Developing Good Prophetic Practice

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If possible, I like to ask myself a series of questions before I bring a prophetic word. Of course, in situations where you don’t even realize you are prophesying or only have the first few words, that’s impossible. But here are some important things to ask ourselves as we minister to others in the area of prophecy.

Question One: What has the Holy Spirit revealed?

The Holy Spirit might communicate by bringing a picture to your mind, using a movie clip–style vision, or by your only having a feeling or a sense of knowing. Often, he will use a combination. Before saying anything, it’s essential to gather the facts. What did you see? What did you hear? What did you feel? What do you think you know? At this stage, you likely have no idea what the picture or movie clip means. You won’t know which features of the prophetic picture will be most meaningful to the recipient. Carefully look at what you see and think how best to describe it. What’s happening in the foreground? What’s happening in the background? Are there any particularly vivid colors? If you see a movie clip, note the order in which events unfold. Be careful not to dismiss anything you see or hear as unimportant. This is not the time to make sense of the word; it’s the time to gather the facts so you don’t forget anything.

Question Two: What does it mean?

We need the Holy Spirit’s inspiration just as much to help us interpret a picture as to receive it. For example, if God shows you an image of a diamond when you are praying for an unmarried man or woman, it would be easy to assume an engagement is somewhere on the horizon. Perhaps that’s the correct interpretation, but maybe it’s not. Maybe the woman had stolen the diamond, and the Lord wants to convict her. Perhaps he’s an artist, and the Lord wants to encourage him to include new and vibrant colors in his work. Maybe she’s sharp-tongued and cuts people like an industrial diamond. Here’s my rule of thumb: unless the Lord gives you the interpretation, don’t interpret it. You’re just as likely to misinterpret it as you are to get it right. I recommend you simply describe what you’ve seen, heard, sensed, or think you know, and ask them if it’s meaningful. The recipient will often know, but not always. If they have no idea what the picture means, just ask them to pray about it and leave it at that. If God is speaking, he will make it clear.

Question Three: Do I need to say anything at all?

Sometimes the Holy Spirit will give insight into a person’s circumstances simply to help you effectively intercede for them rather than to share the word with them. I’ve found this less common, but it does happen from time to time.

Question Four: How can I most accurately communicate the revelation?

I find it helpful to rehearse what I want to say in my mind before talking to the individual. If the message seems convoluted to you, it will likely be more confusing to the recipient. Rehearse it until you can clearly communicate what you saw and heard. You might say, for example, “When I was praying for you, I saw a picture of sunlight shining through a brilliant diamond. At first, the sunlight was so bright the diamond’s imperfections were obvious. As the sun continued to shine, however, the imperfections started to vanish. I asked God what this meant and got the impression he wants to encourage you. You’re not the person you used to be.”

Do you see how I first described what I saw before giving an interpretation? Separating revelation from interpretation provides the recipient with space to accept the word but interpret it differently. We should never force our interpretation on others. Communicate clearly and then let the Lord do his work.

I find it helpful to pay attention to the tone of my delivery. I remember bringing a prophetic word to Cornerstone Christian Church, my home church in Dublin, Ireland, in an overly harsh tone. I had to apologize to the congregation and redeliver the word, this time with the gentleness the Lord intended. We must be careful not to allow any frustrations we have in our own lives or with the person we are speaking with to distort the Lord’s tone, which is often very loving and gentle.

Question Five: Do I have pure motives?

Spiritual gifts are intended to help you serve others, not to lord it over them. They are powerful expressions of God’s love designed to lead people to Jesus and not point them to you. We should not give prophetic words to get people to like us or think better of us. It’s always good practice to have someone else present when you prophesy. They can assist in any ministry but also ensure that everything is aboveboard. If you can record the prophetic word on your cell phone, even better. Kathie and I have a collection of old cassette tapes containing prophetic words spoken over us over the last thirty years. We get them out from time to time and listen to them again. Quite often, words that made no sense to us when they were given now seem crystal clear.

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Ivan Filby has had a distinguished career in higher education including serving as the 12th president of Greenville University in Illinois. Prior to moving to the United States in 2005, Ivan taught business studies at Trinity College Dublin for 16 years. Ivan holds a PhD in management from Aston University, a Master of Arts in evangelism studies from Cliff College and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Ivan has helped people learn how to minister in the power of the Holy Spirit on five continents for over thirty years. He is married to Kathie and they have two grown children.

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