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.
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.
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:
• 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.