Have you ever wanted to hear from God or needed a word from the Lord? If you answered yes, you’re not alone. As you pursue a deeper, more intimate relationship with God you’ll undoubtedly come to a place where you need to hear from Him. He speaks in a variety of ways, whether it be from His Word as you read it, directly to you as you communicate with Him, or prophetically through another person.
When it comes to hearing a prophetic word from God in a corporate setting, I have found that most people feel like I did initially ... fearful. Although there’s nothing more wonderful than to know God knows me, loves me, and actually wants to talk with me like He would a friend, many of us have the impression God is always frustrated and angry with us. We feel like if He were to talk with us, He would be harsh, corrective, and impatient. That’s certainly the way I believed, and most prophetic words I had heard in church up until that point only served to reinforce my belief.
When I was in my 20s, I was involved in a church whose senior pastor had a prophetic gift. He would speak a prophetic word over every person joining the church as he welcomed them into membership. Although his prophetic words were never harsh or personally embarrassing to anyone, I just knew I’d be the first to experience harsh correction or personal embarrassment in front of the whole congregation. As a result, I waited several years to join the church.
Finally, the day came when I decided I wanted to formalize my membership with the church. I knew that meant receiving a prophetic word from my pastor. As I wrestled with my decision, I determined if joining the church meant I was to be corrected and embarrassed, then so be it. I was one of about 15 people receiving their membership. My pastor made his way through the line of people and then he came to me. He paused for a moment looking intently into my eyes. His look was penetrating. I knew he was seeing deep into my soul and was about to dredge up all my ugliness for everyone to see. I wasn’t living sinfully and my heart was turned to God, but I wasn’t sure that would matter. I knew I wasn’t good enough, and I felt God was barely tolerating me. I was convinced that this event was going to draw His ire because it was focusing His attention on me. So I braced myself for a portion of His wrath.
After what seemed like an eternity, my pastor said, “The Lord is not giving me anything for you,” and then he moved on to the next person. There was a mixture of relief and frustration. I waited three years for this?! Every one of my fellow new members received a prophetic word that day except for me. They were encouraged, affirmed, and loved as our pastor shared words from God’s heart to each person ... except me. In fact, no one had ever not been given a word in all the years I had attended the church! I was the first!
That afternoon, I received a call from my pastor. He comforted me and told me he hadn’t felt any sense of sin or God’s displeasure over my life. He said he hadn’t sensed there was anything that might prevent God from speaking to me through a prophetic word. He went on to say he was quite puzzled and really couldn’t explain why he wasn’t given a word for me that morning. But deep down inside I knew why.
While my pastor shared his thoughts with me, the Lord began to quietly speak to my heart: I will never embarrass you. If you don’t want Me to speak to you, I won’t.
God was gently correcting a misperception I had of Him as He revealed His loving nature to me. That day, I learned He isn’t out to hurt or embarrass me. He deals with His children in a loving and private manner.
When I began to understand that God wouldn’t embarrass me by outing my sins, something happened in my heart that deepened my relationship with Him. I felt more loved by Him that day than I ever had in my whole life.
Over the years as God has allowed me to minister to people through prophetic words, I have never forgotten this experience. I’m always aware of the fear I felt in anticipation of receiving a word from God. All ministry for God should accurately reflect His loving care to the people it impacts.
The reality is that people inside and outside the church need a loving encounter with God. Imagine if we were to give someone a life-giving word from God at Walmart or the grocery store or the gym. Imagine if we were to give our children or a close family member a word that expressed God’s love or brought hope to a troubling situation or even provided direction, a rmation, and encouragement from God’s heart to theirs.
When the Apostle Paul was talking to the men of Athens, he said, “Yet He is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘in Him we live and move and have our being’” (Acts 17:27–28, ESV). The Bible is the foundation for all of God’s revelation to us. No word or revelation from God will ever be inconsistent with the principles and precepts of the Bible. There are many daily life decisions that aren’t specifically addressed in the Bible—where to live, what car to buy, the answer to a family or business dilemma—all these life situations, and many others, require God’s wisdom and direction.
Everyone needs a word from God! They need to know He cares for them and is aware of the needs and situations in their lives.
You can be God’s delivery agent of a message of encouragement and love to someone He cares for deeply. As you allow God to use you in this way to minister His love to people, my prayer is you’ll be challenged and encouraged to step out in faith. And as you do, the Holy Spirit will fill you and use you as His “ministry agent” to help people. Also, it’s my prayer you’ll realize prophetic ministry can be “weird free” when done in an orderly and life-giving manner. Finally, my hope is you’ll gain the perspective that while the prophetic is most often practiced and developed within the context of a church and its ministries, it can also be practiced within the daily context of our lives to encourage, help, and com fort people wherever we meet them.
Adapted from He Still Speaks: Embracing the Prophetic Today, by Tom Lane and Wayne Drain, available at the Gateway Bookstore.
Gateway’s Presbytery will be on August 14–16 at all campuses. Come prepared to receive a word from God!