A Psychologist's experience of the Holy Spirit

By Dan Montgomery


I accepted Christ as Lord and Saviour as a seventeen year old.  For the next 5 years I stuggled with my faith, even though I prayed, studied scripture and attended church regularly,  I often felt alone.  Although my beliefs were strong,  my heart and spirit seldom soared.  For the most part,  God was remote and - I assumed - busy running his Universe.



The Baptism of the Holy Spirit changed all this.  I was alone in an upper room of an old church one night when I asked Jesus to Baptise me in His spirit.  I sat expectantly in a little chair - the room was for teaching children's classes - when the sound of a gentle wind rushed down the hallway into the room.  A gentle ecstasy filled my body.  My heart leapt with love.  My spirt soared.  I received my prayer language with gratitude and amazement.  I have used it for the next twenty-five years.



When I thought about becoming a clinical psychologist several years later; I baulked.  Was psychology compatible with spirituality?  Would training for a PhD lead me away from Christ?  Actually my academic studies and clinical experience strenthened my faith in God and gave me tools for understanding the baptism in the Holy Spirit.



Here are six ways I have come to understand the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and His influence in our lives from a psychological point of view.


  • The influence of the Holy Spirit in our personalities unifies the body, heart and mind.


  • As a therapist I have long advocated that growth towards a healthy personality requires the integration of the body, heart and mind.   Jesus demonstrated this unity of the physical,  emotional and mental in his commitment to do the will of the father.


  • In my approach to counselling,  I utilise a rhythm of psychotherapy and healing prayer.


  • I pray in tongues privately as a prelude to most counselling sessions,  asking the Holy Spirit to influence a client's journey towards wholeness.


  • I have observed how the Holy Spirit seeks to amalgamate a persons body, feelings and thoughts - so they can come to experience a Christ-like balance of personality.


  • God's humour comes through in the work of the Holy Spirit. 

I was approachd at a national conference by a six-foot -tall basket ball player who said he'd tried to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit for four years.  We arranged to pray that night after everyone had left.    When we were alone I looked him in the eye and said:


   "As I lay may hand on you,  surrender your entire being to the Lord Jesus Christ,  and be ready to pray in other tongues if the Spirit moves you" 

He nodded in agreement.   We were standing in semi-darkness,  I began to pray,  awaiting a sense of anointing.  Suddenly a hand gripped my shoulder out of nowhere.  for a moment I thought it was Jesus himself. I screamed,  shooting my arm out like a rocket.  My hand struck the baseball player square in the chest and knocked him completely off his feet.  Still confused,  I whirled to see who had grabbed me.  It was the caretaker.  I turned back to see if the poor fellow lying flat on his back was okay.  His arms were stretched towards Heaven, fingers open.  He was praying in a beautiful language,  an ear to ear smile on his face. 



Praying in tongues brings a sense of being childlike



Sometimes we sing or laugh in the Spirit because God's radient joy is pouring through us.  Usually,  we don't know what will happen next.  This attitude of expectancy increases our responsiveness to the surprises that God may wish to give us.



Praying in tongues brings relaxation and serenity



In graduate school,  I was hooked up to  sophisticated equipment for measuring brain-wave patterns and muscle tension.  The researcher jotted down my baseline readings,  which revealed a fair amount of stress  (beta brain waves and 120 micro volts of upper torso muscle tension).  I'd had a hard day.   'I'll be back in 10 minutes'   he said. "(Do whatever you can to relax and then we'll take a new reading."  I decided to pray silently in the Spirit the whole time.  When he returmed,  he bumped the machine with his hand and then scratched his head.  He shrugged his shoulders and recorded the new readings (theta brain waves and five micro volts of upper body mescle tention.)


As I was leaving I asked   'What caught your attention?'


"Have you had years of relaxation training?"  he asked.  "No"  I replied.  "Well" he said,  "I don't know how you account for it,  but your body and mind were as serene as a Zen monk who's meditated for twenty years!"



Spontaneity and creativity are released by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.



The night I first spoke in tongues I was very cautious to make sure it was genuinely inspired.  After several minutes,  I recognised that the language seemed to flow out of my belly,  my inner-most being,  rather than being made up in my mind.  The words seemed to express the depth dimensions of my whole being.  This is the essence of spontaneity and creativity - to be absorbed in the moment as one who is fully present.  No self-consciousness.  No conscious control.  The ego is set aside and one's core being takes over.



As a psychologist,  I believe that speaking in tongues involves a hemispherical shift from left brain to right brain we experience when one holds a new born infant.  We don't say "This is a fine looking specimen of humanity"  We utter 'oohs and ahs'.

In Romans 8 v 26 Paul explains that The Holy Spirit sometimes makes intercession for us with groaning too deep to be represented by normal language. Rather we feel the sensation of the Spirit in our bodies and hearts as he is making perfect intercession for us,  according to the will of the Father.  Trusting in the spontaneous heat-felt flow of the Holy Spirit through our personalities can become a way of life.  In my twenty-five years of walking in the Holy Spirit,  I have been amazed how every day brings something new when I yeild to the Holy Spirit.  I am learning to trust the spontaneity and creativity of His influence more than my well-laid plans and deliberate intentions.



The Baptism of the Holy Spirit facilitates the work of Christ in helping us to develop balanced personalities like his own.



Personality dysfunction is fear-driven and results in exaggerated trends within the personality - being too angry,  too loving,  too withdrawn or too perfectionistic.  But when we pray in the Holy Spirit,  we are comforted.  We begin to shed our fears.  As the Holy Spirit guides us,  we find that we can know the will of God and have the strength to carry it out.  The Holy Spirit also counsels us about our personality exaggeration.



The Baptism of the Holy Spirit brings a shift from 'God is out there' to 'the kingdon of God is within.



People I've prayed with who have received the gift of Tongues,  including my wife and son - have reported an immediate sense of peace and joy.  They seem to feel Christ's peace, a peace that transends understanding, and to grasp his saying,  "Be of good cheer."



The God of the heavens becomes the Jesus in the heart - an intimate friendship just for them.



From a psychological point of view,  the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a major way that God fills us with an awareness of his presence and facilitates even greater personality balance in our desire to be like Jesus.  If we have served Christ through formal roles,  we now feel the intimacy of his love for us.  If we have made a god of religion,  we now encounter the God of Abraham,  Issac and Jacob.  And if we have mentioned the Holy Spirit only when reciting the Apostles' Creed, we now discover Him as a personal Comforter and Counsellor. 


The baptism of the Holy Spirit makes alive the words of Jesus:


"Behold the kingdom of God is within you" - Luke 17:21


-the end-



Dan Montgomery is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Santa Fe,  New Mexico.




*It is pleasurable being involved in Christian publishing for many reasons,  not least is the generosity of spirit of the people in the industry to share the especially anointed written works of our writers.


This fabulous piece was reprinted in Light International with huge gratitude over 2 decades ago,  with kind permission from New Covernant Magazine 200 No 11 Plaza,  Huntington,  Indiana 46750,  USA.


















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