Learning to use your prophetic gift, but don’t know where to start? Thinking through the four stages of prophecy will help prepare you for any situation.
Learning to use the gift of prophecy can be exciting, but it can also feel nerve-wracking and make us hesitant. Hearing God’s voice for ourselves is one thing, but trying to do the same for someone else is another matter.
If we make a mistake with our own lives, then we can pick ourselves up and start again. If another person is involved, then we may feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Alongside that, we may not be sure how to handle what we hear.
The good news is that there is a framework to help us out. I call it the four steps, or the four stages of prophecy.
When I started out praying prophetically for people, I faced these same concerns. I had many questions and doubts about my abilities in the gift of prophecy, including:
If I knew then what I know now, I would have been more relaxed about it. Eventually though, I discovered two important things:
First of all, God is full of grace. I realised that he teaches and trains us from where we are, not from some idealised vision of what a prophet should be. This meant I was able to loosen up and be myself.
Secondly, understanding that there are 4 distinct stages of prophecy (or steps in prophetic prayer), has helped me work through my fears and given me the confidence that I need.
Let’s look at this from the point of view that you’re going to prophesy in the context of personal ministry. This is easier than trying to share a prophetic word with a whole congregation or house group and is a great way to practice your gift.
So, you’re praying for someone and as you do, you think that the Lord may have something specific to say to them. What do you do next?
Let’s start off by naming the 4 stages of prophecy. They are:
In the first stage, you are simply looking to hear God’s voice. You want to put yourself in a listening mode and be ready to hear whatever the Lord says.
Since God has no limitations, this could happen at any time and place, not just in a church or small group meeting. However, praying for an individual within a larger setting can be helpful.
The great thing about being in church or a small group is that you are already placing yourself in an atmosphere of worship and recognising your relationship to God. These aren’t absolute requirements for hearing God’s voice, but they do help, particularly when you’re learning.
“Placing yourself in an atmosphere of worship can help you hear God’s voice”
You may find it helpful to close your eyes and focus your thoughts on God, asking Him if he has something specific to share with the person you are praying for. You might see a picture in your mind, or think of a verse of scripture.
Whether you see a picture or have some words or bible verses to share, it is always worth taking a few moments to ask God to show you the meaning of what you have heard or seen.
Ask the Lord how it applies to the specific person or situation you are praying for.
In this time, you can confirm whether the word, verse or picture is from the Lord or from your own thoughts. You can also clarify with Him how he wants you to apply it to the current situation.
Once you are happy with its meaning and that the prophecy is of God, then you need to seek Him further to know how – and indeed, if – it should be shared.
If you are praying directly for someone, then you may find that all you have to do is speak what you heard immediately. However, don’t assume this is the case and take a moment to pray about it.
The Lord may want you to:
Lastly, you need to allow space and time for the recipient to accept, process and absorb the words you have shared. This could be straight away, but might involve writing things down so they can pray over it later.
Don’t be afraid to ask whether the word you shared was helpful and was meaningful to them. If you can, ask for feedback about how you delivered it and whether they understood it.
These are, of course, loose guidelines and I will be writing in more detail on all of these stages in future articles. The different stages of prophecy do overlap and going through all four of them may take just a few seconds, once you’re more confident.
Sometimes specific stages may not be required, depending on the word and situation. For example, there are times when we may not need to interpret the word at all, just share it. Someone else may interpret for us.
However, discernment and listening are applicable throughout the process. We want to share God’s words, not our own words, so we always need to ask the question, “what does the Lord want to do right now?”.
Jesus said, “I only do what I see the Father doing” and in the same way, we need to cooperate with Holy Spirit as we pray and prophesy.
If you’d like to learn more about learning to prophesy, then check out the definitive guide.
Question: Which stage do you find most difficult when you are praying and prophesying for others?
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