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Local churches practicing 'speaking in tongues' describe it as a personal experience


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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) -- Religious experiences can be very personal.

So personal, that some Christians say God himself can speak through them.

It's a practice they use at Shekijah Preparation Assembly in Lynchburg called speaking in tongues.

They describe it as a spiritual language gifted from God.

Some Christians believe it is the Holy Spirit speaking directly through them.

"As I began to lift my hands, I began praying and it just started flowing," said member Rashanea Harrington. "I'm just praying with God or I'm in worship and it just begins to flow."

"The Holy Spirit is likened to a glass of water.,"said Bishop Terence Sykes, with Sheijah Preparation Assembly. "When we pour water into the glass and if you continue to pour and it overflows...that's the tongues, OK? It's an overwhelming feeling of the presence of the Lord."

Bishop Sykes says speaking in tongues prevents Satan from understanding their prayers.

"The enemy has no interference because he doesn't know what we're saying," he said.

Over at Calvary Chapel Lynchburg, Pastor Troy Warner practices the gift of speaking in tongues too, but you won't hear it during Sunday service.

"So, for Calvary Chapel Lynchburg we've been described as charismatic with seat belts on," Pastor Warner said.

At Calvary, tongues may be spoken in small groups or evening prayer meetings.

Pastor Warner says that's because it's very personal, and it's nice to experience it in a more intimate setting.

"There's a peace that comes over me and I don't think that's a mystery because the same is available to any believer," he said.

According to the Bible, the gift of speaking in tongues was first given to the disciples.

It's mentioned in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians.

"Especially in Chapter 14," said Amy Merrill-Willis with the University of Lynchburg. "Saint Paul spends the whole chapter talking about speaking in tongues where he seems to think it is the language of angels".

She says in modern day, speaking in tongues is a practice popular in the Pentecostal church; one that started in 1905.

"It was a badge of honor for Pentecostals to be set apart. They wanted to be different from the majority Christian denominations," she said.

Merrill-Willis said there is 'speaking in tongues' research cited in the book "The Fingerprints of God: What Science is Learning About the Brain and Spiritual Experience" which shows what's happening in the brain when people use the spiritual language.

"So, their frontal lobes -- which control speech -- actually are not active when they're speaking in tongues," she said.

The scientist cited in the book -- Dr Andy Newburg -- did brain scans on participants and made a compelling discovery.

His research showed there was nothing happening in the part of the brain -- controlling speech -- when people spoke in tongues.

This could be consistent with what believers say, that it is the Holy Spirit speaking through them.

"So, this is kind of interesting, you would think that the speech part -- the frontal lobes -- would be really active for people speaking in tongues, but that's not the case," Merrill-Willis added.

Is it science validating faith?

That likely would depend on who you ask, but many Christians interpret it as proof of God's existence.

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