I was at a small gathering of believers where we were enjoying dinner and fellowship, and sharing some testimonies, when one of the group requested prayer for his ongoing back pain. So we all gathered around him and laid our hands on him – about eight of us in all – and suddenly several in the group began praying in tongues. This went on for several minutes as three or four continued to pray in tongues, and when they finished we all just stepped away and sat down again.
Friends, this is not a proper function of praying in the Spirit. Spiritual prayer is private prayer. When one is deeply interceding for a person or situation, we may allow the Spirit to take over, knowing that our intercession is now entirely in sync with the will and Spirit of God. We may not know what we are saying or we may have some idea, but we can be confident that our prayer is effective and appropriate.
However, the point of praying together as a group is that we may all agree with one another by faith. To do this, we must be able to understand what each one is saying. Corporate prayer is to be prayed by the mind, led by the Spirit, with the body of believers all praying along in agreement. This “agreeing in prayer” is the Scriptural pattern (e.g. Acts 4:23-41), and you won’t find any biblical instance of multiple believers praying in the Spirit while gathered together.
The only “group” instances of speaking in tongues are found at the initial baptism in the Spirit that took place on several recorded occasions in the Bible (e.g. Acts 10:44-46). Even when public speaking or prophesying in tongues does occur, it is to be done one at a time, with someone to interpret, and if no interpreter is available, we are told to refrain from speaking aloud in tongues (1 Cor 14:27-28).
Remember that God is a God of order and sensibility, not disorder or confusion. Read through 1 Corinthians 12-14 for a more in-depth discussion of this and similar issues.
Peace to all,