I grew up in the Pentecostal church where speaking in tongues was common and something I was encouraged to do. I followed along and tried praying in tongues, but it felt forced and not genuine. After a time, I stopped the practice and left it alone. Later in life, when I was seeking the Lord, I had a question about prayer that I brought to Him. Personally, I've sometimes found it difficult to put what is on my heart into words, and in that season I was struggling to connect with the Lord because of my lack of words. I asked Him, "Is there a way I can pour out my heart to you without trying to figure out what to say?"
I was serving at a summer camp in the season after asking that question. One night during chapel, there was a prayer time set aside for those who wanted it. I went up to the front for prayer, but there wasn't something specific I was going up for. I did feel, however, that the Lord wanted me to be in a posture of receiving.
I remember kneeling down at the front and waiting. Usually when I sought the Lord, I would come asking for something, either for myself or for someone else. This time, however, I felt free to just be there before the Lord. As I knelt, the thought came to my mind to put out my hands in a posture of receiving. I did and continued to wait. A good friend of mine came up behind me and laid his hand on my shoulder and began praying for me. I don't remember what he prayed for and I didn't feel any particular emotion during the prayer. But, as he prayed, I had a strong desire to speak that came from within me.
I remember not feeling any strong emotion as this desire came and I also felt I was in control of whether to speak or not. I felt like what was happening was from the Lord, so I let it happen and began to speak. It wasn't connected to my thoughts so my mind was free to observe the experience as my heart and my mouth were engaged with the Lord. I remember listening to what I was saying and thinking it sounded like a mix of languages. I remember feeling like I could stop anytime I wanted or continue if I wanted. I was also surprised how it wasn't accompanied by overwhelming feelings—it felt more practical than it did emotional.
Since then, I've leaned into praying like this if I have something to express to the Lord for myself or for others when I don't have the words. I've found myself praying this way in the midst of worship or praying for others when I didn't even plan to do it. I use this gift to express my heart to the Lord in deeper ways than I can with words and I find it comes out during the times I am deeply connecting with the Lord. It's also something I lean into when I don't feel close to the Lord or when I don't know what to say.