As a child my Mom would often remind me, “It is not only what you say but how you say it.” I love this saying because it encapsulates a truth that so beautifully instructs us concerning spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are not only conceptual but deal with the nitty-gritty of everyday life. Spiritual gifts are only gifts if they bless another person. Because of this we must understand how to interact with other people with proper prophetic protocol.
This is another point where there are massive breakdowns. Many times a person will have a genuine prophetic gift but because they do not understand their place in the body of Christ and are both frustrated and frustrating. In this chapter we are going to address the nuts and bolts of the prophetic. It is wonderful if the Holy Spirit communicates something to you but if you do not know how to share that word in the right spirit in the right way and at the right time it doesn’t matter what the Lord spoke to you. To give a genuine prophetic word we must not only share something that contains accurate insight from the Holy Spirit but we must understand the protocol of how to go about delivering prophetic words. To accomplish this lets look at a few key principles to giving a prophetic word.
Discern the origination and motivation of the prophecy
1 Corinthians 14:29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.
As we covered in the last chapter it is crucial that we discern prophetic leadings and not just jump at the first inclination. The context of the passages above refers to the testing and discernment that must be done in public gatherings, but undoubtedly before you publically give a prophetic word it is essential to discern privately in your own heart. Here are two good questions to ask:
1) How did this revelation come to my mind?
2) What is my motivation for giving this word?
Depending on how you answer these two questions will reveal a lot about the origin of the prophetic word. If you can answer that the revelation was both spontaneous in that it was not conjured up by your own imagination and that you do not feel a selfish motivation for sharing a prophetic word you are on the right track.
Give the prophetic word with love and humility
Ephesians 4:15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.
The purpose of prophecy according to 1 Corinthians 14:3 is to strengthen, encourage, and comfort the body of Christ. This is vital to remember when sharing prophetic words even if you happen to sense something that is dark in someone’s life such as an addiction, insecurity, past hurt, or even sin. Keep in mind this simple principle you do not cast out darkness with darkness you turn on the lights. I have heard numerous stories of people giving “prophetic words” to people exposing a problem in someone’s life yet in doing so they offer no tangible hope just a magnifying glass of embarrassment intensifying the pain of being put on the spot. If you do see something negative be sure to point that person to the solution in Christ. This is what Jesus did with the women at the well in John 4.
John 4:16-26 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
After Jesus tells her of her current situation (You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband.) he points to the solution. Notice in this text that Jesus refers to six different men that she had been with but Jesus stands before her as the seventh man, the perfect man that offers her freedom and salvation. This is the pattern that we are to follow when we perceive something is wrong in a person’s life and this is one of the key factors that separates New Testament prophecy from other psychic voices in this world. A genuine prophetic word releases God’s perspective by announcing freedom, power, and that can only be found in Christ.
Deliver prophetic words on a similar level as you receive them.
Proverbs 25:14 Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.
Much of the confusion surrounding the prophetic stems from believers not grasping the importance of communicating prophetic words on a similar level that you received them. In other words, there is no reason to scream at the top of your lungs in the middle of a service “thus saith the Lord” if all you feel is an impression in your heart to share something.
If you receive a prophetic word that you feel you are to share the issue of timing is incredibly important. Let’s look at two questions to ask when you believe you have received something from the Lord to share.
- Is this a personal word for me or is this for the corporate body?
1 Corinthians 14:26-28 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.
In 1 Corinthians 14:26 the apostle Paul tells us that when the people of God gather together it is conceivable that everybody senses that they have a personal revelation that they feel like they need to share. The reason for this is that in gatherings of corporate worship the Holy Spirit is ministering to the hearts and minds of every person in the church. As a result of this heightened sense of the moving of the Spirit people will sense very specific things from the Lord. Because of this dynamic it is imperative that we ask ourselves if what we sense should be shared with the corporate body or if it is something that God is personally ministering to our own heart.
- Did the Lord show me this to pray or to say?
Not everything that the Holy Spirit communicates to us is for public declaration in that moment. Many times the Lord will reveal something to us for the purpose of prayer and intercession not for sharing with the crowd. After sometime in prayer the Lord may release you to speak what you have received, but keep in mind that prayer affects more than we will ever know or see.
Testing a prophetic word
1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.
Testing prophecy is an essential for handling the gift of prophecy according to biblical standards. To help you build a framework for testing prophetic words lets look at four key components.
- The Word and Character of God
As we covered previously the Scripture is the plumb line for anything that we sense God may be communicating to us. The writer of Hebrews tells us that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Because of this the first thing we must do is test a prophetic word by seeing if it is congruent with God’s word and character. For example, if someone gives you a prophetic word telling you to split a church, rebel against leadership, or that you have to do something more than trust in Jesus as your Savior for God’s acceptance you can be confident that is not a genuine prophetic word from God.
Although testing prophetic words against the character of God and the Scripture sounds like common sense I have met many people who were confused on how to handle prophetic words that do not line up with the Scripture and have found themselves greatly confused. With that said, if someone gives you a prophetic word that does not line up with the Scripture or the character of God not only should you ignore this word, but you should also privately approach whatever pastor or leader this person is accountable to and bring this to their attention. The Scripture is very clear that false prophets will be active in the Church in the last days seeking to deceive and pull people away from Jesus Christ.
- Application equal to revelation
The application of a prophetic word should be very close to the intensity of how the revelation was received. It would be foolish to move to Africa to become a missionary because of one prophetic word from a stranger or a fleeting impression that you have during prayer. Like council or advice from a pastor, prophecy is important but not inerrant. Remember 1 Corinthians 13:9 reminds us that “we know in part and we prophesy in part.” As I have stressed many times throughout this book the word of God is the only rock on which we are to build our lives and future. Prophetic words are to strengthen, encourage, and comfort us not to construct our lives and future upon. Prophecy is only one component of a much larger picture of how God guides us in our lives and we must use wisdom on how we engage with the prophetic.
- God will confirm by the Spirit
Not only should a prophetic word bear witness with your spirit but also you should expect God to confirm a prophetic word over a season of time and often through multiple sources. Rather than jumping on the first word given to you, use wisdom to see if this is a reoccurring theme that the Holy Spirit continues to speak to you as he unfolds his leading in your life.
- Where you presently are and where you are going
Sanctified common sense is essential when discerning prophetic words. However, we must be careful to not cut ourselves off from a prophetic word if it does not make immediate sense to our natural minds. Because the nature of the prophetic is from God’s perspective it is very possible that a prophetic word you receive is about the future and does not mesh together with your present reality or circumstances. For instance, you may receive a prophetic word about a gift of teaching that is upon your life, yet you are frightened to stand in front of crowds. It is important to remember that when you receive a genuine prophetic word grace comes with it to bring it to pass.
For this reason we must be careful not to limit God’s ability to work through our life by our capacity to comprehend his plan. Think about how many of the biblical heroes started off their life knowing that God had incredible plans for them. The reality is most of the biblical heroes started off in the complete opposite direction of where God would ultimately take them. With this in mind we should be cautious to cut ourselves off from a prophetic word when it does not make immediate sense to our natural mind. In all honesty does anything in life ever really go according to how we think it will? Right Moses?