The subject of being led by the Holy Spirit to speak into the life of another person (prophecy or prophetic ministry), can be very detailed and involves many subjects. One of the important subjects that comes to bear on this topic is Divine Guidance, and this involves learning to distinguish the promptings of the Holy Spirit from the promptings of a foreign spirit or even our own spirit. Any person using the gift of prophecy or prophetic sharing should seek to get grounded in the biblical guidelines about its operation and use great wisdom and caution concerning it.
The Apostle Paul instructed the believers at Corinth,
“Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” (1 Corinthians 14:1)
There are many underlying subjects that must be mined from God’s Word in order to grasp prophecy maturely and in balance. In this article, I will give some simple guidelines that may help answer questions about prophetic ministry. It is important to know that these guidelines are are built upon many other subjects and are not ‘stand alone’ points.
There are many over-lapping issues between various gifts. The word of knowledge, discerning of spirits, word of wisdom, and prophecy have that over-lapping element. Within these 4 gifts we “know something” from the Holy Spirit. The real question is “What do we do with it?”
Here are our options:
1) We are called to pray about what the Holy Spirit shows us. It is for us alone. It is wise to assume that every prompting is for us in our private prayer time. That way we are never ‘trigger happy’ to think we are God’s spokesman for another person. Also, if we become gossipers or talebearers about what the Lord shows us privately, He will stop using us prophetically.
2) We are to share it privately with the person involved. Sometimes what we feel from the Lord is not for public proclamation, but for private encouragement and building up of others. If this is the case, we need to use wisdom to know when and where to Lord wants us to meet and share with those we to speak to. This does not mean the Lord will not have us to speak it publicly, but our motive is never about us!
3) We are to share it publicly. We must be very careful here, and learn to know from experience how to do this. Much confusion can be created if we have not matured in this area. Experience and understanding the Holy Spirit’s prompting for public verses private sharing is of great importance. If the Lord has us to share publicly, we must evaluate our motive and make sure it is not about us or our image!
Concerning #2 and #3, we must learn to understand God’s timing. This is one of the most essential elements for speaking wisely. This in and of itself is an important area to understand and learn from others, as there are variables which come into play. (i.e. Will I see this person again? or Are they under my spiritual covering? or Have they asked me to be open with them about what I feel from the Holy Spirit? etc.)
Dangers to guard against:
- Never assume the role of guru or final authority for anyone. I’ve seen this happen by pastors who love to have control to feed their own insecurities.
- Do not use pressure or coercion to deliver what the Holy Spirit has shown you. The person we speak to is responsible for discerning if what we share is for them. We must respect and encourage them to “test the spirit” of what we are saying. (1Jn. 4:1)
- Any ‘word’ we have for someone else is for confirmation, not direction in their life. The Holy Spirit is their guide, not us.
- We are not infallible. This should have us ‘shaking in respect and caution.’ I know this should be obvious, but I’ve seen people share with the aires that they can not be wrong. (Of course, this is a sign of either immaturity or control.)
- We must never ‘assume’ we are to share every time we get something from the Lord. If we feel led to share, we must seek the Lord’s timing.
- The ‘word’ we have is not for gossip or chatter about the issue or thing. Those who take anything the Lord has shown them and attempt to use it for casual conversation with others, we discover the Holy Spirit will stop showing them things.
- Prophecy or ‘speaking a word’ should never be our focus. Instead, simply loving Jesus should be.
- We must become sensitive to the way the Holy Spirit prompts. The Holy Spirit prompts us with a non-pushy and sustained impression that we can not get away from. It is tender and truthful. It is strong, yet compassionate.
- The Lord will confirm this gift/ministry in our life by other believers.
- Sharing what the Lord tells you to share will have a natural feel to it. I call this the ‘natural supernaturalness’ of following Jesus. Those with prophecy are not ethereal and spooky. Many times you will feel to share something ‘without’ even knowing it is prophetic. It just seems like something you feel you should share. This element is very evident when leaders are speaking/teaching and are simply being sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leadership during a time of sharing.
- Our first response should be ‘not to share’ and then yield to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and strong prompting if we are supposed to share.
- We should have others we are accountable to and can learn from. These should be believers who are responsible, mature and discerning in these areas.
Much more could be fleshed out, but these are some key things which are important to understand in order to have a foundational base for any type of NT prophecy. These areas are never to be entered into lightly or nonchalantly. They are precious promptings from the Lord and must be handled carefully, wisely and respectfully. Much damage can be created if wisdom is not sought.
God needs prophetic people (in the NT sense of the word). However, more than that He needs loving and wise people who simply seek to reveal Christ to those around us, and who walk humbly before the Lord.