Speaking in tongues (or other languages, formally known as ‘glossolalia’) is a gift given by the Holy Spirit enabling people to speak in languages not learned academically. It is one of the characteristics of Pentecostal churches. It is not essential to speak in tongues to be a Christian, but this is a gift given by God to enable us to grow spiritually (see 1 Cor 14:4; Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, spoke about this in a recent interview with Justin Brierley.)
Jackie Pullinger is a missionary to Howloon city in Hong Kong who has seen many drug addicts delivered from addiction. She says that praying in tongues is the chief ‘method’ she has used to see this deliverance: ‘heroin users would pray in tongues and find themselves miraculously released from their addiction.’ From a purely practical point of view, she commented that when you need to pray for hours on end for someone, ‘it’s quite hard to keep going [for that long] in your own language’!
Speaking in tongues can be misused (see 1 Cor 14:6-12 when Paul addresses the use of speaking in tongues in a congregational rather than private prayer setting), but Paul encourages this gift to be used and we too should encourage this gift to build up the church and enable us to connect further with a God whose generosity knows no limits.,