Prophetic Ministry 101:
John G. Lake, a great preacher who was used powerfully by the Lord in a supernatural healing ministry, said: “If you have doubts, questions and fears concerning the Bible and its inspiration, we know that if one soul ever heard from heaven, another soul may. If one soul ever had an interview with God, another soul may. If any man ever knew his sins were forgiven at any period, another man may know his sins are forgiven now. If a man or woman ever was healed by the power of God, then men and women can be healed again.” God wants us to encounter Him in a living and a powerful way today.
Thank God for the precious gift of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who gives us these prophetic gifts of dreams and visions. There are times where you might be ministering to someone, and think, “How can I comfort someone who is going through struggles? How can I help someone who needs salvation, deliverance or healing? I don’t know what to say, I don’t know what to do.” During those times you can pray, “Help me, Holy Spirit.” Jesus said, “For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:12). He will give you the word of wisdom or the word of knowledge that you need to be able to minister in those situations. New Testament prophecy is designed to encourage and bless people with the Father’s loving heart.
In the following section, we are talking about the gift of prophecy, which is available to all believers, and not the office of a prophet (seeEphesians 4:11).
The Basics of Prophecy:
1. Prophecy Reveals Jesus to us – It’s About Knowing Him More.
Some assume that prophecy is all about telling the future, speaking about upcoming events in world news. True New Testament prophecy reveals Jesus to us. We need to keep this focus. One of my favorite Bible prayers says, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.” (Ephesians 1:17). The purpose of the spirit of prophecy is to get to know Jesus better, to grow in our knowledge of Him. Revelation 19:10 says, “Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” People in our world today are broken and hurting, and one of the greatest needs that they have is a revelation of the Father’s heart of love. This truth will set them free.
2. Prophetic Gifts Bless and Build Up the Church.
“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.” (1 Corinthians 12:7). God doesn’t want us to be ignorant of spiritual gifts. It is important for us to learn about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and especially the gift of prophecy, because these gifts will bless, encourage and build up people. It’s no wonder that the Lord commands us to “earnestly desire the best gifts.” (1 Corinthians 12:31). Not only does God allow us to seek after spiritual gifts, he encourages it! He wants us to desire prophecy, that is, to be zealous for, pursue eagerly or intensely. He doesn’t want us to sit back and say, “God is sovereign, so if He wants to give me the gift of prophecy, He can do it.” It’s all right to seek after the gift of prophecy. Why? So we can bless people. Prophecy profits the church.
Some people say that the gifts of the Spirit aren’t for the church today. They believe these gifts were just for the early church in the book of Acts, and that we don’t need the spiritual gifts anymore. The purpose of the gifts is to edify the church, and if ever there was a time the church needed to be strengthened and built up, it’s now. If they needed these gifts in the first century, in the time where people saw His miracles firsthand, how much more do we who are removed from those events by two thousand years of history. God wants His church to have these spiritual gifts today.
3. The Motivation for Prophecy must be Love:
When I first got saved, I attended a church that taught me about the gifts of the Spirit. I learned so much about the supernatural realm from our pastors, Erwin Dyck and Dave Koop. As a new believer, I wanted to be used by God in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I wanted to see somebody get healed, and I wanted to see somebody get out of a wheelchair. But my motivation for wanting to see signs and wonders was not God’s heart of compassion for those who were hurting or broken. I just thought it would be neat to see a miracle. We need to have the right motivation as we seek the gifts to be operating in our lives. The Bible says, “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2). As we desire the spiritual gifts, we must also remember to pursue love. We want to have the gift of prophecy operating in our lives so that people will be blessed as we speak God’s living Word, revealing the Father’s heart of love.
4. Prophecy is to Encourage and Comfort People:
“Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” (1 Corinthians 14:1). Why does God want us to especially desire the gift of prophecy? Why didn’t He say especially healing or especially discerning of spirits? What is so special about the gift of prophecy? The answer is found two verses later in this same chapter: “But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.” (verse 3). The purpose of prophecy is to bless people with edification, exhortation and comfort. That word edification means building up, or promoting another’s growth.[i] When we give a prophetic word to someone, it’s designed to help them to grow spiritually. Sometimes the Lord will give you a key for someone that will be exactly what they need to continue growing in their relationship with Jesus. The final word, exhortation, simply means encouragement. Prophecy will encourage people. When you bring a prophetic word from the Lord to someone who is going through a difficult season in their life, they are encouraged. You know you’re speaking prophetically when your words build up, encourage or comfort another person.
5. Prophecy will Draw Unbelievers to the Lord:
“But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.” (1 Corinthians 14:24-25). When the Holy Spirit shows you something about the life of an unbeliever, speak that prophetic word to them. It opens up their heart to receive from the Lord. A word of prophecy can reveal the secrets of their heart that no one could have known, and the end result is that they see there is a real God, and they worship Him. Prophecy has an evangelistic edge to it, what some people call prophetic evangelism. When you’re sharing the Gospel with someone who doesn’t know the Lord, pray for a word of wisdom or a word of knowledge about them. Say, “God, show me something about their life.”
6. All Can Prophesy so we can all Learn and be Encouraged:
“For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.” (1 Corinthians 14:31). How many believers can prophesy? All. How many are excluded in that? None. This is one reason why I will usually have a time of prophetic activations – a practical workshop time – when I teach on the prophetic. As we practice hearing God’s voice and prophesying the Word of the Lord over one another, we learn how to do it by doing it, and people are encouraged. What better place to learn to prophesy than with other believers who will love and encourage you even if you make a mistake?
How to Give a Prophetic Word:
1. Always Ask for Permission to Speak:
How do you give a prophetic word to someone? If you believe that God has spoken to you and shown you something for another person, the first thing you should do is always ask God for permission to speak. Sometimes we think when God shows us something, we should automatically share that with that person. If you share a prophetic revelation without permission from the Lord, it might have a negative effect on them. If you think God is showing you something, always pray, “Lord, are you showing me this so I can share it with them, or do you just want me to pray for them?” Sometimes God will show things to people just to give them insight into how to pray for a person.
After asking the Lord for permission to share a word with someone, ask that person for permission to share that word with them. It’s important to give that person the opportunity to choose whether or not they want to receive that word from you. “But what if they say no?” You need to respect that. All things must be done decently and in order. Give them an opportunity to receive that word and if they don’t receive it from you, that’s something that they will have to give an account to the Lord for. If they’re not ready to hear from the Lord, then pray, “Lord, I believe you gave me a word for them, but if they won’t receive it from me, then have someone else share that word with them.” Be respectful when ministering in the prophetic.
2. Avoid Negativity:
The purpose of New Testament prophecy is to build up, encourage and comfort. This is always a good standard for determining whether or not this is a word from the Lord for someone. Ask yourself, “Will it encourage them? Will it comfort them? Will it build them up?” If not, then it’s probably not from the Lord. You might say, “But God showed me something about their terrible sin.” Then pray about it. Avoid negativity. Someone saying, “Thus saith the Lord, you are a loser” is not from the Lord. The first year after I got saved, attending Solid Rock, a prophetic ministry team called Shekinah Glory came to minister. My friends in the church told me, “These guys can read your mail. They know everything about your life.” I freaked out, thinking, “I’m not going to go to that service. They’re going to call out all of my secret sins, and everybody’s going to know!” When the prophetic ministry team arrived, it wasn’t anything like that. It was a time of encouragement and blessing. Some believers who are immature in the prophetic will get out their spirit sword and start cutting people up, but that’s not what the Lord wants us to do with the prophetic gifting. Let’s avoid negativity and look for ways to encourage, comfort and build people up.
3. No Dates, Mates, Correction or Direction:
One of the things I learned from Pastor Steve Witmer is: When you’re new to the prophetic – no dates, mates, direction or correction. What does that mean?
No dates. When you’re giving a word of prophecy, don’t give dates. This doesn’t mean that God can’t or won’t ever give specific dates to people, but because we’re going to make mistakes as we’re learning to hear from God, if you give people a specific date, and that date comes and goes, they may start to doubt what could have been a genuine word from the Lord. Just share the word with the person, and leave the timing up to the Lord.
No mates. Don’t say, “Bill, the Lord told me that you’re going to marry Mary!” Don’t do that. The Bible says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing.” Leave that important life decision up to the individual couple and the Lord. God doesn’t want you to play prophetic match-maker.
Don’t give direction. If you think the Lord is calling someone to go to the mission field, pray about it. Don’t say, “Johnny, you’re supposed to hop on a plane and go toAustralia… tomorrow!” In the Old Testament, people would go to the Seer (or the prophet) for direction. In the New Testament, we have the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, the resident truth teacher, to lead us individually in God’s plans for our lives. This is not to say that the Lord won’t ever give people direction through prophetic words, this is just a word of caution for those who are new to the prophetic. New Testament prophecy for the most part is for confirmation, not direction. It will confirm something that the Lord has already spoken to your heart.
Don’t give correction. God has not called you to be the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit is the one who convicts people of sin, not you. That’s God’s job, so let Him be God.
4. You’re Going to Make Mistakes:
If you are new to the prophetic, you are going to make a few mistakes along the way. You might share a word from the Lord with someone, and they might say, “That doesn’t make sense to me.” Don’t be afraid to admit it when you miss it. Some people would say, “If we’re not going to get it right 100% of the time, then I’m not going to prophesy!” No teacher will get their doctrine correct all of the time, but you don’t see teachers holding back from teaching God’s Word. Even though you will make mistakes in the prophetic realm, you don’t have to don’t play it safe. Do you remember the story of the disciple Peter?
“Jesus came to them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him, they screamed in terror, thinking he was a ghost. But Jesus spoke to them at once. “It’s all right,” he said. “I am here! Don’t be afraid.” Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you by walking on water.” “All right, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he looked around at the high waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Instantly Jesus reached out his hand and grabbed him.” (Matthew 14:25b-31a, nlt).
When you step out into the prophetic realm, it’s like when Peter got out of the boat. You might feel like you’re way out of your comfort zone, and even like you’re sinking sometimes. When that happens, remember what Peter did when he started to sink. He reached out for Jesus, and said, “Help Lord!” It’s all right to make mistakes. I always release people to be free to make mistakes. Let’s stop just talking about prophecy and being used by God in the supernatural, let’s just do it.
Some people might say, “In the Old Testament, they stoned false prophets. If someone gives me a false prophecy, I’m going to stone them.” We don’t stone someone just because they made a mistake in the prophetic. There is a difference between a weak prophecy and a false prophecy. A weak prophecy comes from someone who desires to be used by God, but makes mistakes along the way. A false prophecy is where someone from a wrong spirit sets out to deceive someone intentionally. If someone gives you a word and they miss it, don’t say, “False prophet!” First Corinthians 13:9 says, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part.” Kim Andersson says, “Prophecy is like eating a peach. You eat the fruit, and spit out the pit.” That’s good advice. Realize that people may be new to the prophetic, and maybe they just made a mistake. Extend grace to them.
5. Be Normal and Natural:
When you’re giving a prophecy, don’t say, “Thus saith the Lord!” There was a time when people would prophesy in King James English. It’s no wonder some people want to stay away from the prophetic realm when they’ve seen strange behaviors like that. When you share a word from the Lord, be normal and natural. Don’t even use the phrase, “The Lord told me,” until you mature in the prophetic. When you come to someone and make that bold declaration, there is an undue weight that can put pressure upon the person. Graham Cooke says it’s better to say, “I believe the Lord is saying.” That way you give that person the freedom to hear from God for themselves and discern whether or not it bears witness with their spirit. It is better to say, “I believe the Lord has shown me this, so you pray about it and if it bears witness with you, then God bless you and be released into that.” There’s more freedom in that.
6. Get in the Word:
If you want to become stronger in the prophetic: Get in the Word. When God speaks, His spoken Word will always line up with the written Word. The more familiar we become with the Bible, the more we’ll be able to recognize God’s voice, and the stronger we’ll become in the prophetic.
What to do When you Receive a Prophetic Word:
“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21).
What do you do when someone gives you a prophecy? The Lord wants us to be open to the supernatural moving of the Holy Spirit. He warns us, “Do not quench the Spirit!” The word picture that Paul gives us here is of someone taking a bucket of water and pouring it on a fire to douse its flames. In other words, don’t put out the Spirit’s fire. We quench the Spirit by saying, “We’re not going to allow people to prophesy here because they might make mistakes.” Or “We don’t believe in all of that prophecy stuff.” Don’t despise prophecies. We need to be open to the moving of the Spirit in our midst. The second half of this Scripture tells us to “test all things and hold fast to what is good.” We should test or judge whether a word is from the Lord or not. This is an important balance to maintain when stepping out into the prophetic ministries.
1. Test the Word:
You can ask these questions to discern whether or not a prophecy is genuinely from the Lord.
Does it build up, encourage and comfort? First Corinthians 14:3 tells us that this is the standard to look for in New Testament prophecy. If a prophetic word tears you down or makes you feel terrible, it’s probably not from the Lord.
Is the spirit of the prophecy the testimony of Jesus (Rev. 19:10)? Sometimes people get really weird in the prophetic and say things like, “I saw this penguin standing out on top of a giant carrot out in the snowfields and the winds were blowing!” A true prophecy will testify about Jesus, and help us to go deeper in our relationship with Him.
Does the prophecy line up with the written word of God? Isaiah 8:20 declares, “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” If someone comes to you with a prophecy and says, “The Lord just showed me He wants you to go and rob the bank,” we know that’s not a genuine word from the Lord, because the written Word says, ‘Do not steal.”
Does it glorify the Lord Jesus? First Corinthians 12:3 says, “no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” A true prophetic word will not bring glory to the person giving the word; it will bring honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. Hold on to the Word:
Once you’ve discerned that the word is from the Lord, hold on to that word. Pray about it. It might be a now word, or a confirming word, or a future word. Sometimes the Lord will speak an encouraging word into a now situation in your life. It might be a confirming word, a confirmation of something the Lord has already spoken to you. Or it might be a future word, giving you wisdom and direction. Sometimes people receive a prophetic word and, if it doesn’t happen right away, they begin to doubt whether or not the word was really from the Lord. Sometimes a prophetic word speaks of something yet to come in the future. We also need to realize that personal prophecy is conditional – it refers to the possibility, not inevitability. I may give you a prophetic word about something the Lord wants to do in your life, but if you don’t do your part to get ready for it, it might not come to pass. If the prophecy concerns your destiny in the Lord, but you backslide, the prophetic promise might not be fulfilled until after you return to the Lord. Finally, be patient until it comes to pass.
Pastor Chris Jordan
[i] The New Testament Greek Lexicon.