The Process of Prophecy
Prophecy is a gift of the Holy Spirit that is given by Jesus for the purpose of building the Church (1 Cor 12:10). A prophecy is a message from God that is given through a person who is filled with the Holy Spirit and has a prophetic gift.
Prophecy is one means that God uses to communicate His love and His purposes to people. Like any means of communication, it takes all of the parties’ cooperation for the message to be given and received as God intends it.
When we prophesy, we want to faithfully represent not only God’s message, but also His heart. We want to convey both His intended meaning and redemptive love for the person or group we are bringing the prophecy to.
Why Prophecy is Like a Chain
The prophetic process can be likened to the links in a chain. Prophecy begins with a message or prompting from the Holy Spirit residing within us. We recognise and assess this revelation, decide how to frame the message, and deliver it. The person or group receiving the message then interprets its meaning in the light of their own paradigm—and then may or may not receive and act upon it.
A chain with one broken link is useless for its purpose. In the same way, a prophecy may not accomplish God’s intended purpose in the life of the person, church or group He is speaking to if the communication is not clearly passed on.
In my younger years, one of my schoolteachers sent a message by whispers around our class. By the time the message returned full circle to the teacher, it was not only scrambled, but it also meant something completely different to what the teacher originally intended. The ‘chain’ of the message became broken, not once, but many times before it reached its intended destination.
In spite of this potential weakness, Jesus entrusts us with His message, choosing to use imperfect human vessels, just as He does with other ministries such as preaching and teaching. God by His grace is able to take our imperfect communication and use it to transform lives through His love and power.
Some reasons it is helpful to understand this process are:
- Breaking the prophetic process into simple parts demystifies prophecy to someone who is starting out
- It aids prophetic activation and helps us to learn how to prophesy by focusing on one area at a time (e.g., in my next post, I will focus on how to receive a revelation from God)
- If we discover we are weak in one area of the communication process we can focus on becoming better (e.g., we may be great at receiving revelation, but need to grow in the area of how to deliver the message)
- It takes the pressure off the responsibility for the outcome when we understand our part in the process—and what is God’s, and what belongs to the recipient of the prophecy
- It helps us to grow in wisdom and sensitivity, not only to God, but also in understanding the communication needs of the person or group we are sharing with
Here is a brief description of each stage in the prophetic communication process:
1. Message Acquired (Revelation)
This is the prophetic message as it has been initially received. The Holy Spirit often speaks in a ‘seed’ form; such as a picture, scripture, word, feeling or dream.
Like a fingerprint, God’s way of speaking to and through you will be unique – just as we have unique personalities, learning styles and preferences. Throughout the Bible, prophets received revelation in many different ways.
2. Message Assessed (Interpreted by person prophesying)
This is what you think the revelation you have received means and will determine whether you speak it and how you frame it.
At this stage, you are not only assessing the worthiness and source of the revelation (remember, this process may take a split second!), you may also be assessing the meaning. You are interpreting the revelation in the light of anything you know about the recipient’s needs. You are also interpreting the revelation in the light of what you know of God’s character, ways and word.
3. Message Announced (Delivery)
Delivery may include any way in which you bring the prophecy. Some Biblical examples include speaking, singing, writing or symbolic acts.
When starting out, you can bring the revelation as you receive it, i.e., simply share the picture, or pass on the word or impression. A maturing prophet who has grown in faith will use the revelation received to launch into prophecy, allowing the Spirit of God to direct the flow of words.
During delivery, you are framing your revelation from God (picture, word, impression, scripture or feeling) with words
Delivery also involves how you bring the message. It includes your style, the tone of your voice and your attitude as you give it. If you write a prophecy, this includes your writing style.
4. Message Assessed (Interpreted by Recipient)
This is what the recipient believes the message means and what they believe it applies to. They are listening to the message in the light of their past history, their present needs and their desires for the future, as well as their own unique perspective on God’s word and character.
5. Message Applied (Application by Recipient)
Once you have delivered the message, it is over to the recipient as to whether or not they will respond to it.
Prophecy is miraculous by nature—but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be taught, nurtured and grown to maturity as a gift. In the same way that gifts of teaching or leadership benefit from instruction, prophecy can too! In coming posts we will look at each part of this process in more depth.
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3. E-books to Help you Develop Your Gifts:
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© Helen Calder 2009 Enliven Blog