Asking God Questions

Children ask the best questions. One that is famous in our family was asked by my then 3-year old daughter:

“Daddy, why do we have two hands?”

The best answer my husband could come up with was:

“Well, I suppose it’s better than one but not quite as good as three…”

One of the joys of being around young children is their natural curiosity about the world around them and the wonderful questions they come up with. Their assumption of course is that adults will have all the answers. Part of the journey for any parent is the realisation that we can’t answer all those questions, but it’s lots of fun trying to.

Questions are good. And for those of us who are parents, on our best days we never get (too) tired of our children’s questions. But what about asking questions of God? Many of us get to a place in our faith journey where we feel we can no longer ask God questions: we might fear the answer, or feel the question is too hard. Perhaps we doubt our ability to hear God’s response, or fear that He will remain silent.

It’s so important that we don’t lose that child-like freedom to ask questions of our heavenly Father. In fact a key part of our journey in learning to hear God’s voice better is asking Him questions – and listening for the answer.

It’s good to remind ourselves of God’s incredible wisdom; that the One we worship has the answer to every question we could ever ask:

All this comes from the Lord Almighty, wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom.
Isaiah 28:29

Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!   Romans 11:33

Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:3

These verses encourage me that it’s always worth pausing to ask God questions about every aspect of my life and the world around me. I want to learn how to lean into His wisdom and counsel, and trust His perspective. Rather than rushing into decisions and assumptions based on my limited human understanding, I need to seek His counsel so much more. He has given each of us the Holy Spirit, the Counsellor who teaches us all things (John 14:26), so why are we sometimes so reluctant to ask Him when we need help?

In the Bible David was someone who knew the wisdom of asking God questions; in fact one of the things that set him apart from Saul was his willingness to ‘inquire of the Lord’ on a regular basis, as we see from these two verses:

Once again David inquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him.  1 Samuel 23:4

Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.   1 Chronicles 10:13-14

 

Here are some simple steps we can take towards seeking the wisdom of God and asking Him questions in a way that will deepen our walk with Him:

 

 

  1. Deal with the fear

It’s important to recognize that for some of us there is fear associated with asking God questions, so the first step is to acknowledge these fears: perhaps it’s the fear of not getting an answer, or the fear of getting an answer we don’t like. Whatever the fear is, we can bring it to God and have faith that His love and grace is sufficient to deal with it.

  1. Come like a child

He called a little child to Him, and placed the child among them. And He said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”   Matthew 18:2-4

We are in the best place to ask questions of God, and hear His answers, when our posture is that of little children and we approach God as our loving heavenly Father. Sometimes that will mean putting aside cynicism and doubt and anger; it always means choosing a humble heart and choosing to trust Him. I’m sure that the little children who came to Jesus had great fun asking Him all sorts of wonderful questions.

  1. Journal your questions… and God’s answers

A perfectly valid response to this subject is, “It’s all very well asking God questions, how do I know I can hear the answers?”

Journaling is one of the best ways to listen to God’s answers: this is where we write down our conversations with God. I love to sit in a quiet place with my journal, and after a time of simple prayer and worship, start to write down my conversation with the Father. Sometimes the answers come straight away; sometimes they emerge over time as I take note of the different things He draws my attention to in scripture and as I go about my daily life.

As well as journaling there is also the habit of asking questions of the Holy Spirit in the moment, throughout the day, and at these times the answers usually come in the form of simple words or a sense of ‘just knowing’. I find that, after years of practising this form dialogue with the Spirit, I can ask Him about a particular course of action and His answer will be a deep sense of peace if I’m on the right track.

  1. Ask the right questions!

Of course there are no right or wrong questions to ask God: He can cope with anything we ask Him. But I’ve found that there are some great questions that deepen my relationship with God and help me align myself with His purposes, so it’s these that I tend to use.

I like to focus on the Who, How and What questions. For example, these ones are always a good way to start the day:

  • Who would You like me to encourage today?
  • What do You want me to do for You today, Holy Spirit?
  • Is there anyone I’m supposed to meet today?
  • How can I show Your love to people today, Father?

I’ve learnt over the years that, when faced with the pain and brokenness of the world around me, God doesn’t want me to stay fixated on the problem in front of me, but rather seek Him for the word of life that will open the door to His light and love. One of the marks of a healthy prophetic culture is that rather than asking, “Why is this bad thing happening?” we instead ask, “What’s Your word that will transform this situation?” That’s not to invalidate the heart-felt Why questions, but to recognise that our role is to be Speakers of Life into every situation God puts us in.

 

I’ll finish with a suggestion for you: a good question to ask at this time of year is, “What’s Your word for me for 2017?” Sit down with your journal, ask God that question and listen for His answer.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.   James 1:5

 

The Road of the Holy Spirit

In February I was fortunate to have a weekend in the beautiful city of Lisbon (celebrating a big birthday!) and as my husband and I enjoyed wandering around the old streets near the castle we came upon this road sign:Seeing those words painted onto the ancient stone wall was for me a visible sign of something very precious and close to my heart. The Road of the Holy Spirit. As I paused a while to think about the words they brought both comfort and challenge. Yes, this is the road I’ve chosen for my life, and it’s wonderful; but how many times do I wander off it?

This street sign is a great visual reminder of Paul’s instruction to us in Galations 5:16-26, particularly verse 25:

                      Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

 There is an active dynamic to this verse. To keep in step with someone means we walk closely to them, paying careful attention to what they are doing and where they are going. We go at their pace. We follow their lead. We walk the same road.

Every disciple of Jesus has been given the Holy Spirit. One of the incredible truths of the New Covenant we live under is that God has poured out his Spirit upon us. As Jesus expresses it in John 7:38-39:

“Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.

 The Spirit of Almighty God lives in me! What a wonderful truth! But life in the Spirit is more than just knowing his in-dwelling presence; it’s about an active, daily decision to walk the same road as him, wherever that may lead. So how are we to follow this road? How do we ensure the Spirit is leading us, step by step?

Over the last few years I’ve intentionally set out to explore ‘The Road of the Holy Spirit’. Here are 4 simple things I’ve learnt and some practical steps we can take:

  1. Get to know the Spirit as a real person and friend

How well do you really know the Holy Spirit?

He’s not an ‘it’; he’s not an impersonal force or power or influence. He’s a person, part of the Trinity with the Father and the Son, with his own personality and attributes.

It’s so important that we don’t treat him as a utility rather than a real person, asking for some heat or power or refreshment when we need it in ministry but ignoring him the rest of the time. He’s a person – he’s God – he’s God with us. That’s why Jesus could say to his disciples in John 16:

   “It’s better for you that I leave. If I don’t the friend won’t come. But if I go I’ll send him to you.”  [The Message]

How do we get to know someone? We talk to them, we have conversations with them, we dialogue as friends. God wants us to know his Spirit to the degree that we know our closest friend:

“But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:17

We can welcome the Holy Spirit into our day every morning and honour his presence in our lives continually.

A practical step: Tell the Holy Spirit that you want to get to know him better and start to ask him questions about what things are bringing him joy today.

  1. Pay attention

The Holy Spirit is constantly at work in our lives and in the world around us. He is also continually bringing revelation to us. The problem is that most of us are just not very good at paying attention to what he’s up to. We get so preoccupied with all the ‘stuff’ of life that we lose the ability to see the incredible beauty of the Spirit’s words and works and the opportunities he frequently offers us.

So to keep in step with the Spirit we have to reorder our priorities and actually slow down enough so that we are attuned to his voice and promptings. The Spirit rarely shouts at us; in fact learning to walk his road means cultivating an internal stillness so that we can recognise his voice and hear his whispers. But wonderful adventures start to open up as we discern those subtle promptings and choose to respond to them.

A practical step: put some reminders on your phone throughout the day to stop for a minute and tune into whatever the Holy Spirit is doing in and around you.

  1. Surrender

Getting to know the Holy Spirit and learning to recognise his voice is wonderful, but if we are serious about walking his road and keeping in step with him, then we have to choose to actively follow him. To follow him wherever he might lead us. Being filled with the Spirit is more than just a warm fuzzy feeling; it’s about complete surrender and dependency.

Jesus modelled this life of dependency on the Spirit; he modelled for us what it looks like to be completely led by, surrendered to, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Jesus was not just filled with the Spirit, but chose to be led by the Spirit, and it’s the same journey for us. It’s the daily choice to follow the Spirit and depend on him. Are we letting him be in control and change our agenda if he so wishes?

A practical step: as you start your day ask the Holy Spirit to be in the driving seat of your life and picture yourself handing him the car keys.

 

  1. Have a mindset of overflow and abundance

In order to keep in step with the Spirit we need our minds to be thinking in line with scripture and live in the incredible truth that we are children of overflow and abundance. The Holy Spirit is not dripped or drizzled, but poured out upon us. When it comes to him and his presence we can eagerly await the limitless generosity of heaven:

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11-13

We can never have too much of the presence of the Holy Spirit. We can have too much of lots of good things – food, wine, even water – but there is never ‘too much’ of the Holy Spirit. There are no toxic levels of his presence. It is only our own narrow expectations that limit his presence and power in our lives.

A practical step: give thanks every day that your heavenly Father has given you his Spirit and be expectant for more.

As you look ahead to 2017 what might it look like for you to more intentionally keep in step with the Spirit and walk his road?

From Listening to Doing

We’re delighted to have Brandon Kelly from the States as our guest blogger this month. Brandon is part of the Accessible Prophecy US team.

 

As an apostle, my admiration and appreciation of prophets and prophecy has grown significantly over the past couple of years. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to experience a prophetic huddle and have spent a great deal of time with prophets, both of which have developed my understanding and experience of prophecy for my own life. There’s one thing, though, that continues to stand out in most interactions that I have with prophets – they spend too much time listening and not enough time doing.

Now to be fair, apostles spend too much time doing and very little time listening. Once during a prophetic huddle, I was sharing how I always immediately respond to what I think God is saying and was considering giving myself a twenty four hour wait time before I acted on anything. Bursting with pride, I thought that I would be an example to the prophets in my huddle of what it looks like to be patient and wait on God. After everyone stopped laughing, I realized twenty four hours is nothing to a prophet. I was challenged to consider a week or maybe more to fully engage with the voice of God and hear clearly what he is saying before I do anything.

This is why apostles and prophets work so well together. Prophets keep apostles on track with what God has spoken, helping them to hear clearly and deeply. Apostles keep prophets moving forward, helping them to take action. When both are represented there’s an equilibrium of listening and doing in the life of the church. What can a prophet learn from an apostle to help them take action on what God has said?

I’ve found that there are five questions that are helpful to ask yourself, and others, when moving from listening to doing:

  1. What’s one way that you can respond to what God is saying in the next two weeks?
    Usually, there’s never any lack of inspiration for large and lofty plans for us to accomplish when we’ve heard from God. The dreaming of what God can do in us and through us can be significant, especially for more profound and memorable prophetic words. However, if we can’t identify the next action step that’s needed to move us on the journey to God’s words, the likelihood is that we’ll never do anything about it. Asking what someone can do in the next two weeks presses them to the next practical step that can be done. If it can’t be done within two weeks, there’s probably a smaller step that could be taken to move them in the right direction. I like the two week timeframe because it allows enough space for unforeseen issues that come up, but is short enough that the action and word remains fresh in your heart and mind.
  1. When are you going to do that?
    Once the next action step has been identified, it’s helpful to get specific about when the action will take place. If you leave out the specifics now, it’s unlikely they’ll get clearer as time passes on. You need a plan for when your response to God’s word will take place. What day will it be? What time will it be? Even categories of time – in the morning… at lunch… – aren’t specific enough. Will you do it before breakfast or right after you wake up? The amount of clarity that you have about your plan now is directly related to the likelihood of follow through later.
  1. Who’s going to hold you accountable?
    When the plan is in place for what you’ll do and when you’ll do it, you need to figure out who can hold you accountable. This isn’t someone who will guilt and shame you for failing to do what you’re supposed to do, but someone to support and encourage you to do the things you’ve said you will do. It could be someone in your huddle, a friend, a spouse, or anyone that you trust will actually follow up with you. It doesn’t do you any good to be held accountable by someone who won’t hold you accountable. It also doesn’t do you any good to lie about what you’ve accomplished, it misses the point of accountability. Be honest and admit when you’ve fallen short. The person holding you accountable should respond with grace and offer support for making your action step happen.
  1. What can you do right now to ensure that it will happen?
    There are often small things that can be done right away to help ensure that the action step gets accomplished. These are usually simple and quick items such as: emailing or calling the person who’s going to hold you accountable, placing the action step on your calendar, writing yourself a note, or setting up a reminder on your phone. If you can do one of these now, you can set yourself up for success later on.
  1. What roadblocks would stop you from doing it?
    We can’t always foresee the road ahead, but sometimes we can anticipate roadblocks before we run into them. If we can identify roadblocks now, we may be able to adjust the plans we’re making or add some steps along the way that will overcome them before they become an issue. Roadblocks could include: not having the right resources (think time, materials, and knowledge), someone who may be adverse to what you’re trying to do, personal fears, spiritual warfare, etc.

Listening to God is vital to the life of a disciple, but equally important is responding to what He says. As we consider taking action, we can set ourselves up for success by putting some additional thought and intentionality into our planning.

What have you found to be helpful in moving from listening to doing?

What other questions might you ask to bring greater clarity to plans and actions?

Prophecy Night at Wadsley

We know that many of you appreciate hearing about practical ways to encourage and release people into the prophetic. For this blog, Lucy, our intern, is going to share about a prophetic event that she ran last night at her church…

A little bit about my church:

My church is called Wadsley Parish Church; it has about 70 people (and growing!) and is part of the Church of England. My old youth leader from St Thomas’ Philadelphia recently became the vicar there and he asked 10 people to move with him and share all we’ve learnt from St Thomas’ these past few years. Despite only being there 3 months, it already feels like home and I feel so free and welcome. In terms of the prophetic, there’s a lot more going on than there seems on the surface, and there are definitely a lot of people that are open to what Holy Spirit has in store, even if they don’t publicise it.

Why I wanted to run a prophetic night:

After being part of St Thomas’ for 10 years, I have been raised up in the prophetic and had a chance to work out what prophecy looks like in my life. I’ve been to prophetic events and loved them, but I’ve never had the chance to run one myself, since there were always other people to head them up. Coming to Wadsley, I saw that there was both space and hunger for prophecy, so I figured I may as well run a prophecy evening and see how it goes!

The aim of the night:

One of the most inspiring things at Wadsley is seeing how everyone is so quick to serve and be God’s hands and feet. However, sometimes it’s really important to take a step back and rest in whom God is, and who we are in Him. My aim for the evening was to have a place where people could come, rest, be restored, and tune into what God is saying in an unpressurised environment.

What I actually did:

I wanted the night to be accessible to everyone, so I tried to find activations that allowed people to engage at whatever level they wanted. This is what the night ended up looking like…
1. Firstly, we started off with worship and praising God; resetting our gaze on Jesus.
2. I then put on a quiet CD and read out passages in the Bible, rereading and stressing parts Holy Spirit highlighted to me. Everyone soaked and simply rested in God’s truths.
3. After that, I handed out pens and paper, and we wrote out a letter of thankfulness to God. The letter started “Jesus, I am thankful for…”
After we wrote that, I asked people to listen to God, and then write His reply to our own letter. I asked the question, “Jesus, what are you saying to me?” and then people wrote, in 1st person, God’s reply.
4. Finally, before the event I had printed off lots of pictures of nature that I found on the Internet. I spread the pictures out on the floor, and put people into pairs. I invited people to quietly look at all the pictures, and then ask God which picture He wanted them to give to their partner. They then did this along with a little explanation as to why they chose that picture and what they thought God was saying.

Here are some of the pictures I printed off and used…

Initial feedback from the event:

In the end, about 10 people came, which in perspective is one seventh of the church… Not bad considering I did an awful job at publicising it! I haven’t had a good chance to ask people’s thoughts on the evening in depth as it only happened yesterday, but as everyone left they all seemed really grateful to have time to rest and listen to God. Some of the older generation commented on really loving the Bible reading and soaking time.

My thoughts on how the night went: 

Personally, the most encouraging part of the night was the last activation. Watching everyone prophesy over each other and share what they felt God was saying struck a really deep part of my heart. Hearing God for ourselves is amazing, and I love listening to what He wants to say to me. Yet I find that when we step out and speak His truth into each other’s lives, we manifest the most powerful part of God- we manifest His voice. We aren’t just listening to His voice; we’re speaking His voice. So for me, I loved watching that take place. It was such a simple exercise, and so easy to do, but God spoke so powerfully through it.

Tips and lessons learnt:

My biggest learning curve was to realise that this night had nothing to do with me. Yes, I was running it, so in that way I had a responsibility, but it was 100% up to God to show up. Realising and accepting that was equally humbling and freeing!
Looking back in terms of practicalities, I would have publicised the night a lot better than I did: making posters; giving notices in church; just making sure everyone knew about it. I opened this night up to the whole church, but it worked perfectly with 10 people and so would easily work within a small group or a missional community.
Finally, I found that releasing people to engage at their own level made the night so much more accessible and peaceful. Of course, there is a time to press in and stretch ourselves, but this night wasn’t about that, it was about resting and reconnecting with God.

 

We hope that Lucy’s experience has encouraged, inspired, and challenged you to step out in the prophetic in your own churches and communities!

Many blessings from all of us at Accessible Prophecy.

 

My Time at Accessible Prophecy

 

Our lovely intern Joanna left the Accessible Prophecy team in the summer after two wonderful years. We really miss her but are thrilled that she is doing so well in her new job at Land Rover. Here are her reflections on her time with us:

Just under two years ago, I chose to give a day a week to Accessible Prophecy. In the beginning I had no idea what this would look like, but I was excited for the opportunity to grow in the prophetic myself, to help others grow in the prophetic, and to be invested in by Cath.

To begin with, I found the internship quite difficult. Nearly all of my time was spent in the office, doing various admin tasks and supporting Cath in all of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ work that I had never even considered had to take place in order for a ministry to grow. Quite a bit of this work was initially quite tedious and boring; however I persevered because God had given me a heart for the work that Cath and Accessible Prophecy was doing. I think during those first few months, my servant-heart grew as I learned how to serve well, and to do it lovingly rather than with bitterness or annoyance. It is many of these ‘boring’ bits that, although were done out of serving, have actually really served me now, as I was able to put them on my CV and get myself a job! Two years down the line these tedious tasks don’t feel tedious anymore, they’re just things that need to be done in order for the ministry to run, and therefore I do them because I am able to look at the bigger picture of Accessible Prophecy, and know that I’m making a difference to people’s lives through doing them.

Alongside these more tedious serving tasks, I was also given the opportunity to do some things I loved. I’ve designed some leaflets, made videos, taken photographs, gathered testimonies and written and edited blogs. I’ve enjoyed doing these things, as I love being creative, sharing God’s heart, and building relationships. I was also very involved in the organisation and running of events and learning communities. As someone that loves organising things, (particularly social events!!), this was really good fun and it was great to be able to use some of my skills to bless Cath and take some of the responsibilities she doesn’t enjoy off of her shoulders! Also, I was able to make and develop relationships with amazing people all over the country (and beyond) who had hearts to see their communities and churches all hearing from God.

Over these two years I’ve also been greatly challenged and stretched as I have stepped out in prophesying over people on stage at events, given testimonies in front of large groups of people, begun to teach people to prophesy for the first times and also started a prophetic missional community in Sheffield. I’ve been and spoken at a variety of events now with Cath and the team at workshops, seminars, learning communities and even New Wine in the Netherlands! I am so thankful for these opportunities, and for me they have definitely been the most exciting and stretching parts of my internship!

It’s very bizarre to write down what it is I’ve been doing for the past two years. That last paragraph looks pretty impressive when you read it, and it has been a massive privilege to do those things, but the most important thing about my time at Accessible Prophecy, and in anything, has to be my relationship with God. Yes I’ve had some absolutely amazing times on the team, helping people to grow in the gift of prophecy and speaking at events, and yes I’ve had some rather boring days where things just needed to get done, which have helped give me experience to get a job, but ultimately, it all has to come back to Jesus.

So what have I learnt about God since being at Accessible Prophecy? Firstly, I now know fully and wholeheartedly that God loves to speak to everyone – no really, everyone! The amount of people who have said to us, “I never thought I could hear from God before, but now I can!” or, “You’ve really helped demystify prophecy for me, now I know I can do it,” is incredible! God loves to speak to all of his children, and I’ve seen hundreds of people experience that for the first time. God is good and he loves to speak to us.

Secondly, I’ve learnt how to have, and act with, a servant-heart. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hype and in the big picture of something, forgetting about all the little tedious jobs that need doing. It’s so easy to just want to do the ‘good-stuff’ like speaking at events or prophesying over people, because the big picture is very exciting! However, over these past two years I’ve learnt that in order to get to the bigger exciting picture, all the little things need to be done first, not only because they need doing, but to humble myself, and to serve those that need serving.

Thirdly, I’ve learnt how important it is to learn from those further on in the journey than you, to be invested in, and to be a part of a wider ‘family’ that support, encourage, train and invest in you. Cath and the wider 3dm Europe team have really kept me grounded in God over these past two years. I have been surrounded by people that love God and I have been able to join in the 3dm ‘family’. This has meant socials, food, games, and Christmas parties that have been a lot of fun. But the best part has been being able to witness the lives of these people: Cath, Rich, Anna, John, Si, Pip, Andrea, (and everyone else!) – to see how they live, and to witness how they live their lives like Jesus would if he were them. Not only have I seen this, but also I’ve been able to be a part of their lives, and they’ve shown me how to do it for myself. This gave me and my husband the confidence to start a missional community, because we had seen 3dm Europe demonstrate a family on mission so incredibly well, that we knew we could do it too!

I am so thankful for the time I have had with Accessible Prophecy and 3dm Europe. It’s helped me to build strong foundations on which I can live the rest of my life. It’s helped me to grow in the gift of prophecy, in teaching, in admin, in events management, in confidence, and in my identity. But most importantly, being an intern for Accessible Prophecy and in the family of 3dm Europe, has helped me grow closer to living a life like Jesus would if he were me, and it’s taught me how to love and serve his Kingdom. It’s really hard to leave Accessible Prophecy, because it’s something I know God called me into, so it’s hard to now have Him call me out of it when it’s so good! But I’m also excited for this next season, being in a full-time job and in the world, being a light to people that don’t know Jesus yet.

Prophecy and Words of Knowledge

This blog is written by John White on some of his thoughts and observations on words of knowledge, and follows on from his previous blog on prophecy and tongues, which you can read here.

Scott Bader-Saye in his book “Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear” writes: “I used to think that the angels in the Bible began their messages with “Do not be afraid” because their appearance was so frightening. But I have come to think differently. I suspect that they begin this way because the quieting of fear is required in order to hear and do what God asks of us. Fear makes it difficult to replace Jesus’ ethic of risk with an ethic of security. In the end, following Jesus requires that we step out “into faith’s daring””.

God has given us amazing spiritual gifts, but to use these gifts, we have to quieten fear and step out into faith’s daring. This stepping out in faith can be a real challenge, especially when it comes to words of knowledge. Have I truly heard a word of knowledge from God? And what if the word is claimed by someone in the gathering? And what happens if nothing happens when the condition to which the word of knowledge refers is prayed for?

In my experience, there is a tendency in church circles to ask for words of knowledge before a church meeting, and then to hunt around in the gathering for a home for them! My desire is to see a sharpening up in accuracy and clarity in words of knowledge. It is about stepping out more and more into faith’s daring.

Here are some definitions of prophecy:

James Ryle: “Prophecy expresses the heart of God through the words of man to a person/group in any given situation for the purpose of building up in faith.”

John Wimber: “It is the supernatural ability to speak the mind of God on a given subject at a given time by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”

Wayne Grudem: “Telling something that God has spontaneously brought to mind.”

Mike Bickle: “Prophecy is the testimony of Jesus’ heart for His people.”

Words of revelation (prophecy, words of knowledge, tongues/interpretation) open people’s eyes and ears to God.

A word of knowledge is information given supernaturally by the Holy Spirit. It may relate to past or present circumstances. The word points to what the Lord wants to do for someone, sometimes uncovering hidden causes underlying presenting symptoms in the person’s body or life. As with prophetic words and pictures, words of knowledge show the recipient that God knows and loves them (cf. John 4:16-19, 29, 39). Recipients are encouraged to request or open up to ministry when they would not otherwise have done so. They can have a powerful effect when praying with non-believers, as they encounter the power and presence of God in a non-religious way.

Words of knowledge can come in a number of ways. They can be thoughts or impressions. They can be stationary or moving pictures. They can come as sensations in the body, where there were none previously.

We may see the word of knowledge, either as a picture, vision or dream of a body, situation or incident.

We may read the word of knowledge, as a word or words superimposed over a person’s face or body.

We may hear the word of knowledge, either audibly or in our mind’s ear.

We may know the word of knowledge, experiencing a certainty in our spirit, or a sense of power in our body, or physical sensations (for example, heat, heaviness or tingling on our hands, showing that we should lay our hands on the person to whom the word of knowledge is spoken).

We may feel the word of knowledge as a strange or unaccustomed pain in our body where none was previously experienced.

We may say the word of knowledge spontaneously, speaking it out without previous thought or intention.

With the exception of personal and private tongues, the exercise of spiritual gifts requires public risk. So, how do you know if the words of knowledge are right?

It may sound obvious, but there is only one way – speak the words out and use what you have been shown. There must be humility, wisdom, love and gentleness shown. I think that it is so important for Christians to ask God for His permission to share or speak out words of revelation (prophecies and words of knowledge). Christians never gossip; they just share! It is so easy to blurt things out immediately; but sometimes it is best to wait for and discern the right time and occasion for the word spoken out or shared. Great care is required over sensitive issues. We can so easily underestimate the effect and power of receiving words of knowledge. If in doubt, stop. If in doubt, speak to a leader and check out the facts.

How do I get better at receiving words of knowledge? Jesus tells us to ask and it will be given (Matthew 7:7-11). I cannot emphasise enough the importance of expectation. We need to take every opportunity to exercise words of knowledge.

Expect God to give you words of knowledge. Ask God to give you more detail.

Expect words of knowledge to be specific. Too often, words are given that are very vague and general, that could apply to any number of different people in the gathering. I long to see specific and direct words of knowledge that there is no doubt within the gathering as to whom they apply. General words about, for example, someone struggling with back pain are not as powerful as a word about a slipped disc at L3/4 in the spine.

We all have our own spiritual vocabulary, through which God speaks to us in a way unique to our thinking, understanding and seeing. We need to ask God to grow our spiritual vocabulary, so that we can learn to hear and recognise His voice.

Paul writes in Philippians 4:8-9 – “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practise these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Also, in 1 Corinthians 2:16 – ““For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”

So as we step out in the exercise and use of spiritual gifts, we need to have a Christian mind, one that is capable of thinking God’s thoughts after him. This is a plea to use the whole of God’s counsel, to read, meditate and act on God’s Word, the Bible. Let God’s Word inform our minds as we step out in words of knowledge.

What is a Prophetic Culture?

One of the best parts of my job is that I get to work alongside many different churches and support them as they grow a healthy prophetic culture. I spend a lot of my time thinking, talking and writing about the kind of prophetic culture that will bring tremendous blessing to God’s people – and have an impact on the world around us. Prophecy is great! It’s one of the most important gifts God has given his church. And it is certainly within reach of every church to develop a healthy and mature prophetic culture. But what exactly do we mean by this?

A prophetic culture is not primarily about structures and activities, but is about values and principles. To be strategic in growing such a culture it’s important to address issues of culture before structure.

A healthy and biblical prophetic culture is going to have these key hallmarks:

  1. Word and Spirit

To grow a holistic prophetic culture, both Word and Spirit need to be encompassed, so that there is healthy engagement with both the Bible and the person of the Holy Spirit. People need to understand how the two interact with each other and how we should grow in engagement with both of them.

  1. Discipleship and Accountability

A prophetic culture needs to be grounded in a culture of discipleship and accountability, where everyone knows that their primary calling and identity is that of a disciple. Discipleship is at the very heart of our Christian faith. It’s about choosing to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, hearing him and obeying him.

A discipleship culture is one where we regularly ask ourselves, “What is God saying to me and what am I going to do about it?” – and where we are accountable to others about the answers to these two key questions.

  1. Community

A prophetic culture also needs to be grounded in community. This is the crucial lens through which we must always view prophetic gifts, and as we look at the New Testament model of prophecy we see that its true home is a healthy, thriving community of God’s people. Prophecy is not designed to exist in a vacuum.

Prophetic ministry that is grounded in community will counteract the consumer tendencies inherent in society, because the focus naturally shifts to the community hearing God together, rather than it all being about a few individuals. The more we practice listening to God together, in our local expressions of church, the more we will take on the identity of the flock of Jesus hearing him corporately, with everyone having a valid contribution to make.

A thriving Christian community is one made up of all ages, and one of the best ways to grow a healthy prophetic culture is to release the children and teach them how to prophesy. In fact kids generally find it much easier to hear God’s voice because they tend to have much less emotional ‘baggage’ to get in the way. We recently had all the children praying and prophesying over the adults at the end of a Sunday service, which was a blessing to all concerned, and a great picture of community coming together to engage with God.

  1. Rooted in the Father’s love

A healthy prophetic culture will be one where people are secure in the love of their heavenly Father and their identity as children of God. As we seek to develop prophetic ministry in our churches it’s vital that the foundations of this ministry are a deep understanding of the Covenantal relationship that God calls us into. We can live our lives in the knowledge that the most loving, kind and generous person we will ever meet is extending his arms to us and constantly watching over us. In this relationship we experience amazing love, acceptance and forgiveness; all of our needs for affirmation and approval are met; we know that God is pleased with us.

As we journey deeper into Covenant we find the antidote for legalism and striving. We can’t strive to hear our Father’s voice – we only hear him from a place of love, rest and security.

  1. Expectancy

To grow a thriving and effective prophetic culture it’s important that we become expectant and confident that God will speak to us if we ask him to. This is not about a few faith-filled individuals, but about a community that expects to hear God’s voice. It’s about a corporate attitude of expectancy. Too often the reason we are not seeing the Kingdom of God break out in our midst with signs and wonders is because we’re not actually expecting God to do much, and we’re certainly not putting ourselves in the place where we really need God to speak. As Graham Cooke writes,

Expectancy is the lifeblood of moving in the Spirit.”

  1. Multiplication

One of the things that excites me most about a mature prophetic culture is that it is multipliable: it reproduces itself. We first of all have to demystify the prophetic and make it accessible for everyone. To effectively multiply prophetic ministry we need to do it in such a way so that others can imitate us. We have to give people a framework to climb on. So this means not just doing ministry at the front of church, but being close enough to people so that they can see how it works in our lives on a day-to-day basis. It means inviting people to come and join in with us.

  1. Mission

A mature prophetic culture will always have a strong outward dimension. It sees prophecy as a gift not just to be kept within the confines of the church, but one to be taken outside the church walls, and to be used as an effective tool in evangelism. As we learn to hear and communicate God’s will and intention, his Spirit will always be directing us out into the world. As our spiritual hearing becomes clearer and sharper we will inevitably find ourselves tuning in to the missional heartbeat of God and speaking his words of life to people.

I lead a local huddle with five members of my church, and in this huddle I see the microcosm of a thriving, dynamic prophetic culture:

  • Joanna and Shaun lead a missional community that is focussed on the area of Hillsborough. They are committed to building a community that is confident in the use of prophetic gifts to the extent that these gifts can be taken out into Hillsborough and used to reveal the goodness and love of God to people.
  • Tony is working alongside one of Sheffield’s ‘Healing on the Streets’ teams and regularly goes out on the streets to share words of life with passers-by.
  • John is a talented artist and paints prophetic picture  in response to what God is saying to us as a church. These wonderful paintings are a visual aspect of the worship life of our church.
  • Joanne helps leads the Prophetic Welcome team at church. Once a month a trained team welcome people as they walk into church by giving them prophetic words

All five are being regularly discipled through my huddle and are motivated by a desire to serve the church and extend the Kingdom through the prophetic gifts God has given them. They are also committed to the principle of multiplication and are regularly investing in others.

Tongues & Prophecy: Speaking to God and to Others

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”550px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]At Accessible Prophecy, we want to see all people blessed with the gifts of the Spirit. Although we primarily focus on prophecy and hearing from God, we also believe there are many other gifts available to all of us. In this blog, John White writes for us on 1 Corinthians 14 and his experiences with the gift of tongues.[/dropshadowbox]

The church in Corinth was out of order. Everyone did and spoke “what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Paul had no alternative but to write a letter (1 Corinthians) correcting the excesses in the use and practice of spiritual gifts. He is concerned that “all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40).

Speaking at each other. Speaking over each other. But there is a way out of this chaos and confusion in the Corinthian church.  It is the way of love, and Paul sandwiches this “excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31) in chapter 13 between teaching on spiritual gifts and the body of Christ in chapter 12 and the right use of spiritual gifts in chapter 14.

 1 Corinthians 13:1-2 – “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

gong-11484_1280So here then in these verses is the root of the problem that Paul is addressing. During public worship, one group were speaking out in tongues like noisy gongs and clanging cymbals, and, at the same time, another group, because of their understanding of all mysteries and knowledge, were speaking out prophetic revelation. Both groups lacked love and consideration for others in the congregation. Each group was trying to ‘out-spiritual’ the other group. Speaking louder to drown out others? Claiming that they were more spiritual because of their understanding of mysteries and knowledge? Pride and selfishness – what a toxic mix! It was a mess. It was noisy. It was selfish. It was about speaking at each other. It was not the “more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31).

Instead of speaking tongues and prophecy at each other, the Corinthians were to be shown the more excellent way, namely the way of love, with those speaking in tongues speaking to God, and those speaking out a prophecy speaking to an individual or to a group of people. The gift of tongues is about speaking to God; the gift of prophecy is about speaking to others.

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”550px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Spiritual gifts are gifts of grace, given to serve others and not to achieve personal status. They are not earned by human merit or allocated by human choice. It would seem that the exercise of the spiritual gifts in the Corinthian was more about status than service.[/dropshadowbox]

Let me look at the gift of tongues. There are three situations in which the gift is exercised, namely a tongue in public worship that is unintelligible to both the speaker and the hearers, a tongue that is unintelligible to the speaker but is understood by someone present in the gathering, and finally a tongue that is expressed in private. Privately, tongues can be used at anytime anywhere. Publicly, tongues occur as and when the Holy Spirit anoints a speaker. But, in either case, tongues increase a greater awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence. Paul writes in Ephesians, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (6:18). Tongues are used for prayer and intercession (Romans 8:26), and for spiritual warfare.

SW_PaulFilitchkin3The gift of tongues is a language directed to God. It is a language of prayer and praise. If an unintelligible tongue is spoken out publicly in a gathering, the tongue requires an interpretation, which should also be directed towards God in prayer or praise. In my experience, some interpretations of a tongue in a public gathering are more about encouraging the gathering, rather than about praying to and praising God. Perhaps, service leaders should be more confident in waiting for the right interpretation to be given. The gift of tongues is a Godward gift, praying to and praising God.  Prophecy, on the other hand, is directed towards men and women, bringing what’s on the mind and heart of God to an individual or to a group of people.

Some are quick to label the gift of tongues as the least of all the gifts by virtue of it being the last in the list. Last in a list doesn’t necessarily mean the least. Paul’s well-known list in chapter 13 has love listed last after faith and hope (13:13). Love is quite definitely not the least, because Paul writes that “the greatest of these is love” (v.13).

I was once praying with a man who had a serious problem with his leg. After a while, I began to pray in tongues. He and his wife suddenly started to laugh as I was praying. They asked me if I had ever visited Saudi Arabia or whether I spoke Arabic. I answered no. He and his wife had spent some time living in the Middle East. Apparently, as I was praying in tongues for the man’s leg to be healed, I was actually speaking in Arabic for God to heal his leg! Amazing! So encouraging for the man!

Personally, I find that there is a coming together of tongues and prophecy when I minister. Praying in tongues before I minister prophetically is about my ministering to God, of praising and adoring him. It is about preparing my heart, and my spirit. It is about increasing my awareness of the presence of God. So, I find it really helpful to pray in tongues before prophesying (often under my breath). There can be occasions when our human language fails us as we seek to pray to and praise God. We cannot find the words that adequately express our deepest cries of the heart. Paul writes in Romans,

“… the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (8:26-27).

The gift of tongues is about praying with our spirits rather than with our minds. It helps to strengthen us spiritually. Tongues are immediate and obvious, suggesting something has happened – an encounter with God and his presence and power. And therein lies the issue with tongues.

stress-543658_640Over the years, I have prayed for many people to receive the gift of tongues. We underestimate the stress and anxiety people feel when they come forward to receive the gift. More often than not, they walk away, blessed with having met with God, but not actually being released into speaking in tongues.

I can remember once running a discipleship course. On the particular evening, I was teaching on spiritual gifts, and felt that it was right to pray for people to receive tongues. I mentioned that in my experience God often released tongues when we are at our most relaxed. I said to the group that the process of coming forward to the front of a meeting is not relaxing. It is stressful. It’s a going-through-the-motions of potentially yet another occasion when nothing happens.

I suggested that God sometimes releases this gift when we are relaxed. Yes, there are times and places where God does release the gift in worship settings. One place where we are most relaxed is in our bath at home. I said that I would pray for everyone, and so, after praying for the Spirit to come upon the group, I told the group that they should go home and expect God to fill them with his Spirit and to be released into speaking in tongues as they relax at home.

One person at the meeting was so angry at my offer to pray for people that she stormed out of the building.

The following week I asked the group for any testimony or feedback from the previous week’s prayer ministry. This particular person stood up and told the group that she had been very angry with me the previous week. She had almost lost count of the number of times she had gone forward to receive tongues. But she had never been released into speaking in tongues. Hearing her speak, I was reminded me of the words from Proverbs 13:12 – “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”.

sleep-330869_640By her own account, she was in a bad mood when she got home. She went to bed, and at 3am, she woke up and, to her absolute amazement, found herself speaking in tongues. After a while, she suddenly jumped out of bed and started to go to the bathroom, because in all the confusion and amazement and sleepiness, she thought that I had said that you needed a bath to be released into speaking in tongues! Fortunately enough, she realised quite quickly that by lying in her bed she was very relaxed. She didn’t need to run a bath! She got back into bed and went back to sleep.

I suspect that tongues has become an issue, not just because it has been used to define an institution, but because its presence, or more accurately its absence, leads to insecurity and anxiety. Am I truly born again? Does the Spirit live within me? We are desperate for to know for sure that the Spirit has filled us with his presence and his power. Because speaking in tongues is so obviously different to our normal speech, we can feel threatened and anxious about our failure to speak in tongues. In our insecurity, we compare ourselves with those who do speak in tongues and feel like second-class spiritual citizens, resulting in our hearts becoming harder and harder with each succeeding disappointment. Some have even required the speaking in tongues to be a key factor in becoming members of their institution.

We need to rediscover and to practise a right practice of tongues and prophecy within public worship (1 Corinthians 14). We need to expect these gifts to be part of our experience of worship: tongues with the focus on God and prophecy with its outward focus on the individual or a group of people. Faith is required in the exercise of all the spiritual gifts. In our public expression of tongues, in our private expression of tongues, in the prophetic word given out in our gatherings, or to individuals, may we grow in faith as we step out in other spiritual gifts.

 1 Corinthians 14:1-5 – “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.”

 

 

 

How to Grow in the Gift of Prophecy (Prophetic Activations)

Together with my husband and a couple of friends, I lead a missional community called Navi. One of the visions for our community is that everyone in it will learn to hear from God for themselves, for each other, and for people we meet on the street. We have a group of people who are all praying to hear God more and hear His voice more clearly, but who are very varied in their experience. follow-the-white-rabbitSome have been growing in the gift of prophecy for years, and others are at the very beginning of their journeys. Every other week when we meet together, we do something called a ‘Prophetic Activation’ to help us grow in the gift of prophecy.

It’s important once you have decided that you want to grow in the gift of prophecy and hearing God’s voice, and you have asked God for the gift to start listening. However, telling someone to ‘just listen’ isn’t very helpful if you’ve never done it before. Therefore, I have put together a list of ‘Prophetic Activations’ which we use in our missional community which will hopefully help you on your journey to grow in the gift of prophecy.

But firstly, what is a Prophetic Activation?

A Prophetic Activation is an exercise to help us grow in the gift of prophecy by practicing. Activations aim to help us learn how God speaks to us, and how to decipher when it’s God speaking and not our own thoughts. This is one of the biggest battles we face when we begin to grow in the gift of prophecy- “How do I know it’s God speaking, and it’s not just me?” There is no simple answer to this- all we can do is practice. The more we step out in prophecy, the clearer God’s voice will become.

team-472488_1280It’s important that when you try these exercises, you try them in a small group of Christians who feel safe with one another. Make sure everyone knows that you’re allowed to get it wrong. The important thing here is not to get it right, but to move forward on our journey to getting it right. Learning from our mistakes help us on that journey, more so than always getting it right does!

Basic Activations- for beginners

  • Bible Character
    • Get into pairs. Ask God “which bible character is my partner like?” Who pops into your mind? Share with your partner whoever that character is. Now ask God, “why is my partner like that character?” Share again whatever pops into your mind about that bible character.
  • Fruit
    • Get into pairs. Ask God “what fruit is my partner like?” Whatever fruit pops into your mind, share that with your partner. Now ask God, “why is my partner like that piece of fruit?” Again, share with your partner whatever it is that pops into your mind. This one often makes people laugh as it feels silly. Laughter is a great way to relieve pressure and enjoy the process of learning.
  • Bible Verse
    • Get into pairs. Ask God “what bible verse/passage do you want to speak over my partner?” It’s likely that God will bring a few verses/passages/stories to mind that you know well. The better we know our bibles, the better we are likely to be at this activation. Share with your partner the verse that is on your mind for them. Don’t start preaching to them, or explaining what it means, but ask God what you think is significant about that passage for your partner in that moment.

These activations are purposed to help us get rid of some of the noise going on in our brains. Although limiting God to a piece of fruit may feel silly, it helps us to focus. After sharing with your partner, ask them what felt right and what felt wrong. It may be that you got it completely wrong! That’s absolutely fine. Keep praying, and keep trying. The more you get it wrong, the more you know what not to do.

Blind Activations

cute-15719_1280It’s often easy to ‘cheat’ at prophecy by using facial clues, or by going on knowledge that we already know about the person. This is often why it’s so difficult to prophesy over those closest to us, such as our spouse, because we know too much about them!  These next few activations are designed to help us be completely dependent on God, rather than what we already know. They also help us practice for when we prophesy over strangers, rather than those we know and feel safe with.

  • Blindfolded
    • Get into groups of between 3 and 8. Blindfold one person. Then, silently nominate one of the others in the group to be prophesied over. The blindfolded participant then asks God for a word for the nominated person, and shares it while still blindfolded.
  • Names in a hat
    • This works really well for a large group. Write your names on a slip of paper, then fold it up and put it in a hat. Mix them up! Now everyone takes out a slip of paper but they can’t look at the name on it yet. Ask God for a prophecy for the person on the slip of paper. God knows who it is, but we don’t! Now take it in turns to share the word you have. When you have said what the word is, open up your piece of paper. That’s who it was for- it could even have been your name on the paper meaning you have prophesied over yourself!
  • Prophecy Consequences
    • Get in a group of at least 6 in a circle. Everyone needs a piece of paper. Write your name at the top of the paper and then fold over so you can’t see your name, but there is the majority of the paper left unfolded. Now, collect all the pieces of paper together, shuffle them, and hand them out. Do not look at the name you are given. Next, ask God for a prophecy for that person- whatever comes to mind is fine. Write it down underneath the fold, and then fold over what you have just written. Then pass this piece of paper to the person on your right. Continue asking God for prophecies for each of the pieces of paper you are given, until you run out of space on the paper. Now unfold the paper and hand it to the person on the top.

These activations are great practice for when you go out on mission and know nothing about the person you are walking up to. The final two can also help us to prophesy over ourselves without even knowing it. This can be very encouraging as often we are braver with prophesies over other people, than hearing God for ourselves. I remember one lady prophesying that the person was a great leader, to then find she’d spoken over herself something she never would have said otherwise. It was a very powerful moment!

God Speaks in Different Ways

candy-171343_1280So far, you may have found some of these activations easier than others- that’s because we are all different and God speaks to us all in our own language and ways we understand. The following activation aims to help you understand in what way you find it easiest to hear from God, and to help you grow in the other ways.

  • Word/Picture/Bible Verse/Sense
    • Get into groups of 4. Name yourselves A, B, C and D. A asks God for a word for B. B asks God for a picture for C. C asks God for a bible verse for D. D asks God for a sense/feeling for A. Spend some time listening to God and then share with each other. Then swap who is doing what. A asks God for a picture for B etc.

I find it easiest to hear God through pictures, however it’s really important that I don’t limit God to this. You may also find one easiest, which is brilliant, but make sure you are also practicing the other ways as we don’t want to miss anything God says to us. You may also find that each of these ways (word, picture, sense etc.) feed into each other; it can be difficult to separate them. Don’t worry too much, just give it a go!

 

I hope these prophetic activations help you on your journey to grow in the gift of prophecy. They have definitely helped me on my journey, and are also helping those in our missional community to step out and listen too.

If you are finding it difficult to find people to do these with, but want to grow personally in the gift of prophecy, you may consider joining one of our skype coaching huddles. Read more about those here.