I love being around people who hear clearly and regularly from the Lord in a personal way. Sometimes what they hear is a special encouragement from God for me, and that’s even better!
I think of the time a friend had a dream that she felt impressed her with a timely insight from the Lord for me. She shared it, along with statements of faith about what God would do in and through the difficult situation I was experiencing. This word gave me understanding about what was going on behind the scenes of my life, from God’s perspective. It didn’t give me a false impression that my painful circumstances were suddenly going to evaporate, but it did give me strength to endure and hope for the future.
This kind of interaction is God’s wonderful provision for believers. Biblically, prophetic words – messages from the Holy Spirit in the form of personal, spontaneous revelation for the purpose of communicating God’s heart for people and situations — are for the strengthening, encouragement, and comfort of the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 14:3). For followers of Jesus, they should be a part of our church and family culture, for building one another up.
That being said, these kinds of words are also to be examined, tested, and handled in a thoughtful and orderly manner (1 Cor. 14:39-40; 1 Thess. 5:19-22). But sometimes, because of immaturity, inexperience, or impulsiveness (or sometimes a need to control an outcome), those who hear from God can end up bringing more harm than help. Regrettably, sometimes the ministry of hearing from God for others ends up tearing down instead of strengthening the Body.
So how can we be responsible with what we hear from the Lord in prayer? We can learn to share in a way that builds people up and brings about the encouraging results God intends –results that don’t cause damage, confusion, or resentment.
Have you received an impression from the Holy Spirit and think you’re meant to share it? Here are some guidelines that can help:
- Interact in prayer with the Lord about what you’ve received before sharing it. Be confident it is from Him and not your own impulses. Check your heart for possible selfish or impure motivation such as the need for recognition or approval.
- Make sure He wants you to share it. In my experience, revelation is most often for intercession, and only occasionally for communicating it to the person concerned. That’s hard; it can feel exciting to receive a “word” or insight from the Holy Spirit and we want to share it! But if the reason He shared it with you in the first place was simply so you could intercede with greater accuracy, sharing might be out of line (and can go terribly sideways).
- Ensure the message you share directs the person to the heart, character, and ways of God, and that it fulfills biblical purposes. These purposes include:
- to strengthen individuals for hardships or struggles they are experiencing or may experience in the future (1 Cor. 14:3.11)
- gently warn people who have strayed off course (Gal. 6:1-2)
- impart healing gifts or commission someone to ministry (Acts 9:11-17; 1 Tim. 1:6)
- give insight, discernment, and understanding about what God is doing in a situation
- Don’t give the message more weight than it deserves. It’s tempting to say “the Lord told me,” or something compelling like that, especially if you’re convinced of the urgency of the word or insight you’ve received. However, this can come across as manipulation, or presumption, to say the least. Let the Holy Spirit does His own convicting work and give weight to your message if it’s needed; allow the person space and permission to weigh the word without obligation.
- Offer to help the person test the word you give them, if necessary. Whenever we give or are given a word from the Lord, we need to be able to test it (1 Thess. 5:19-22). Does the person with whom you’re sharing know how to do this? If not, help them to ask:
- Is it consistent with Scripture?
- Have I asked God to confirm or deny it to me?
- Is it consistent with God’s character and ways?
- What is the response of church leaders or other trusted believers when I to submit the word to them, especially those who might value the gift of prophecy and whom I know have the spiritual gift of wisdom and/or discernment?
- Does it turn my heart to the Lord, His glory, and His purposes, or does it raise my hopes for my own or others’ gain or glory?
Then, follow through with the receiver afterward; don’t “dump and run”! Without pressure, just call or drop an email to let the person know you are praying for him or her, and are open to chatting or praying together if they like. (If this is a family member or close friend whom you see frequently, don’t keep bringing it up with an expectation of what they should do with it. Don’t force or dig for a response; simply keep the door open.)
Remember, sharing a prophetic word is a high calling and privilege – one that we should not take lightly. The apostle Peter wrote, “If anyone speaks, (s)he should do it as one speaking the very words of God” (1 Pet. 4:11). Now that’s a good word!
(c) 2017 Arlyn J. Lawrence. All Rights Reserved.