What does the gift of tongues feel like?
Below is Theresa of Avila's encouragement for experiencing this, from her book Interior Castle; followed by modern account from one attending a charismatic retreat.
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The Gift of Tongues
In the midst of these experiences that are both painful and delightful together, our Lord sometimes gives the soul feelings of jubilation and a strange prayer it doesn’t understand. What I’m saying seems like gibberish, but certainly the experience takes place in this way, for the joy is so excessive the soul wouldn’t want to enjoy it alone but wants to tell everyone about it so that they might help this soul praise our Lord. All its activity is directed to this praise. Oh, how many festivals and demonstrations of the soul would organize, if it could, that all might know its joy! . . . The devil cannot give this experience, because there is so much interior joy in the very intimate part of the soul and so much peace; and all the happiness stirs the soul to the praises of God.
A Neuroscientific Look At Speaking In Tongues
Oh, what blessed madness, Sisters! If only God would give it to us all. And what a favor He has granted you by bringing you to this house where, when the Lord gives you this favor and you tell others about it, you will receive help rather than the criticism you would receive in the world.
Sometimes it is a particular joy for me to see these Sisters gathered together and feeling such great joy at being in the monastery that they praise our Lord as much as possible. It is seen very clearly that their praises rise from the interior of the soul. I would want you to praise Him often, Sisters; for the one who begins, awakens the others. In what better way can you, when together, use your tongues than in the praises of God since we have so many reasons for praising Him?
May it please His Majesty to give us this prayer often since it is so safe and beneficial; to acquire it is impossible because it is something very supernatural. And it may last a whole day. The soul goes about like a person who has drunk a great deal but not so much as to be drawn out of his senses.
A Retreat Account
One of the men came over me and laid his hands on me. I found myself speaking in tongues so fluently and quickly that I knew it was not just something I was doing on my own.
The tongues were also accompanied with a strong feeling of the love of God and a great desire to praise him.
Praising God was something that I had always known was important to Christian prayer, but I never felt much like doing it before. Whatever it meant to 'praise' God was unclear to me. But tongues taught me to praise God, giving me such an awareness of his greatness and love that I would feel naturally and spontaneously drawn to praise him, especially in tongues since it seemed to express desires of my heart that my English was frustrated to express.