Prophecy and Mission

This blog is written by John White, exploring his thoughts and revelation on prophecy and mission.

“He is the missionary Spirit of the missionary Father and the missionary Son, breathing life and power into God’s missionary church.” (The Cape Town Commitment)

As the missionary Spirit breathes life and power into God’s missionary church, so God’s people are released into prophetic missional activity. Prophecy is to mission as a heart is to life. Prophecy lies at the heart of the mission of God’s people. This has been the case throughout Scripture, whether under the Old or New Covenant.

The history of the early church in the Acts of the Apostles clearly shows the connection between the gift of the Spirit and the missional activity of the early disciples. The Acts of the Apostles is not just about God’s guidance; it is about specific directions from the Spirit for mission.

Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Explore, dream and discover.

There is an extraordinary connection between three chapters in the Bible; Joel 2, Acts 2, and Numbers 11, and all three present an opportunity to ‘explore, dream and discover’.

In Numbers 1 – 10, God was preparing his people for the journey from Sinai through the wilderness to the land that God had promised them. How were the people to relate to a holy God? How were they to be a people on mission? The story of the Bible is how God called a people to himself through Abraham, beginning with liberating the people of Israel from slavery and bondage in Egypt.

So if Numbers 1-10 is an exploration of how to relate to a holy God, Numbers 11 is a ‘bridge’ chapter, that reveals the pressure the people of God faced when starting to walk out God’s mission. It is a chapter of ‘responses’ – the people’s, Moses’ and God’s. Response after response. It is hard being a people on mission for God. So the people complained. Why couldn’t they have stayed in Egypt? What on earth are they doing here in a wilderness? And as for the food; all they got was manna, conveniently forgetting that the manna was God’s gracious provision to keep them alive in the desert.

They craved meat. They looked back to Egypt, hardly halcyon days. They grumbled and complained. Not one for missing an opportunity to get involved, Moses added his complaint. He was fed up with the burden of leading God’s people.

What happens? Seventy people, who were already exercising some form of leadership, were chosen to be elders. God took some of the Spirit that was on Moses and placed it on the seventy elders. The result was that the seventy began to prophesy. Two others, who were not part of the original seventy, also began to prophesy. Joshua thought that they should be stopped, but Moses replied, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Numbers 11:29). Moses’ pipe dream? Yes, but one that would be linked through a promise in Joel 2 (2:28 – “And it shall come to pass afterwards, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and daughters shall prophesy …”) to the fulfilment in Acts 2. What was a pipe dream in Numbers 11, and a prophecy in Joel 2, eventually become a reality in Acts 2.

If Numbers 11 is about empowering God’s people to fulfil God’s mission to the world under the Old Covenant, so Acts 2 is the same, but this time under the New Covenant.

Joel’s promise of the gift of prophecy is fulfilled at Pentecost, enabling God’s people to take up Abraham’s call to be a blessing to the nations, a prophetic blessing to the nations. In Genesis 12:1-3, Abram is called by God, who blesses him so that he will be a blessing to the nations. Later, in Genesis 20:7, Abraham is described as a prophet. His ministry was to the nations. His was a missionary call to the nations that had at its heart the prophetic equipping and empowering of God’s people.

Prophecy and mission are intertwined together. As Robert P Menzies has written in ‘Empowered for Witness – The Spirit in Luke-Acts’, “According to Luke, the Spirit of Pentecost is the source of prophetic inspiration and, as such, the Spirit of mission.” The Acts of the Apostles shows us the first disciples seeking to live out their mission as the Spirit-filled prophets, thus demonstrating the outworking of the link between Numbers 11, Joel 2 and Acts 2.

In G Vandervelde & W R Barr’s book, ‘The Spirit in the Proclamation of the Church’, we read: “All God’s people are “to prophesy” … are called to proclaim the story of God’s love.” Frank DeCenso Jr. writes in his book, ‘Amazed by the Power of God’, “… God wants His children to catch the vision of moving in His power to change other’s lives and to tell all people that He is in love with them.”

As then, so now. That’s our mission, that’s our calling; to be a prophetic people living in truth and love, and speaking out God’s prophetic word.

Application: how we go about responding to this
Erwin Raphael McManus: “when we become visible, the invisible presence of God becomes visible.” Am I seeking to be intentionally visible in bringing a prophetic word from God to those I meet? Is God calling me to leave the familiar (like Moses leaving the privileged life of a prince, to be drawn into the wilderness) and to speak God’s prophetic word to those outside my immediate context?

 

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

Prophetic Art

 

This month we interviewed John Rainford who is passionate about using the prophetic in his art.

Who are you?
I’m John Rainford, I’m married to Louise and we have two beautiful daughters. I work for the health service as a sonographer, doing ultrasound scans for patients referred by doctors, helping to make a diagnosis. From school age, art has always been a passion of mine. The only reason I didn’t choose art as a career was because I listened to a careers advisor who recommended I went down the science route instead! It’s interesting speaking to my professional artist friends, as they tell me having art as a hobby rather than a job means that art gives you more pleasure, rather than being something you have to do. Having said that, if I managed to make a career out of art that would be amazing!

What is Prophetic Art?
The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy, prophecy is all about pointing to Jesus and to the things of the kingdom. You can have a painting of a field of flowers that is just a painting of a field of flowers. However, when you paint a field of flowers prophetically there will be all kinds of things God is speaking to you about in that painting as you paint it. Images are very powerful in our culture, and God uses art in a way to reach people’s hearts to speak to them. Of course there is cross over as God can also speak through “secular” paintings and not every image produced in a prophetic setting will speak to people. The difference is that as you are prophetically painting, you are listening to God and worshipping him through your art.

How did you get into Prophetic Art?
In our prophecy team at church, we looked at our passions and what we would like to see happen in the setting of a church gathering in terms of the prophetic. This is the meeting that helped start prophetic welcome in our church which has been going really well, and also making sure we recorded any prophecies brought to the gathering. My idea was that I wanted to see prophetic art take place in the gatherings. This was something we had seen before in church, but the people that used to do it had left. So Cath said “Yes! What’s the next step?” This led me to liaise with church and get the chance to start painting within the morning gathering. Since then I’ve painted a few pictures whilst in the gathering. The first one was based on the topic “Home.” (You can see this just above this text.) This got me well and truly out of my comfort zone, I hadn’t prepared myself for how vulnerable you are standing at the front painting a picture! It’s been a year and half since then and I’ve been invited every now and again to paint at the front of church since.

What’s the difference for you between painting ‘normal’ art and painting prophetic art?
The difference between using your own imagination to paint and having a picture from God to paint is really significant. I think it’s a similar distinction to how when I read a book, I will visualise what the characters look like, whereas someone else may never have thought to do that, so won’t have a picture in their mind of what a character looks like. So using my imagination to paint, rather than the Holy Spirit, doesn’t give me the same sense of awe as when God gives me a picture in my mind’s eye of something to paint. When I paint in the prophetic I use skills that I’ve learnt and am developing, but I also listen to God while I’m painting and this brings a sense of awe while I do it in God’s presence. It’s about stepping out with God in it and engaging with him. I can barely remember the last time I painted something just for the sake of it rather than painting something prophetically.

How does it help you to engage with God?
Because of the way I’m made, the times I’ve spent soaking (resting in God’s presence), worshipping and then drawing have been really significant. As believers in Jesus we don’t just have our sins washed away but we have the righteousness of Jesus given to us so that we are righteous and can please God. That being able to please God, that my sketches are pleasing to God really encourages me. My little sketches are pleasing to God! It’s really interesting what God spoke to me through the harvest field painting. I tried drawing a few sketches beforehand just drawing, but at the end of my soaking time, I felt God say to put my sketches aside and start with a blank canvas and he would give me what I needed. I feel God takes me through steps of faith where it gets more nerve wrecking in one sense, but I know that he is faithful.

How do you go about painting a prophetic picture?
It’s been different on different occasions. Sometimes I’ve gone with something I’ve had quite a clear picture of in my head already. Other times, I really haven’t. Having talked to Oliver Pengilley (a fantastic prophetic artist) about this I’ve discovered he has had a similar journey too. Sometimes you know what you’re going to do but other times you have no idea. On those occasions, I’ve just begun by painting and worshipping, putting colour on a canvas and just using the skills I have and saying “God I want to praise you in this.” Prophecy comes from a place of love, so I like to show my love of God through my painting. One painting I started just by making little swirls on the canvas, simply having fun with God and enjoying his presence and then gradually something started to build up which eventually led me to know where to go next. It’s about engaging with God in every step, asking God “what should I do next?” I recently chatted to another prophetic artist, Oliver Pengilley, he as a professional uses a lot of reference photographs and pictures and I use these too, learning how things look and using those to help me make a picture. I use my skills as an artist, but prophetic art is all about coming from a place of intimacy, I always soak before a painting, so it’s about spending time with God in doing this thing that I enjoy.

How do you use prophetic art as worship?
Just like a musician can sing and worship God by raising their voice and playing an instrument, a painter or artist can paint to worship the Lord. It’s interesting that scripture says “don’t make graven images” it’s important that you’re not lifting your art above God, making sure that it’s not seen as putting something in the way of God, but that it’s actually something engaging with the Holy Spirit and praising God. It’s knowing the pleasure that God has in us deriving from the fact that we are his children and he delights in us worshipping him by doing a painting. It’s something that at home I haven’t really done much, but it would be good for me to get into the habit of saying God I just want to paint for you not for the purposes of anything other than worship, more often that I am now.

Do you think those who aren’t artistic could benefit from prophetic painting?
Absolutely! Oliver Pengilley ran a workshop at our church a couple of weeks ago and we had a few people that hadn’t painted since school age and it was a very positive experience for them. One of the ladies who was there had felt God say “I want you to paint for me” so she was there not having painted since school, and it was getting out of her comfort zone but it was really positive. The number of people that said “this is incredibly relaxing!” was very encouraging. There’s a sense of disengaging with many of your thoughts and stresses that are occupying your mind and just focussing on worshipping God through painting. It can be quite therapeutic, people came in with crowded thoughts, but then just focused on God and the painting so lots of people found it distressing. A lot of people who have quite a lot of brokenness or hurts find art very therapeutic hence art therapy. A lot of people say “I can’t do that” but I think everyone can learn to be creative, not everyone will create “masterpieces”, but everyone can learn to engage with art, have a go and have fun with God.

Do you have any tips for those wanting to give it a go?
“The longest journey starts with a single step.” You just need to show up and have a go. Grab a pencil and paper, spend time waiting on God, maybe reading the word of God, perhaps a good place to start is by looking at one of the Psalms and meditate on the word of God and let that be you inspiration. Then just begin, don’t be discouraged if what you see isn’t what gets put on the paper, just keep going and learning. Also, it would be great for us in gatherings to have times where you might have a couple artists doing things because it would be interesting to have two prophetic artists and see how God speaks through both in different ways. It’s all about willingness to have a go, all the amazing artists you see all had a first time for doing it. So I think it’s about just stepping out and seeing what God speaks through your drawings whether they’re just a mix of colours and shapes, or a master piece.

Where can we see your art, potentially commission a piece?
I have an e-mail address jrpropheticart@gmail.com if you want to get in touch or commission any art, currently I don’t have a website but it is something I need to get cracking on with. I’ll update you when I have one!

A note from Jo:

John painted my husband and I a prophetic picture for our living room when we bought a new house. It’s so lovely to have a painting that you know has been painted in worship to God, with the Holy Spirit’s input on what you will see when you look at it. This painting is based on a few different verses in the Bible  that were highlighted to John as he was worshipping God and praying for us such as Psalm 121:1-2 and Isaiah 40:31, and also on the way in which God speaks to both Shaun and I. I love water, waterfalls, rivers etc. and Shaun loves the imagery of the temple in the Bible so John was able to include those in the painting for us as well. I’ve also enjoyed doing a little prophetic art myself, although it’s only doodles in my journal, I find that God really speaks to me through the pictures that I find myself drawing.

 

All the pictures featured in this blog post are prophetic paintings by John Rainford.

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.

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

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

For 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. 

Another 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.

The 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.

But, 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.

God 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?