In 1 Corinthians 14:13-17 (NIV), Paul is initially addressing the gift of tongues, but in V15 he suddenly introduces the concepts of "praying with one's spirit" and, in particular, "singing with one's spirit":

13 For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. 16 Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.

What does it mean to "sing with one's spirit"? Is it the same gift of tongues but retargeted to melodic ends? Is it a different spiritual gift? Is it something else?

  • @NigelJ - I think that such an analysis is more suitable for an answer to the question than the question itself. Jan 5, 2021 at 16:17
  • I would say that any Christian will know what it is to pray in the Spirit (since that is how one comes to Christ, personally). So, I would have thought that it is common experience to know what 'singing in the spirit' feels like. If 'experimental' is the same as 'opinion' than this question is a matter of 'opinion' (or, experience).
    – Nigel J
    Jan 5, 2021 at 16:20
  • 2
    @NigelJ - it depends on what you understand by 'praying in the spirit'. If praying in the spirit is the same as praying in tongues (i.e. gift of tongues), then it cannot be true that everyone has experienced this, since not everyone has the gift. Jan 5, 2021 at 16:48
  • You have succintly stated the reason that many find this whole subject schismatic and hierarchical. –
    – Nigel J
    Jan 5, 2021 at 16:59

2 Answers 2


Looking at v. 14 it seems that "if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays" is parallel to "I will pray with my spirit." So, praying in a tongue/in tongues is the same as praying with my spirit. The mind or understanding is not involved.

v. 15 then has a contrast between "praying with my spirit" and "praying with my understanding."

Based on these parallels and contrasts, it seems to me that "sing with my spirit" would be the same as "sing in a tongue". So, the similarity between these two would be that "my spirit" is doing this without being controlled or understood by "my mind". The difference is between speaking and singing. I would then go with your first suggestion: "Is it the same gift of tongues but retargeted to melodic ends?"

  • Not all activity of the spirit, be it speaking or singing, is unintelligible. Prophecy is not in tongues, discernment of tongues is not in tongues but they are still of the spirit. The point Paul is making with respect to singing in the spirit is the source, what he is not saying is, that singing is in tongues, it could be, but it doesn’t have to be. Singing doesn’t even have to be with words, it could be deep groans, sighs, shouts, elated melodies, humming and so on. Jan 8, 2021 at 18:22
  • There are 3 different types of tongues. To explain this would take longer than a comment. I have only experienced two of these types, but have heard about the third one. Jan 9, 2021 at 17:01
  • no need to explain just label/name them Jan 9, 2021 at 17:24
  • 2
    I am not aware of any names. One type is a message in a language not understood by the speaker, but by the hearer (Acts 2). Another type is not understood by spekaer or hearer, but directed to God, meant to be used in private. A third type is a message from God, not understood by speaker and not directly by anybody, but it is interpreted through another gift so that it is equivalent to a prophecy. Jan 10, 2021 at 17:14

I will sing
ψαλῶ (psalō)
Verb - Future Indicative Active - 1st Person Singular
Strong's Greek 5567: Probably strengthened from psao; to twitch or twang, i.e. To play on a stringed instrument.

The Greek word ψαλῶ is also used for singing with accompanying musical instruments. Is there then a special gift for playing a musical instrument in the spirit? What about a musical band? I think this is over-interpreting the verse.

Is it the same gift of tongues but retargeted to melodic ends?

I should think so. This simplifies things. In the same context, 11 verses later, Paul summarized:

26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 27If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret.

In the summary, Paul didn't even mention singing as a separate entity.

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