What is Holy Laughter?

What is Holy Laughter?


I recently experienced something called holy laughter (as it was explained to me) but I cannot find any scripture to back up what I was told. Is this a biblical item or something related to hysterical behavior? Does this somehow tie in to talking in tongues? Also I recently read about soaking. What is this and is this something I should be doing?


Dear Curious,

As far as I can determine not one-single-Bible verse verifies or deals with the concept of holy laughter. Of course, many verses refer to joy, singing, praising, uplifted hands, and dancing as manifestations of our response to and worship of the God we adore. For example, David had a wonderful time rejoicing and dancing when the ark of the covenant returned to Jerusalem. 2 Sam 6:12-17 records the incident: “So David went down and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. … David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets. … As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, … King David leaping and dancing before the LORD …”

Occasionally holy laughter has been recorded as occurring in combination with an expansive Holy Spirit inspired revival. Holy laughter is said to have occurred during both the First and Second Great Awakenings in America during the 18th and 19th centuries. Recently the phenomenon erupted (and I choose that word carefully) during a significant revival in Toronto, Canada, in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Holy laughter during revivals is occasionally seen, but, most revivals have no manifestations of holy laughter.

Revivals with manifestations of holy laughter are most usually accompanied with the Charismatic manifestations of speaking in tongues; however, as best I can tell there is no direct relationship between the two.

Some explain holy laughter as psychologically induced “mass hysteria” which occasionally occurs in highly emotional environments when someone begins an activity and those around are mentally and emotionally stimulated to join in the behavior. Since the practice is never mentioned in the Bible and certainly not in conjunction with any Spiritual Gift, then all manifestations are psychologically driven. Obviously, those who experience holy laughter explain the behavior as inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Sorry, I have no idea what “soaking” is.

Finally, should you be doing these things? No, probably not. They are extraneous to the Christian life. As best as I can tell, if holy laughter is Holy Spirit inspired, there is nothing you can do to cause it to happen or bring it on by trying. If the Holy Spirit ever inspires that gift in you, then enjoy it. Otherwise, don’t worry about it.

Love, Roger

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