Have you ever wondered how those with gifts, or ministries of the the prophetic hear from God? What are the ways that God speaks to them, and more importantly, how might he speak to you? It’s a good time to commit to the Pauline encouragement to eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit, especially that you may prophesy. That eagerness is like a teacher offering a new leather football to the student that can put their hand up first! In a post-modern age where cynicism or lethargy has settled upon the things of God, we are primed for a fresh, and much needed outpouring of the Spirit.
- The prophet Joel (a man just like us) prophesied that the days — the last days — would be accompanied by dreams, visions, prophecy and signs from heaven.
- The apostle Paul encouraged the 1st century Corinthians that the gifts of the Spirit were in abundance and featured among all things healing, faith, miracles but urged them that above all the remarkable gifts, that they should raise their hand higher for prophecy.
It is a remarkable, encouraging, affirming and dynamic gift. Focusing on prophecy, the question you may have is “what is the most scripture honouring and Christ-exalting way going forward for this dynamic, stirring and encouraging work of the Spirit?”
You will need to trust the Holy Spirit to lead you, use and inspire you
It’s important for all of us to understand that God can speak to us in ways that are beyond what we see, and knowing these different ways that God speaks or communicates can help us to hear Him better. It will also enable us to be more sensitive to Him speaking us in the future.
You’ll be surprised how easy these things are, but you will need to trust the Holy Spirit to lead you, use and inspire you and have a clear understanding that these things don’t happen on demand – God speaks when God speaks. God is an excellent communicator and knows how to get your attention. Here then, are seven ways that God may be revealing his purpose and intent to you – there are more – but these will start you off on a great adventure of encouragement, exhortation and comfort.
You might have a sense of a compelling exuberance that “bubbles” up inside of you.
You might have a sense of a compelling exuberance that “bubbles” up inside of you. The Hebrew word for prophesying in the Old Testament, at its core means “to bubble up”, and is a good indicator of the sense of activity within the human spirit that rises internally, gripping you with a sense of urgency. This sense of compulsion is accompanied by a stirring to speak out the thing that has come to you, even though you may not understand why. You just know that you know that God has placed something on your heart.
Don’t speak the obvious, or get caught up predicting babies, weddings or deaths!
Sometimes it is not even in context with things that are going on, but God knows. It may take a while for you to recognise the way that God is showing you something in this manner and what is the best way of sharing it. It’s best not to just burst out with something (That would be awkward!) , but maybe to ask if you can share what seems to have come to mind. This is a good way of building trust and accountability. Don’t be afraid to ask if they know what it means. If you don’t know what you have shared, means say so, but don’t accompany it with “I don’t know, just telling you what God told me to tell you!”
Let the hearer decide if that was God speaking through you or not. But do be prepared to take risks, remembering that it might not make sense to you, but it might for them. Rather than being a prophetic word, you may find it to be something that affirms what God has already been saying or clarifies things. This approach is generally quite unpredictable and spontaneous. People may have also been praying asking God to affirm or confirm something, and just a word from you like, “I think God has put this one word on my heart for you,‘Unwavering!’” Finally on this one, let it be something that has bubbled up for you from God, not from what you have observed – that is, don’t speak the obvious, or get caught up predicting babies, weddings or deaths!
A vision/picture or the vivid memory of a dream may continue to fill your mind and cannot be ignored
This is more than imagination. Wikipedia defines imagination:
“Imagination is the ability to produce and simulate novel objects, sensations, and ideas in the mind without any immediate input of the senses. It is also described as the forming of experiences in one’s mind, which can be re-creations of past experiences, such as vivid memories with imagined changes or completely invented and possibly fantastic scenes.”
This is far more than imagination – God can place things in your mind spontaneously as the situation arises, no thinking or creative moment required on your behalf. Out of nowhere, in the most dull, drab moment God shows you something visual. It may be a glimpse, fleeting or more prolonged. He achieves this by supernatural visions and dreams that linger and demand interpretation. God is on the leading foot, ready to reveal His kind intentions and plans.
Get in the habit of writing your dreams down; you never know when they are going to be useful or when they will be affirming something that God is doing to strengthen, encourage or comfort one or all of His people. When God communicates with us through visions or dreams of significance that linger when we wake up, then they stand out with great detail and clarity in our minds.
They simply will not go away.
Those dreams stand out because they seem more intense in they seem to be in 4K UHD colour and sound! Even when we tell ourselves, “This is me. It’s just me and not God”, the vision or dream will still intrude and demand attention. Accompanying that is a compulsion to communicate it to others or try to describe and understand it and, then, as a result, to interpret it and speak it out for the benefit of ourselves and others. You merely have to look at the stories of Joseph, Daniel and a few other Bible characters to see that generally dreams need interpreting.
An example is that a fatherly figure appearing and speaking in a dream may be interpreted as Father God speaking to you. Similarly, ‘your friend Andrew’ appearing in a dream and sustaining an accident doesn’t necessarily mean that Andrew is going to suffer an accident. Dream interpretation is something that you need God’s help with as they frequently require wisdom rather than logic. Don’t hesitate to share them with other prophetic gifted people; periodically you have the dream, but someone else receives the interpretation. We’re all on the same team – God gets the glory; we get the hugs.
God may highlight a biblical text to you
This is the prime way God speaks to my wife. It is possible in your own quiet time, as you have been reading through the Scriptures, a verse has particularly stood out to you, perhaps for personal reasons, or maybe for the benefit of someone else. It may prove to be burningly relevant to a situation your church is facing, or the pressures, your pastor or a dear friend may be under. When you open your Bible, you are literally opening the words of God. Scripture is God’s voice available for you in every moment, situation, and predicament you face. You can know God desires to speak to you because you have in your possession his voice through the Bible.
God desires to reveal to you his will because he has given you his Spirit to “guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13). God brings things to mind from the Scriptures; sometimes it is a short and simple verse, at other times it may be a whole passage or chapter of Scripture. Or it may be an isolated event in Scripture carrying rich symbolism for this (turning point) moment in your church’s history and it’s adventures with God.
As you listen, you will hear God’s voice; as you obey it, it will encourage you. You will grow in confidence as you discern the times when you are hearing from the Lord. This is one of the most prudent ways to begin stepping out in following the leading of the Spirit in prophecy. I recommend it!
You may sense an impression or words coming to you
This may be no more than the beginning of a sentence or it could be that information comes to you as if someone was whispering in your ear about a specific situation, and this intimation simply will not go away. A possible indicator that this is a genuine word from God may be the sense of weight attached to it that you feel in your spirit.This feels a bit more of a “stepping out of the boat” moment, but you will be surprised how quickly you may become familiar with the leading of the Spirit in this way. You know that this is something you dare not dismiss lightly.
Prophets of the Old Testament sometimes describe this as the “burden of the word of the Lord.” Its weight has the effect of impelling you to deliver and offload it completely at its intended destination.
You simply need to know where that is, for whom it is intended, and for what purpose God has given it to you.This is getting into more of the ministry of the prophet, but I guess you would describe it as a lingering sense of awareness, knowing that God is saying something, but the “pause” button is on while you wait for the rest of the content. Don’t rush to share words, be prepared to wait on the leading of the Spirit and for a clarity and conviction of what comes to mind. In context with this and all of these approaches to the prophetic gifts, we need to reaffirm that everything we do needs to have a strong conviction about the Bible, we always line up with it — it’s not a benchmark — it’s the final authority.
We must pursue a scripture-honouring, Christ-exalating and God-glorifying approach to the prophetic ministry otherwise we let everyone down.
You may have a “gut feeling” that about something
This is not to be mistaken for a suspicious or paranoid attitude, but it does have a sense of discernment about it. It is not about picking up the worst about fellow Christians, church leaders or group leaders. The “gut feeling” spoken of here is not a nagging anxiety, but usually comes as something that has suddenly occurred to you without you even looking for it. It is a hunch: a profound conviction or gut feeling, giving an unexpected sense of clarity about a situation that God desires you to speak into and address. And again, it cannot be ignored. It is definitely an “Oh!” moment – something just occurred to you – and you know God showed it you. And you actually noticed!
Undoubtably one of the most powerful things any Christian can experience is being led by God. If you have been praying for a while and have been in need of guidance but feel like you haven’t been getting responses from God, let Him know! He works in mysterious ways sometimes and when He does answer your prayer, my advice is to be prepared – it could happen in a way that completely floors you. It’s a tremendous blessing!
There may be a persistent but quiet “still, small voice”
This phrase was used by the biblical narrator, sometimes translated as a “gentle whisper” or the “sound of silence”, to describe the gentle, hushed, intimate way God spoke to his anxious prophet Elijah on the run from Jezebel (1 Kings 19:12). Elijah had fled to a cave on Mount Sinai and, as he hid there, depressed, defeated and afraid, God ministered to him and began to encourage him again. Elijah, a true prophet of God, was used to looking and listening for the unusual, and not necessarily a repetition of what the Lord did in the past. And so there came a “still, small voice”, a “gentle whisper”, a “silent, thin sound” (1 Kings 19:11–12).
The nudge of God, the place where there is just a “knowing” that comes from intimacy with God
God’s voice to us today can sometimes be little more than half a whisper: very quiet, almost imperceptible, like an undercurrent that catches our attention below the clamour of relationships, commitments, hobbies and duties. This is the nudge of God, the place where there is just a “knowing” that comes from intimacy with God. That’s something that can’t be rushed and comes as you grow to know the Lord. The secrets of the Lord are with those who fear Him, but that fear is a reverential one – there is something of a treasure in knowing what it is – to fear the Lord and not be afraid.
This kind of thing can be likened to when you can slightly raise an eyebrow across a crowded room and your friend can read what is on your mind. I am mixing metaphors here, but I am sure you get the point. God speaks, our place is to listen, watch, perceive – and then serve Him by being available to communicate to others what Jesus may be showing us, by His Spirit.
The audible voice of God
I can’t tell you how much I love this one! This is one way that God communicates to some people, but you might never get to know about it, the reason is it is often such an intimate moment and the person involved might not want to face a barrage of questions like, ‘how did He sound’, ‘did He have an accent’, ‘how loud was it?’, ‘could others hear it?’ There are more questions than that, but you get the picture. It is like when someone has seen an angel and noone seems bothered with the message or activity, just what the angel looked like, how tall it was and what it was wearing. Oh, and don’t forget, “did it have wings?”
It may surprise you to know that God can and still speaks with an audible voice where and when He so desires through an actual, audible speaking voice, like that of another human there in the room with us. Whether it is audible to the ear or bone conduction where sound is discerned through the vibrations in the cranium, it is with a seeming voice. That itself is amazing – God can speak from ‘His side’ and be heard on ours. Amazing, but not so unbelievable when you realise the Jewish view on life is more holistic; that the spirit world is not way out there, but about us. The old song that, “from a distance God is watching us” is not the reality. Emmanuel, “God with us”, is.
In the New Testament we encounter Jesus speaking to Saul, Annanias in an audible voice, not to mention when he speaks in visions and trances to others. We are not sure how the Spirit spoke to the apostles to set aside a couple of their companions for missions. The thing that intrigues me is that God spoke to so many in the Testament, in fact, God spoke and the whole of Israel heard His voice at the mountain. What’s changed?
I personally know a handful of people who have heard the audible voice of God — none of them shout about it; it is a humbling experience — but speak He does! Again, this is one of those things where when God wants to do it, He can. And will.