Disqualified?

Our blog this month is written by Lucy Fardon who is part of the Accessible Prophecy team here in Sheffield.

‘“O Sovereign Lord” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”’ Jeremiah 1:7

I remember when I first read this line in the Bible. I immediately grabbed my blue highlighter pen; scribbling and underlining what summed up in a sentence a thought that had gnawed at me for a good many years. In my mind, my juvenile status limited me entirely when it came to speaking out what I thought God was saying. After all, He is 100% definitely and without a doubt going to speak to someone older and wiser and a lot more mature than me. Isn’t He?

I grew up in a lovely church, surrounded by a bucket load of lovely people all of whom encouraged me in my walk with Jesus and the adventure of learning to hear His voice. Therefore, as you can imagine, I’m struggling to see where and when this idea of ‘being too young for use’ crept into my heart. But regardless, it was there. The more I thought about it, the more I overthought it, and the more I overthought it, the more it dominated my vision, until I was convinced that if I ever dared to speak a prophetic word, I’d humiliate myself. It was basically the church version of the ‘get-to-school-with-no-trousers-on’ nightmare.

Anyway, back to Jeremiah. So as I’m sure you’re all aware, Jeremiah was one of the major Old Testament prophets, writing both Jeremiah and Lamentations. His prophetic ministry extended over 40 years, spanning the lives of five kings, the fall of Jerusalem and Judah, and the destruction of the Holy Temple- pretty hefty stuff to say the least. It is believed that when God first called him, he was 16. Sixteen! No wonder he felt inadequate. Yet God doesn’t let him stay in this inadequacy. Rather, He leads Jeremiah out of his doubts, in a practical and simple way.

What I love most about God’s response to Jeremiah is this kind, slow, parent-like nature in which He explains it to him.

“Look, Jeremiah. What do you see?”

“I see a branch from an almond tree”

“That’s right, and it means that I am watching, and I will certainly carry out all my plans.” Jeremiah 1:11-12

There is no complicated theology or complex theories, Jeremiah just looks out and names the first thing he sees- a branch. I always imagine a father and son from this dialogue, it’s such a lovely demonstration of a dad teaching his son how to look deeper. Step by step God takes what’s in front of Jeremiah and tells him what it means. The word for ‘almond tree’ written in Hebrew is almost identical to the Hebrew word meaning ‘my word will be fulfilled’. As Jeremiah steps out of his comfort zone and tunes into God’s voice, God affirms what he has heard is true, “That’s right”. Continually Jeremiah is told, “Do not be afraid of them” (vs 8 & 17), “I have made you strong” (vs 18), “For I am with you, and I will take care of you” (vs 19). To God, age was regardless. Jeremiah was willing to take leaps of trust, no matter how big or small, and so His heart was ready for God to use.

Now of course not everyone is going to have struggles with age. However, I think we can all fall into the trap of disqualifying ourselves from hearing God’s voice in one way or another. Maybe you doubt your ability to hear accurately, or perhaps you doubt God would even want to speak to you in the first place. But like most good and true things, prophecy at times can be something we must fight to take hold of. The enemy is all too aware of the freedom you will bring when you speak aloud the Truth, and so he works on trying to make those doubts louder than God’s voice. The best way I’ve found to silence the enemy in this situation is to work out what he’s saying. What are the lies you’re being told? Because once you know the lies, you can recognise them every time they come up, and you can replace them with a truth. “Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed”, Proverbs 12:19.

God is true and He is powerful, as is His word. If we go back to Jeremiah, when God asked him what he saw, God knew that Jeremiah’s eyes were fixed on Him hence why Jeremiah could interpret reality through heavenly eyes. Take your eyes off God for a moment and the perspective is shifted from a heavenly reality to an earthly reality, and when it comes to hearing God’s voice that shift makes an enormous difference. The more you see yourself as heaven does- as God’s kid- the more your age, gender, past mistakes, income, experience and status all fade.

So I challenge you:
What is making you doubt God’s calling? Be it age, gender, status etc.
What is God saying in response to this doubt?
Finally, what do you see? Take a look out of your office, car, or bedroom window- what do you see?

 

A New Book on Prophecy

Cath’s new book My Sheep Have Ears is being published next week! You can order it from 3dm Publishing at http://3dmpublishing.com/. This is an interview she gave about the book.

 

 Cath – tell us a bit about yourself:

I live in Sheffield and have been involved in prophetic ministry for over 15 years. For the last 10 years, I have overseen the prophetic ministry here at St Thomas’ Church, which has involved things such as teaching, mentoring, leading ministry sessions, and leading a prophetic council to serve the church. Over the last few years I have worked increasingly with other churches that want to learn what we have developed here, and how they can embrace this kind of culture too. This has involved developing various forms of training, coaching and resourcing, which I have done as part of the 3DM Europe team.

My vision has always been to make prophecy normal and accessible to everyone. There are lots of perspectives on what prophecy is, but in its simplest form I would say prophecy is hearing God speak and being able to repeat what He says, communicating the heart, mind and intention of God. That’s what I am passionate about training individuals and churches to do.

So, where has this book come from?

I’ve always had a heart to help other people grow in hearing God’s voice and using the gift of prophecy. I believe in the 5-fold ministry of Ephesians 4, and as someone who would see themselves as a ‘prophet’ I believe that one of the key roles of the prophet is helping other people learn how to hear God for themselves. My approach is “If I can prophesy, then I’m going to make sure as many other people as possible can too!”

My journey with learning to hear God’s voice has been an interesting one. I wouldn’t see myself as a ‘born natural’. I know many people who have grown up naturally being able to hear God speak to them in various ways from a very young age, which is brilliant. But I believe they are in the minority. In my experience, for the majority of Christians it’s much more of a journey and a process to learn to do this. That’s certainly been my personal story. It’s something I have actively and intentionally gone after – and haven’t just waited for ‘it’ to happen. I’ve read lots of books, been to conferences, prayed for God to teach me and generally used lots of ways to pursue the gift of prophecy. So because I have been on this journey, I know what the experience is like for the majority of us. I think this has really enabled me to help and teach others who are struggling to hear God speak. If I’m honest, I think it can sometimes be much harder for people who easily hear God’s voice to teach others, as it’s not a skill they have had to learn in the same way.

 

From your perspective, what would some of the aims of the book be?

Our ministry is all about making prophecy accessible (it’s in the name!) so I really wanted to unpack the process of what it actually looks like for someone to hear God. I make the point in the book that the Bible is full of stories about God speaking to people, but it doesn’t really tell you much of HOW that actually happened. Was it an audible voice? Was it internal? I think hearing stories from ordinary people about how they hear God is always helpful, so there are lots of these in the book.

The book is aimed at people and churches that would like to be open to the prophetic and are looking for practical teaching on what it looks like to use this gift on a day-to-day basis. I think that in the past there have been some expressions of prophecy that have come wrapped up in unhelpful packaging! This can lead to bad experiences and consequently an unhelpful reputation. Often it becomes associated with unaccountable, lone-ranger style prophets hopping from church to church, speaking judgement over people. I have seen that kind of thing go on myself and don’t like it, which is why having the context of community and discipleship is key in grounding prophecy and allowing it to edify the body in the way God intended. I feel it’s important not to allow our bad experiences to create a fear that stops us from reading the scriptures and learning how the Holy Spirit has always intended to operate within the church. My prayer is that through this book I am able to offer something on this amazing gift of prophecy God has given us, in a way that people can easily take hold of.

One of the clear themes throughout the book is community – that we hear God together and we weigh things together. Prophecy doesn’t happen in an isolated vacuum, rather as part of community life. I have read so many good books on prophecy, but lots of them are generally focussed on how I as an individual can learn to hear God better for myself. I don’t believe you can practice the gift of prophecy healthily outside of community. The strategic part of my book is working through the questions “How can we hear God together and how can we grow this culture together?” I explore some practical ways to do this.

 

How does this book relate to the 3DM movement?

As I have worked with 3DM much more closely over the recent years, it’s been a huge opportunity to reflect on what God has taught me in the area of prophecy through the lenses of discipleship and mission. This journey is reflected in the book, meaning much of the perspective I write from is one of missional discipleship. So my hope is that anyone who is generally interested in the prophetic would be able to pick up this book and find it helpful, but also people who are already familiar with the DNA of missional discipleship will find it uses much of the same language.

One of the key questions the whole ministry of Accessible Prophecy seeks to help people answer is: “How can we grow a healthy, biblical prophetic culture that both resources discipleship and empowers mission?”

In this movement we are part of, we know that discipleship is all about asking, “What is God saying to me?” and “What am I going to do about it?” So teaching people how to hear God is a key part of discipleship! In addition, God is by nature a missional God; therefore if we are hearing his heart and responding to his voice, we will find ourselves being sent out on the mission field. So resourcing discipleship and empowering mission are two strong themes of the book.

Lastly, what would your hopes be for someone who picks up a copy of this book?

There would probably be two things: Firstly – realising the joy in hearing the voice of the Father. Knowing as a disciples that your heavenly Father is speaking directly to you and that you can hear the Shepherd’s voice is something I would want for everyone, and it’s why I have worked so hard over the years to equip people to do this as much as I can. My book is an expression of this.

Secondly – I would love this book to help people explore how they can become a church that embraces the prophetic. To me, this kind of church is a place where people are confident in hearing God for themselves and where there is a sense of individual and cooperate vision, inspired by hearing God together. But it’s also a place where the gift of prophecy is taken out in to the world and God’s word is released to others.

 

Prophets Need Community

 

All the believers were together and had everything in common.”

Acts 2:44

Sometimes it just seems easier to go it alone.

For those of us who are ‘prophet-shaped’ and find ourselves drawn to prophetic ministry, there is often a temptation to turn our backs on the wider Christian community and run to Elijah’s ravine or John the Baptist’s desert: that place where it’s just ourselves and the voice of God.

After all, many of us need a place of quiet and solitude to be able to hear God clearly: a place where we don’t have to explain or defend our prophetic sensibilities; a place where we can pursue the sweet presence of Jesus uninterrupted.

And when we look at prophetic people in our churches we often find that they occupy those more isolated places: perhaps disconnected from a thriving community, and often on the very margins of church life. Isolation and separation are temptations for many prophets. When you can hear God so well by yourself it’s easy to end up thinking, “I don’t need anyone else – I can hear God!”  When you have encountered misunderstanding and even rejection because of your prophetic calling it’s very easy to emotionally and spiritually withdraw from the Christian community you are part of.

But an isolated prophet is an unaccountable prophet and this is a dangerous place for prophets to occupy. The most precarious place for prophetic ministry is right on the edge of things – a long way from the leadership, a long way from the central heartbeat of the church, a long way from accountable relationships. And in this place it’s all too easy for the prophet to end up being a critical voice outside the church – manifesting the spirit of independence and refusing to submit to any counsel or correction.

To gain a biblical perspective on prophetic ministry it’s important to see the huge shift that happens as we move from the old to the new covenant in respect to the role and ministry of prophets. The prophets of the Old Testament often had to minister as ‘lone-rangers’: they were sometimes a single voice in the midst of a corrupt and rebellious nation; often with a message addressed at unbelievers. They were working in isolation and alienation.

But the New Testament paints a very different picture of prophetic ministry and the context it operates in. Community is the crucial lens through which we must now 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. The church has become the centre of prophetic activity: a family of listeners, who discern God’s voice together.

New covenant prophets need community. It was all very well for the likes of Jeremiah and Co to minister in isolation, but under the new covenant a commitment to community is the deal for everyone, regardless of what our five-fold ministry is. Jesus never let his disciples do anything by themselves: they even had to find a donkey as a pair. So in order to have a balanced and fruitful ministry we have to overcome the challenges of community and pursue deep fellowship with our fellow believers.

It’s vital that prophetic people have a strong inward dimension to their lives, fully embedded in community, with healthy relationships with other believers. God created us to be social beings and his design for his church is that we are one body. In fact the love that Christians have for one another is the mark that identifies us as Jesus’ disciples (John 13:35). We are all called to live out our faith alongside others.

Prophets need a sense of belonging, so that when they bring a word to the church, they are listened to because they are part of the family. A leader’s job is to help prophets find a supportive community. But more important than that is the need to create a culture where prophets can gain a vision for community, so that they are able to maintain a soft heart towards the body – a heart to build up the body.

So we have to create an environment that draws prophets close to the centre and ensures that they are firmly embedded in community; a place where prophets feel loved, accepted, valued, and invited in. We want to create a culture that communicates that the prophets, and all that they bring, are valued.

A strong culture of community, enhanced by the right sort of language, is going to be key for the healthy development of prophets. A strong community will naturally create trust, and it’s worth recognising that many prophetic people have to overcome their fear of judgement and rejection in order to mature and thrive. It’s really important that prophets feel that they can trust their community not to reject them if they share revelation.

And a strong community will create an environment of healthy submission and mutual respect: the prophet is happy to submit to his/her leader because they are part of the same family.

If we are sensing the temptation to go it alone, here are some searching questions we can ask ourselves that will help us stay focused on loving and blessing our community:

  • Am I committed to my church community?
  • Am I submitted to my leaders?
  • Am I accountable about my life and my prophetic ministry?
  • Am I making myself vulnerable to others?

Looking to Jesus in the Gift of Prophecy

When I was a teenager, I wore one of those WWJD (What Would Jesus do?) wristbands, alongside a FROG (Fully Rely on God) one. It’s so important to look to Jesus in all that we do in our lives, to stop and ask ourselves, what would Jesus do? I found this really helpful at school, but the fashions changed and I stopped wearing my band. Not because I didn’t believe in stopping and thinking about what Jesus would do, but because the band had become a fashion item, and it was no longer in fashion. However, the importance of the question remains. This question is central to our faith as people that want to imitate Christ. Therefore, it must be important in prophecy too. So, in this blog post, I will be exploring what it looks like to imitate Jesus in prophecy.

In Matthew 17:20, Jesus says “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” We also see in John 12:14 that Jesus says “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Jesus continually taught about the importance of faith and belief. When I teach people how to hear from God for the first time, I always start by asking them to recognise where God has spoken to them in the past. Perhaps a Bible verse has stuck out to them, or they have felt peace or unrest when making a decision. By encouraging people to recognise where God has spoken to them in the past, it helps to build faith and belief that God has, and does, want to speak to them. Jesus promises us that faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain! So let’s pray to God for faith that God speaks to us, based on the fact He has promised us He will.

One of our favourite verses here at Accessible Prophecy on prophecy is 1 Corinthians 14:1, “Follow the way of love, and eagerly pursue spiritual gifts, especially prophecy.” A key aspect of this verse is that “Follow the way of love” comes before “eagerly pursue spiritual gifts.” We see this demonstrated in the life of Jesus, as Jesus always operated out of compassion and love. (Some examples of this are Luke 7:13, Matthew 15:32, 9:36, 14:14, 20:34, 6:34, Mark 8:2-3, and John 11:34-38.) It’s so important when we prophesy we are rooted in love, and love first. If we prophesy out of a place of anger, resentment, loneliness or hurt, it is very easy for our own agenda’s to get in the way. However, when we operate out of God’s love and compassion, our only agenda being love, God’s love is channelled through us.

It can be really easy to get caught up in the experience of prophecy, rather than getting caught up in the one who speaks to us. In the New Testament, we see Jesus return to the Father, and take space on his own to rest with Him. We see this for example in Luke 5:16 after Jesus healed a man with leprosy, people were gathering all around him “but Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” This is integral to our walk with God too, particularly if we are inputting into other people’s lives by giving them prophetic words. Jesus recognised and acted on the importance of withdrawing from people and the busyness, in order to spend time with the Father. It can be quite tempting to ‘do’, rather than to ‘be’, but Jesus had the balance right, and that meant spending a lot of time alone with his Father, enabling him to go out and ‘do’ empowered by the Father’s love.

You’ll notice that Jesus never says “I think I have a prophetic word for you,” or “I feel like God might be saying…” Nor does he ever say “Thus says the Lord!” That doesn’t mean that Jesus wasn’t prophetic, or that God didn’t speak to him- quite the opposite! Jesus operated his whole life on hearing from God, as we see in John 5:19. “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” He was one with God and therefore was always listening to Him. As we are united with God, because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we are one with God too. This means we are able to operate from a place of hearing God’s voice always too. However the majority of us will not do this. Maybe because we don’t know how, because we haven’t had enough practice, or because we haven’t given God permission to do so. As we look to Jesus, let’s aim to hear God always as he did, and to operate our entire lives around hearing from God, not just when we give God permission. This will take practice, and to begin with it will take being intentional, however the more we let God’s voice in, the easier and more natural it will become. (If you want to grow in this, consider reading this blog, which gives a few ideas on how to be intentional and learn to hear God’s voice.)

So, let’s do as Jesus did. As you look to grow in the gift of prophecy, remember to have faith that God does and will speak to you, to operate out of love, to always go back to the Father, and to aim for a place in which you are always and continually hearing from God, as we see demonstrated in the life of Jesus.

by Joanna Millward

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

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.

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.”

So 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.

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.

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.

The 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.

Over 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”.

By 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. Some 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.

It’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

It’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

So 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.

 

Receiving Prophecy: God has spoken to me, what do I do now?

When we start to hear from God, for ourselves and through other people, it is important to know how to take hold of what God says to us, and to respond well. It can become all too easy to simply enjoy a prophecy in the moment and then forget about it the next day. However, God is very intentional in the way He speaks to us, and we need to take on the discipline of being intentional in the way we respond to prophecies.

“Do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1

Here we can see that the Bible tells us not to take prophecy lightly, but to test everything and hold on to the good things that God says to us. So how do we do this? How should we respond? What should we do when we receive a prophetic word, or God speaks to us directly?

I have been immersed in a prophetic culture for three years now, and in those three years I have learnt how to do this.

So, here are my top 5 tips on how to receive a word from God well. I’ll be using the example of a simple prophecy given to me in the past, “God loves you,” in order to demonstrate how to do this.

1) Write it down!

This is absolutely vital. Even if you have recorded the prophecy on your phone, I would recommend you also write it down when you get the chance. By writing it down, even if you don’t have time to process it immediately, it is easy to come back to. I personally have a journal specifically for prophecy, so that I don’t mislay loose bits of paper with God’s words for me on them! Also, I am far more likely to purposefully pick up my prophecy journal and flick through it, than to go through voice recordings on my phone.

By doing this:

    • All my prophecies are in the same place.
    • I don’t forget prophecies which I am given.
    • I am able to look back on prophecies from the past and see the fruit from them.
    • I am able to come back to prophecies which were given to me which I didn’t have time to process when they were given to me.

When I look back at old prophecies, I really do see fruit from them, so I cannot recommended enough getting your own journal dedicated for prophetic words.

2) Weigh it

Weighing prophecy is essential in order to check that the word you have been given is wholly from God. When we weigh a prophecy, we do not judge the person who has given us the word; we are testing the word that was given.

Here are 5 questions to ask yourself and God, which should help you identify whether or not the word is from God.

• Where has it come from?
        o The Holy Spirit
        o My own agendas
        o An evil spirit
• Does it align with scripture?
• Does it strengthen, encourage and comfort?
• Does it point to Jesus and glorify Him?
• Does it resonate, and bring a sense of peace?

If the answer to these questions are the Holy Spirit and yes, then it is time to respond to the prophecy you have been given. If not, give the word back to God and surrender it to Him, ask Him to bring it up again in a different way if it is in fact something He wants you to deal with.

The word “God loves you” is a definite yes to all of these questions. An evil spirit would not tell me that God loves me as that would go against its agenda. However, it is very much like the Holy Spirit to want me to know I am loved. It aligns with scripture, strengthens, encourages and comforts me, points to Jesus and resonates with what I already know. Therefore, I move on to step 3.

3) Reflect

Now you know that the prophecy is from God, it’s time to start thinking about what it might mean. I like to journal my thoughts about it, as writing is something which gets my thoughts flowing. However, you may choose to have some soaking time in order to think about it, or perhaps you like silence. We all hear God in different ways as I explored a few months ago in this blog post, so find a way to reflect which works for you. Once you have reflected on your own, talk to someone else you trust about it too and reflect upon it with them.

Here are some questions you might like to ask yourself when reflecting on a prophecy:

• Does it relate to anything that has been said over me before?
• Is it to do with a particular situation in my life right now?
• Is it an encouragement to change my behaviour?
• Does it resonate with anything I’ve been learning about God recently?
• Why has God chosen to give me this particular word?
        o Is it simply to encourage me and make me feel affirmed and loved?
        o Does God want me to process something deeper?
        o Does God want me to take action?

I very much like to be led by God in my reflecting time. I ask God what He is saying about the prophecy I’ve been given, and ask Him to guide my reflection time. Sometimes I don’t really need to ask many questions, I simply ask God “What is your intention for me with this word?” and then I trust that my thoughts and reflections are guided by the Holy Spirit.

With the word “God loves you” there are many different things God could be saying to me. Perhaps my heart is broken and He wants to heal it with His love. Or maybe I am acting like someone who is unloved and He wants me to change my behaviour. I could be feeling lonely and this could be an encouragement that I am not alone, or God could be encouraging me to go deeper in His love and experience more of it for myself. Even a very simple word such as “God loves you,” which may not seem very personal, has a personal intention specifically for me and therefore it requires reflection and response.

If God tells you that you are loved, then you must begin to know that you are loved; live it, act like it, and be strengthened by it. Do not just let words from the King roll off your back, but allow them into your heart, and be transformed by them.

4) Take it to Jesus

Once you have reflected on the word for yourself, and discussed it with a friend, repent of anything you have done which has hurt Jesus. For example in this word “God loves you” I need to repent of when I have forgotten that God is there for me and loves me.

Say sorry to God for any wrong behaviours, then hand over that sin to Jesus. I find it very helpful to picture myself handing over that sin to Jesus, and then I ask Him to show me what He is doing with it. You may get a sense that He is pinning it to the cross to die with Him, or perhaps He takes it from you and puts it behind Him so that you can no longer see it.

It is also key to note that repentance doesn’t mean just saying sorry and carrying on, but it means to turn away from it. Therefore, leave behind the sin that God has spoken to you about, and turn your eyes towards Jesus.

5) Make a plan and stick to it!

This one can be difficult. Some people love reflecting on what God says to them, but then never do anything about it, and go straight back to the way they were before. Many other people may not reflect on the word before making a plan straight away, and then fail to stick to it because there hasn’t been a heart change. To respond well to God’s words, we need to make both a heart change, and an external one.

Therefore, once you have reflected and repented, make a plan as to how you are going to start acting on what God has told you. Don’t set yourself unobtainable goals, but set realistic ones which will stretch you and are also believable.

For my word, “God loves you,” I chose to read passages in the Bible which speak of God’s love, in order for His truth to settle on me even more. I also planned to, if ever I had thoughts of feeling unloved, stop in that moment and recheck my thinking, reminding myself of who God is, and what He thinks of me. I then told a close friend that I trusted these things, and asked her to check up on me and hold me accountable to the plans I had made.

So whatever your word is from God, make a plan of how you can hold onto the things He has said, and how you can act upon that word. Then, tell someone you trust about your plan, and ask them to hold you accountable to it.

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.

I 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.

In 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:

I 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.

Interpreting 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