is that a believer must voluntarily ask the Holy Spirit to use his tongue for him to speak in tongues. The process of asking can take different forms.
Some believers, having the desire to speak in tongues, began uttering words they didn’t understand and God saw their genuine desire and took over their tongue.
Other believers had to consciously ask the Holy Spirit to use their tongues. Still other believers gave God permission in their lives through covenants which allow God to use their tongues without them having to consciously give Him access.
This is why you will always hear of varying ways in which believers got baptized to speak in tongues.
The Involuntary Aspect of Speaking in Tongues
Speaking in tongues is primarily seen as an involuntary act and yes, a big part of it is involuntary. While you almost always have control over when to speak in tongues and when to stop, there are times when speaking in tongues becomes too sweet that you don’t stop even when you want to.
In any case, the words you speak when speaking in tongues are always given by the Holy Spirit. You never think about what to say.
Even for beginners, the words they speak are given by the Holy Spirit. But since in the early stages the Holy Spirit may only give a believer a few words to speak, the believer has to repeat those words over and over.
It is at this stage that some begin to doubt if what they are speaking is actually given by the Holy Spirit or it is their own words.
Believers who never seek to grow in the gift of speaking in tongues get stuck at this stage. At this stage also, speaking in tongues feels more voluntary than involuntary.
To grow past this stage, a believer must accept that he is a beginner and it takes effort to permit the Holy Spirit to use his tongue.
People assume that giving up control of your tongue to the Holy Spirit is easy. It is not!
It feels unnatural and scary to be speaking things you don’t know. Your trust in the Holy Spirit must have grown to a level where you are comfortable letting Him do as He pleases.
I have seen some believers literally run away in the middle of prayers just because people were speaking in tongues.
It is hard to explain in words but just know that allowing yourself to do involuntary things is not easy.
The Natural Flow of Speaking in Tongues
The natural flow of speaking in tongues begins with a believer doing many of the tongue speaking voluntarily and it becomes more and more involuntary as he advances.
Unless you accept the stage of speaking in tongues where is feels as if you are doing it entirely voluntarily, you will never grow in the gift.
It took me about six months to grow out of this stage. It was not easy. It is especially hard for believers who have the mentality that speaking in tongues must be involuntary.
Speaking in tongues becomes more involuntary as you advance. In the early days, not so much.
This has made some people accuse pastors who ask members to put in effort to speak in tongues of being fake. I can’t really say all pastors who advocate for putting in conscious effort to speak in tongues are right but I admit that speaking in tongues takes conscious effort.
If you are new to speaking in tongues and you are scared that you may be faking it, keep doing what you are doing and ask God to confirm to you if the tongues you are speaking are right.
It will be scary, you may want to just continue praying in understanding and have nothing to do with speaking in tongues but only those who push through the doubts will get to enjoy the benefits of speaking in tongues.
I know quite a number of believers who never bother about speaking in tongues just because they perceive the act to be full of drama.
Yes, there is no shortage of drama when it comes to speaking in tongues but there is a reason why so much drama follows it. The devil knows how powerful praying in tongues is and of course he will come up with any strategy possible to discourage believers from speaking in tongues.
Don’t give the devil a foothold! Build your faith in the most holy faith and pray in tongues.