Creative Ways to Hear God

The God we love and worship is a communicating God. All the way through scripture he is speaking; whether through creation, supernatural encounters, dreams, or directly through his voice. The promise for the New Covenant people of God is of unrestricted access to the Father’s presence through the work of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth who searches out the deep things of God and makes them known to us (1 Corinthians 2:10-12).

As followers of Jesus we need to pay close attention to what he says in John 10:27:

         My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.

Every Christian can learn to know and listen to God’s voice; the promise of Jesus is for all of us. But to grow in our ability to hear God requires active engagement and intentional pursuit. In a world full of competing voices and a myriad of distractions we have to take the time to create the space and to learn the disciplines that will help us tune in.

As we look ahead into this new year, it’s helpful to consider what rhythms and practices will help us to connect with God’s voice and develop a listening lifestyle. Finding a more creative way to tune in will help many of us to re-boot our devotional times. What active steps do you need to take this year so that you are intentionally listening to God?

Here I’m sharing a few suggestions with you that I hope you find helpful, regardless of where you are on your prophetic journey.

Scripture  This is a wonderful place to start. God speaks to us in many ways through scripture, whether through careful study or through the Holy Spirit leading us to specific verses or passages. Whenever we are praying for someone it’s good to ask God if there is a Bible verse that he wants to encourage them with.

At the start of this year I spent some time asking God what the key verses were going to be for me this year. I’ve printed them off, stuck them above my desk and am in the process of memorising them. I’m expectant that God will be speaking to me through them over the next 12 months.

My friend Nathan recently shared with me three questions that he asks God when he reads a passage from the Bible, as a way of hearing God’s voice in the words he is reading. I really like them because they encourage us to be actively listening to God in whatever part of the Bible we’re reading:

  • How can I worship God from this?
  • How can I receive God’s love from this?
  • How can I minister in love out of this?

Find your ‘thin place’ for this year  We can hear God anywhere. In our homes, workplaces, schools, gardens, on top of a mountain, or in the middle of a supermarket. But for most of us there will be a special place or context where we find it easier to tune in to God’s voice. Perhaps it’s a favourite beach or coffee shop, or a quiet room at home. The ancient Celtic Christians used the idea of ‘thin places’ – places where God’s presence seems especially close and accessible.

For me, at the moment, my ‘thin place’ is sitting on a bench in the greenhouse at the bottom of the garden, usually with a thick coat and a cup of tea! During December I carved out at least 20 minutes from my schedule most days and went and sat there in God’s presence with my journal. It’s become a place to encounter God’s peace and quiet whispers, and hear him speak into my life in fresh ways.

I’d encourage you to ask God what special place he has got for you in the year ahead, and then prayerfully put some times in your diary to visit that place as often as you can.

Art  You don’t have to be especially artistic to learn to hear God through activities like drawing and painting. One idea that I like, and which friends of mine use, is to put some worship music on, get out some paper and pens/paints, and then allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you as you draw or paint something. It may be simple colours and patterns, or it may be a more representational prophetic picture. Whatever images you create, enjoy collaborating with the Holy Spirit in producing something that helps you (or someone else) tune into God’s voice and heart.

Nature  I think we’d all agree that getting out in nature – whether that’s fields, hills, water, or just our own garden – can be a great way to connect with God and hear his voice. But to what extent are we doing this purposefully and intentionally? How often are we slowing down enough to really look for the revelation of God in the wonder of the natural world around us? It’s good to get into the habit of asking the Lord, “How are you speaking to me today through the beauty of the created world?” and then pause long enough to hear the answer.

Psalm 19 reminds us that God is continually speaking through his creation:

         The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.

Take some time to get out into your garden or the local park and let the Spirit draw you to something he wants to show you, perhaps a leaf or the pattern of clouds in the sky. Be fully present in the moment and listen to the still small voice.

Ask for dreams  The Bible has many stories about God speaking to people in dreams, and with the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost came the promise that Your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams… Of course, you don’t have to be an old man to receive prophetic dreams! I know people of all ages who hear God regularly through their dreams.

I don’t have many prophetic dreams myself, but I’m increasing challenged that I can actively seek more of them, by praying for them each night before I go to sleep: “Lord, thank you that you love to speak to me. Holy Spirit, as I sleep tonight, would you bring the presence and the revelation of the Father and speak deep into my spirit? Please speak to me through my dreams.”

 

My prayer for all of you reading this is that 2018 will be a year of increasing revelation and clearer hearing. Remember that it’s the Father’s delight to speak to you; you simply have to create the space and patterns in your life to properly tune in.

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.

 

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””.

wanderer-4114_1280God 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.

man-407083_1280A 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?

old-friends-555527_1280It 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

hand-453220_640To 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

friends-581753_1280A 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

boy-373441_640A 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

hare-595136_640One 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.
  • johnrainfordJohn is a talented artist and paints prophetic picture (such as this one) 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.

Prophecy: A Covenant and Kingdom Perspective Part 2

Last month I blogged on “Rooting the Prophetic in Covenant” by adapting a chapter from my new book which is to be published later this year. You can read that blog by clicking here. This month is part two of “Prophecy: A Covenant and Kingdom Perspective” and looks at the importance of a kingdom mindset in regards to the gift of prophecy.

What is Kingdom?

The theme of Kingdom is the other great thread that runs through the whole of the Bible, and whereas Covenant is all about relationship, Kingdom is about responsibility.

Covenant draws us deep into the Father’s love whereas Kingdom sends us out from that place to, quite simply, change the world.

It’s important that Covenant comes first: otherwise we become driven, legalistic and task-focused. But without a deep understanding of Kingdom we will see little breakthrough and will be a people full of unfulfilled potential.

Kingdom is about the responsibility God gives to those with whom he has established a Covenant. It is about representing the King and taking the responsibility to act on his behalf and extend his Kingdom.

Kingdom and Prophecy

moRKKPGA Kingdom perspective brings great balance, and a necessary outward momentum, to prophetic ministry. There is a tendency for prophetic people to be quite content remaining in their prayer closets, happily pouring out their love and adoration to God, enjoying his presence. Which is all well and good, apart from the obvious lack of engagement with the world around them. This is where Kingdom comes in. Whereas Covenant is all about stepping back, and resting in the Father’s love, Kingdom brings motivation to step out in the prophetic. It makes prophecy active, dynamic and forward moving.

The Kingdom dimension of prophecy begins with us really understanding who the King is:

Jesus is the name above all names and all authority in heaven and in earth has been given to him (Matthew 28:18).

We can have great confidence in this. When we have a revelation of Jesus as the King of Kings, who has defeated even death, that revelation should increase our faith in the authority with which he speaks. When we hear his voice speaking into our lives we can know that his words are not weak and inconsequential – rather they have power to bring transformation.

  • God, what is your will in this situation?
  • God, where does your Kingdom need to be established in this situation?

Being able to look at the world and see where it needs to come into alignment with God’s Kingdom is helpful. One of the key roles of a prophet is to call things into alignment with God’s Kingdom. For example, to speak out about the injustice of poverty.

The Kingdom is about the King’s domain, and the more familiar we get with his domain, the more confidence we have to operate within it. As we get to know the nature of his rule, we can speak out aspects of the Kingdom with confidence and authority. As prophetic people we can look at the world and see where it needs to come into alignment with God’s Kingdom.

Prophecy and Kingdom in action

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As we learn how to operate in the gift of prophecy then our regular question should be, “How can I advance God’s Kingdom through this gift?” Thinking from a Kingdom perspective gives us a great sense of anticipation: that we can be about the business of the King and Kingdom – by doing something as simple as listening and speaking things out on his behalf.

The prophetic shows us where God is at work so that we can go and join in with him on Kingdom business. We know the Kingdom is at hand (Mark 1: 15), so let’s engage with the discipline of asking the Lord to show us. In every situation, and with everyone we meet, we can pray for eyes to see his Kingdom, and pray for further Kingdom breakthrough.

Representing the goodness, kindness and generosity of God is a key part of the calling of a prophet. As prophetic people, we have a responsibility to hear God’s voice and to channel his living word to those who need to hear it. We are called to live a generous lifestyle because we represent the King, and the King is very generous. Therefore it is important for us to be generous with what we have been freely given. Most of us will think this way in terms of money already (by tithing, for example.) However it is also important to be generous with our spiritual gifts as well as physical and financial gifts.

Testimony

Here is a testimony written by Joanna who has recently been learning to live with a kingdom mindset with her gift of prophecy.

“Having both a covenant and kingdom mind-set is relatively new to me. Three years ago I thought only of kingdom and little of covenant. However after learning about both, I now have switched and seem to operate far more in covenant than I do in kingdom. I have become very comfortable in the mind-set that I am God’s daughter and He is my Daddy and loves to give me good gifts. But, I have become too comfortable. I may well be hearing God for myself, however I am not using the gift of prophecy to bring God’s kingdom or to love strangers. I talked to Cath about it and she challenged me, asking what made me think this gift was just for me? This really challenged my way of thinking. Yes God will still love me if I say no to his calling on my life, He will never love me any more or less than he does today, no matter what I do or do not do. However, if I say yes to what God has on offer for me, how much could that gift bless other people and not just me? Am I being selfish by keeping this amazing gift to myself by saying no? Yes! God has offered me a gift which has the potential to massively bless people, and I believe he is giving me the opportunity to be a part of that blessing. I do not want to be selfish with the gifts God gives me, I want to be generous with the gifts I’m given, and I want to take responsibility for them. If God gave me £1000 and said it was for a certain charity, would I turn it down because the journey to give it was not easy? No, even if the journey was tough, I’d like to think I could be a channel for that money to be put to God’s use. In the same way, I need to take responsibility for the spiritual gifts God gives me which He has a plan for, God has generously given me the gift of prophecy, and therefore I need to be a channel for Him to use that gift for His intentions, His kingdom, His will and not mine.” Joanna Millward, Accessible Prophecy

  • Is there a challenge for you in this?
  • Are you asking God how to use your spiritual gifts to follow his will and bring His Kingdom?

Prophetic Dreams

Last month we posted the blog How Does God Speak? In which I interviewed various members of the 3dm Europe team to see how and where they personally hear from God. This month we are very excited to have a guest blogger, Anna Burgess, who has written this blog about her experience with prophetic dreams.

Does God talk to us in dreams today? 

Definitely! What’s more, in both Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17 we are told to expect God to speak in dreams as part of the Holy Spirit being poured out onto His people:

And afterwards, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. – Joel 2:28

But what if you never remember your dreams? How do you know if the dreams you do remember are from God or just a result of some funny cheese you ate last night?

Here are four keys for receiving and interpreting dreams from God:

1. Pray for dreams from God and believe!

How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’ – Luke 11:13

Maybe you already dream lots. Or perhaps, like my husband, you rarely remember one. I always dreamed a lot as a child, but I rarely remembered dreams beyond the first few moments of waking.  As an adult I received a prophecy that God would speak to me in dreams.  My husband wanted to take hold of that too, so we began praying that God would speak to us in dreams and that we would remember them! Suddenly, Mark began remembering a dream or two! There is definitely a correlation between the nights we pray for dreams and the nights we get dreams! Another part of believing is getting ready to…

2. Write them down

Ever woken up remembering a dream and five minutes later totally forgotten it? Not only does writing down a dream help you remember it, I have also found that it has helped me remember more of the dream, or other dreams I had that night.  It has also helped me interpret the dream.  If you don’t have time to write the whole dream down, just jot down a few key words to help remember it later.

mhYv4yAI think we assume that the dreams that are mentioned in the Bible were all incredibly vivid, accompanied by angels, a fanfare and lots of fuss to mark them as special dreams, but we don’t know that that was actually the case. Some of them may have just been ‘normal’ dreams that the receiver took seriously, even though they were rather weird.

Although I have had some particularly clear and vivid dreams, I have found God has spoken to me powerfully through ‘here-one-minute, gone-the-next’ dreams too, so writing them down has been very helpful in being able to discern whether a dream is from God or not and working out the interpretation. Which leads us onto…

3. Discerning the source of the dream:

‘Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God’ – 1 John 4:1

Just as prophecies can come from one of three sources – ourselves, God and the enemy, so can dreams.

DREAMS FROM THE ENEMY BRING FEAR; ARE OFTEN DARK, HOPELESS; AND MAY BE FULL OF TEMPTATION:

Nightmares are obvious examples, but I have also found the enemy send dreams about things going wrong or dreams to unsettle me about upcoming events which could easily be mistaken as ‘prophetic dreams’ until I look at the spirit of fear and hopelessness in them. Others may seem like they are from God, suggesting that you do something you want to do, but when you look at the spirit behind them, you realize they are a temptation to please yourself not God.

mBPRbtAIn contrast to the enemy’s dreams which are full of fear, I have had dreams where God has shown or told me about negative things that are going to happen, but there has always been a message of hope within the dream. For example, in one dream, God spoke to me and said ‘a time of persecution is coming, but I am going to use it to unite the team in prayer.’ I shared the dream with the team and we prayed together, and during that week several attacks occurred, including two of our team members being robbed at gunpoint. That week was obviously not pleasant, but it did unite us as a team in prayer and our team daily prayers are now central to our daily life.

DREAMS FROM OURSELVES CAN BE PROCESSING OF EVENTS AND TRAUMA, AS WELL AS REACTIONS TO THE ENVIRONMENT. THEY CAN HIGHLIGHT OUR OWN DESIRES AND FEARS:

Dreams can be our mind’s and spirit’s way of processing events and trauma, and can equally be stimulated by our environment. One night, for example, I dreamed about going to buy a thick winter coat, only to wake up and discover that Mark had taken all the bedcovers!

Although dreams that contain levels of stress and processing could be defined as soul dreams rather than dreams from God, they do often highlight areas of worry that I need to bring to God and process with Him, so they can also be helpful to look at too.

DREAMS FROM GOD MAY BE BRIGHT, FULL OF COLOUR, BRING HOPE, ACCOMPANIED BY A SENSE OF PEACE AND MAYBE WONDER:

mtJNRZMI have had dreams where I have seen amazing scenery or flowers in vivid colours I have never seen before – and those dreams have left me with a sense of wonder and longing for heaven, but they have been rare. Most of the dreams I have had from God have been opportunities for God to speak into situations I am currently facing, to bring fresh strategy to our team or to highlight bad attitudes in me. God has also used dreams to move me to pray.

I woke up one night after a dream about women trapped in sex trafficking against their will and had a real burden to pray for them.  God used the dream to help me identify with their plight and pray for them.

4. Ask the Giver of Dreams to help you interpret and apply your dreams:

‘Do not interpretations belong to God?’– Genesis 40:8

Our teammates Lili and Rosa both dream ‘literally’- God often shows them things that later take place. I am struggling to think of even one occasion where I have had a dream like that. Even the dreams where God has talked to me about things that are going to happen, an element of interpretation has been necessary.

So, as is often the case with God’s voice, we need to be aware of the elements of Revelation, Interpretation and Application. Firstly, God gives a revelation (a dream, picture, Bible verse, thought, feeling, etc.) and then comes the process of interpreting the revelation; finally we have to work out the application.

okY8y7kInterpreting dreams is a process which requires relationship with God. There is not a formula or a set dream dictionary that will tell you what your dream means. God desires to be in relationship with you and to help you interpret your dreams.

I have found, however, that God does seem to use a personal dream vocabulary that I understand more over time. My earthly father in my dreams, for example, sometimes represents my Heavenly Father. Who is driving a car in my dream is often important and connected with my family or ministry. The people in my dreams are often symbolic for the meaning of their name.  Numbers and colours have been important at times too – a spring green having represented a new thing, and numbers having represented days.

But things can change, and asking God to show you the interpretation and what you are meant to do with the interpretation (the application) is a process that requires a dialogue with God which may take some time, accountability and help from others.

When you next have a dream, why don’t you ask God first what it means before sharing it with a friend over lunch?

You might like to pray this prayer:

Lord, would You please give me dreams? Even tonight, Lord, would your Spirit give me dreams.  Would you help me to be faithful in writing down any dreams You give me, and would you also please help me interpret and apply them to my life.   Amen.

Anna Burgess lives in Lima, Peru with her husband Mark and three sons, Daniel (7), Joel (5) and Kaleb (2). Together they lead Oikos Ministries. Anna blogs at AnnaCBurgess.com

How does God speak?

The Bible teaches us that we can all hear from God, and we can all engage with the gift of prophecy. However, many of us get stuck thinking that we can’t hear from God because it looks different to someone else who we feel has a very prominent prophetic gift. The thing is, God created us all to be unique. This means that when he speaks to us, we hear Him in different ways and in different contexts.  To understand this better, this month we’ve interviewed a few different people who all hear from God, and asked them how and where they hear Him.

Cath Livesey

sheet music and earbud headphonesFor me the best context of hearing God is in worship. For my husband StJohn, a great context is going out for a walk with the dog. I hear God primarily through pictures, whereas StJohn hears God through a deep down knowing and sensing.”

Simon Ford

As an introvert the context that is important to me is having space to myself on my own. Quite often I will be reading the Bible and God will take me off into a rabbit hole. I’ll read a scripture and ask God what he’s saying. Often a particular sentence or a word or phrase will stick out to me. Then I might be reminded of another passage which relates to the first one, and maybe a few others after that and a certain theme will arise from what I have read. 

nJ6WQM4Another way I hear from God is if, say, I have had a conversation with someone and want to know what God is saying, I’ll sit on my own for five minutes afterwards and ask God what was significant about that conversation, and what I need to remember. Whatever of that conversation then comes to mind or feels significant is what I believe God is saying about it. 

When I get a prophetic word from God which I feel needs to be shared with someone, I basically start getting this download of language. As an introvert I can often struggle with turning my internal thoughts into spoken language. However, when I get a prophetic word, God gives me this stream of language which I have to quickly write down. I won’t have thought about it or have internally processed it as I do with all of my thoughts. I also don’t have to try at all to formulate the language; the prophetic word just seems to go through me as if I’m listening to someone else say it.”

Rich Robinson

I hear from God in a variety of ways. I think being an active person, with an active body and an active imagination; I generally struggle to sit still. So I generally do something around activity and nature. So going out for a walk or run helps me to have my body active but my mind at rest. Ironing is also a great place to hear God as it keeps my body active but gives my mind space to listen. So with a bit of worship on I might walk, run or iron so that I’m able to mentally settle while I’m physically active. Another way I do it is needing the noise and people, but also being able to be quiet. So sitting in a coffee shop I find very helpful as there is noise and people around me, but space to hear God.

mD7RmgsThe way I hear God is in a number of ways. One way is through the bible, I just read about different characters and or different books and just reflect on them, listening to what God says to me through that. I also like to journal, so having a conversation with the Lord. As an extrovert, writing out what I think helps me to feel like I’m having a two-way conversation with the Holy Spirit. I kind of work out what I think as I write it down as I talk to God. Also, just silence. The discipline of silence and stopping. Perhaps staring out the window or looking at a painting in a coffee shop. Just stopping and stilling my mind, listening and seeing what pops into my head or what I think of. Then I just journal that and let that train of thought of consciousness or unconsciousness disappear into what I think God is saying to me.

In terms of in relationship or in leadership, I’m always asking God ‘what are you saying to me about or for this person, or for this situation?’ I do that as a discipline before I go into meetings or when I find myself in conversation so that I don’t drift but make an active decision to listen. As an apostolic extrovert I have 101 words and ideas for every solution and circumstance so actively being made to listen and positioning myself in a way to listen I find really important. Rather than me initially responding out of my own good ideas, just listening and taking a moment to think. Often I’ll have 2 or 3 trains of thought in conversation so I settle on the one which I have a sense of peace about, which is what God is saying or what I feel God is calling us to do.

So it’s owning who I am, loud, active with good ideas and finding the Lord in the midst of that as well as embracing some of the shadow side of listening which isn’t natural to me.”

 Shaun Millward

I’ve found that God speaks to me in different ways depending on the situation.

For example, I was speaking to someone recently about how I hear from God when trying to making decisions for myself and how I have found that generally the way He will speak to me is through a sense and feeling of peace – I think this is often underrated as a way of hearing from God. When I have a decision to make, I will use the resources God has given me to make that decision, but I will also simply wait on God and see which option I feel the most peace about.

mgylgXKBut, when hearing God for other people, the way I tend to hear God is through pictures and visions (by which I simply mean pictures that move). I find it is easier for me with my eyes closed as I tend to get less distracted by everything else. The way that this happens is that a particular (and usually completely random) thing simply pops into my mind and because I’m a visual person I associate these things with images – it’s not a shocking, startling taking over your mind, extravagant kind of picture – it’s just a bit like if I said to you the word ‘boat’, you would see a boat in your mind. That’s how I see the pictures God gives me. They just pop into my mind”

Jacolien van den Steenhoven

When I want to hear God I do so in a context of rest. For me that can mean sitting on the couch and listening to worship music, or it can just mean being restful with my mind and focussing on Jesus. The funny thing is that’s not the only way I hear God. Sometimes when I’m active a name will pop into my head and that there’s something that God wants to say to them. This can happen when I’m standing in the shower, or when I wake up. It comes as just a sense that I want to pray for a certain person. When I get that sense and decide to pray for that person- that’s when I need rest and some time alone with God.

mEeoTVGGod speaks mainly through the Bible to me. Something may just pop up in my mind, a verse or a passage perhaps or maybe a biblical figure. I then like to wait for a day or so, take some time and see if it’s confirmed. If it is confirmed then I know it’s from God. When I have to pray for someone immediately, I can’t take time to wait for it to be confirmed, so it’s more like a step of faith- I just speak it out and see if it makes sense. But I like to wait for confirmation mostly as I’ve found it’s often more accurate and more timely for people.”  

What we can see from these interviews is that we all hear from God in different ways and in different contexts. Some of us may hear from God through pictures, others through a strong sense or gut feeling, and others through the Bible or even through other people. We also engage in prophecy in different spaces. You may find like Cath, you hear God best in worship, like Rich by doing something active such as going for a run, or maybe more like Simon, you hear God best when you’re on your own in quietness. However and wherever you hear from God, remember that your way of hearing Him is just as valuable as the way in which someone else hears from Him. God speaks to us in different ways because He has designed us all to be unique.

  • How and where do you hear from God?
  • If you’re not sure how best to hear from God for you, why not try exploring some of the ways demonstrated in this post?