Want to learn how to prophesy? Learning to prophesy doesn’t need to be difficult or complicated. All you need is to practice the 4 Ts: Talk, Tune in, Translate, and Tell.
Today, I’m going to share with you the definitive guide to help you learn how to prophesy. I’ll talk about what the gift of prophecy is, why you would want to operate in that gift, and how you can go about it.
And at the end, I have a special bonus waiting for you: a summary of this article for you to download in PDF form.
(Stop press: There’s a lot here, so if you want to take it away with you now, to read later or crib from, download your free copy via this link.)
Some images in this post are copyright Disney Corporation, others are courtesy of Pixabay.
Learning how to prophesy may seem daunting, but it comes down to a few simple principles. I’ll refer to them here as the “4 Ts”
Not everyone is a prophet and not everyone has a ministry in prophecy. But we can all learn to prophesy, even if we only do so occasionally.
As I mentioned above, there’s a lot here, so here’s an outline you can use to jump to the relevant section:
Prophecy is so much more than foretelling the future (although it is that, as well).
However, I don’t think that any of those possibilities really captures the full experience of prophecy. To learn how to prophesy or operate in the gift of prophecy, involves cooperation with the Holy Spirit at every stage.
This cooperation sets up a three-way spiritual connection between God, the prophet (the person who listens to God and shares the prophecy), and the person (or people) prayed for.
Amazingly, that connection and interaction can sometimes change the prophet as much as the shared word changes the one to whom they prophesy.
Here’s my definition (more a paraphrase really), which attempts to capture something of the cooperative nature of prophecy:
“Prophecy is a message from God, spoken through one person, and shared with another. This message points both people – the speaker and the listener – back to God”
That statement distils prophecy down to its most basic constituents. However, I still feel it somehow misses the wonderful interplay and connection with God that is at the heart of prophecy.
As you learn how to prophesy, I think it’s something that just has to be experienced to be truly understood – so perhaps that’s a good thing.
What I haven’t mentioned yet, is the timeliness of any given prophetic message.
When you learn how to prophesy, one of the very first things you should understand is this: Prophecy is very much God’s word for now. It is the “sword of the spirit” in Ephesians 6:17 that speaks into today, or not at all.
In the same passage, the bible itself could be described as the “belt of truth”. However, the bible is the general, universal, or eternal word of God.
While there are biblical principles that always apply to our lives, the relevance of a specific bible verse to you or me, right now, depends on many factors.
A given prophecy may utilise the words of the bible, but always applies it in the moment.
The prophetic message may be shared in any format, being spoken, written, drawn, or even acted out. But it will always reveal something about God.
The message may well disclose something about the person on the receiving end, but it will leave no doubt that it was from the Lord, not from any earthly source.
It’s all about God’s presence.
What I mean by that is that God himself is present in every true prophecy, through his Spirit, in the here and now. He is the originator, the destination and the active agent of any prophetic message.
“God is the originator, the destination and the active agent of any prophetic message”
If you takeaway nothing else from this article, then learn how to prophesy with God’s presence fully in mind.
Why would you want to learn how to prophesy?
There are a host of reasons why you would want to prophesy, but to my thinking, the main ones are these:
Jesus is seen as a great teacher or Rabbi, and a healer, even today. But in his time on earth, he was mostly known as a prophet.
When he asked his disciples who people said he was, they replied that many thought he was a prophet, or that Elijah had returned.
Jesus certainly prophesied, most notably about himself, but many of his actions indicate that being a prophet is greater than simply exercising that gift in speaking God’s word for today.
The fact that people thought he was Elijah points to the many miracles he performed. This is particularly true of those on a large scale, such as the feeding of the 5000. This mirrored the giving of manna in the desert by Moses who, in the eyes of the Jewish people, was the greatest prophet of all.
In a sense, Jesus was the last in a line of great prophets …and the beginning of a completely new line of prophets, formed through the new covenant.
Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he gave his disciples the great commission, to go forth and make other disciples. They were to use the authority he delegated to them, to heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out demons.
All they had to do to get ready was “…stay in the city [Jerusalem] until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). When Holy Spirit arrived on the day of Pentecost, the disciples began to do and say, just as Jesus had done.
While Jesus did not specifically mention the gift of prophecy, it was certainly a part of how the disciples went about their mission, even if they didn’t always get it right!
The gift of prophecy can unlock healing and miracles.
Peter’s presence became a prophetic symbol in Jerusalem. People sought to place the sick in his shadow, so they would be healed. It was as though Peter’s shadow was speaking to them in these words: “the presence and power of God is here”!
Somehow, faith increased in those around him, which in turn unlocked healing.
The reverse may also be true: where the healing or miracle itself becomes a prophetic act. An example of this is when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and thereby foreshadowed his own resurrection.
In Acts 13:1-2, Saul and Barnabus were set apart by Holy Spirit to “the work to which I have called them”.
The verses are clear that it was the Holy Spirit who spoke these words. However, this is mentioned in almost the same breath as the earlier verses, which say that there were “prophets and teachers” present at Antioch.
The implication is that Holy Spirit spoke through the prophets that were present. It also implies that to the disciples there was no distinction between the voice of the prophets and that of the Holy Spirit himself.
The laying on of hands then sealed the deal and sent Paul and Barnabus on their way.
In another example, Phillip was sent by the same Holy Spirit to run alongside the chariot of an Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:29-39).
Here, Phillip doesn’t specifically speak a “prophetic word”, but he hears from God very clearly. His cooperation and obedience results in the Ethiopian becoming a believer, who is then promptly baptised.
Or take the example of Peter who the Lord sent to visit Cornelius through a vision (Acts 10:44-48).
Through Peter’s obedience, he speaks the word of the Lord to Cornelius’ family. The words become a prophetic outpouring, as the Holy Spirit falls on the whole family and they too begin to prophesy.
Later (in Acts 11), Peter has to explain himself to the church in Jerusalem, which had the same prejudice against gentiles as he had previously held. He gives them the whole story and finally says “if God did this, who was I to decide otherwise?”
They have no further objections because they see that the Spirit of God is at work: once again, Peter’s words and actions become a prophetic word for the whole church and indeed, change the direction of the church’s mission forever.
In Ephesians 4:11 we are told that, “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and the teachers, to equip his people for works of service…” These are God’s gifts to the church.
Prophets and hence, prophecy, is clearly stated as part of the ministry of church leaders, alongside that of apostles. The gift of prophecy is also found in the 1 Corinthians 12 list of Holy Spirit gifts, alongside faith, healing and miracles.
For us in the modern world, prophecy is still one of the major ways God uses to speak to us (the bible being the first).
Please note that I am not advocating that prophecy replaces the bible, far from it. Prophecy must be measured against the truth of the bible and if found wanting, should be ignored.
That said, there are times (such as with Peter and Cornelius, already cited above) where the Lord uses prophecy to challenge our understanding of the bible. But that’s a topic for another day!
The gift of prophecy operates on different levels, speaking to nations, individuals and everything in between.
*God may speak in a general sense through people who are full of his wisdom. However, what I am referring to here is not just about wisdom, but the specific Holy Spirit-inspired word for the moment.
In fact, God speaks in many different ways. You can find five of them here.
Many people share their faith with others, not realising that God is speaking through them, prophetically.
That’s not to say that prophecy is in operation every time you share your faith. But whenever the Holy Spirit gives you a special word for someone, a word they know could only have come from the Lord – that’s prophecy!
Before we get further into the details of how to learn to prophesy, there’s one more thing we need to have in place, and that’s related to how we use our time.
To start your journey of learning how to prophesy, there is one pre-requisite you need: find time to be alone with God.
In order to prophesy in a prayer ministry situation, you have to be ready to listen to God at a moment’s notice. To do this well:
This means you need to get used to hearing God’s voice. And the best way to do that is to practice in prayer …which takes time.
It is certainly possible to hear the Lord while in the company of others. However, you’ll find it much easier to be away from other people when you’re learning, particularly in the beginning. But how do you find this alone time, in our modern world, with all its distractions?
But it goes even deeper…
If you want to learn how to prophesy, you need to understand that listening to God isn’t a one-off experience.
Listening to God is a lifestyle that has to be cultivated. Through regular, repeated contact and communication with your Lord Jesus, you can learn to discern his voice from all the other voices that bombard you each day.
That way, when God shares a revelation for another person, you will be well prepared to share it effectively and with confidence.
There are three main keys to living this lifestyle which I have written about before:
Time with God is also something I major on, in my book How To Hear God’s Voice. If you’re struggling to find time with the Lord, I’d recommend it as a good first step. Inside, you’ll find out how Jacob’s struggle with the angel of God is a blueprint for a prophetic lifestyle, how to use your brain’s “down” time to get close to God, and more. You can grab your copy here.
Now we’re getting into the nitty gritty detail! While every prophecy is unique, there is a general pattern to how the gift of prophecy works out in practice.
As you practice praying prophetically for others and listening to God for them, you can use the following outline as a guide, to help you understand the process:
In a moment, I’ll break down what these steps mean in more detail, but first, I want to make an important point about them: I am being careful to use the words “outline”, “pattern” or “guidelines”, and not “rules” or “formulas”.
This may seem like semantics, but for me, words like “pattern” and “outline” imply flexibility, whereas formulas tend to be set in stone. While I share specific steps to take, both here and in the 4 Steps Prophecy School, not all of them may be appropriate for every situation.
For example, a simple bible verse may have little need for interpretation, but a complex vision may require further prayer to fully understand what the Lord is saying.
The most important thing is to be sensitive to Holy Spirit and stay in the flow of what he is doing.
Now let’s take a closer look.
The first step is very simple: ask God to speak to you.
This may seem obvious, but it’s such a basic, fundamental thing that it’s easy to overlook.
We may be so preoccupied with asking God for things and situations (either for ourselves or a person we are ministering to) that we forget to ask for the intangible: a deeper relationship with the Lord, the ability to hear his voice, and for him to speak to us, right now.
When you get close – and stay close – to God, it becomes that much easier to hear him (hint: the best place to start is in worship.
Through an encounter with his presence, the troubles of life are brought into heaven’s perspective, so you will be better prepared to understand what the Lord is saying, free of your own pre-conceived ideas.
When you ask God to speak, don’t forget to tune in to the Spirit and listen for the answer!
There are two aspects to this: hearing the answer or message itself, and understanding the way the Lord wants to speak to and bless the person you are praying for.
First, you need to listen for the message God wants to bring. Sometimes, you may need to pause, or even cease praying altogether, in order to listen effectively. So, when praying for someone else, don’t be afraid to close your eyes or stop speaking.
A good practical way of doing this, which keeps your subject informed and involved, is to pray out loud asking God to speak. Then let the person you’re praying for know that you are going to listen for a minute. You can encourage them to listen too.
Second, when you think you have heard something (or, in the case of a picture, seen it in your mind’s eye), you can begin to pray about its meaning and the best way to share it.
In the same way as we all respond to different methods of learning, so we will respond to different kinds of prophecy. One message may be logical in nature, where God appeals to the recipient’s reason, while another might speak more to the heart.
This isn’t just about personality. Only the Lord knows where a person is in their walk with him, at any given time, so trust him that he knows what he’s doing.
Remember also that prayer is a two way conversation. It’s not just us speaking and the Lord listening! We must give time and space for him to speak.
I’m sure that none of us would talk over the top of a friend or family member when they are speaking. Let’s treat the Lord with at least the same respect.
These practical steps are just a part of how you can “tune in” to the Spirit. To go deeper, ask the Lord further questions about the prophetic word, as it begins to form. And that leads us into the next “T”.
When you hear something from God, you must decide what to do with it. You need to translate, or interpret, the prophetic word, so it can be understood.
Ask the Lord what the word means and how (or if) it should be shared.
Consider how he wants to work in this situation and how he wants to encourage and love the person you are praying for. What is the essential heart of the message he wants you to bring to them?
This may be a relatively easy task, if you receive a bible verse. However, it could be more complex if you get a picture from the Lord.
Remembering that cooperation with Holy Spirit is the main key to understanding prophecy, it is possible to learn how to interpret words more effectively. I teach more on this in the 4 Steps Prophecy School, but here are some pointers. Specifically, we can learn to Ask, Meditate and Wait:
To start, you can ask further, more detailed questions about the prophetic message. This is particularly appropriate in the case of a picture or vision.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, remember that this is a two way conversation with God.
Ask the Lord about the specifics of the picture or word. For example:
By breaking the picture down in this way, and seeking God for each part, it’s possible to build up a clearer idea about the overall message and get more specific details from it.
You may need to spend some time, just soaking in the word or picture, before asking the above questions. Or it may be that you receive a partial answer, but you feel there are more details that you can’t quite make sense of yet.
When you are practising, you may also find it helpful at this stage, to begin to write it down. This will help with sharing the word with the person you are praying for.
Not only that, but you also get a psychological and spiritual boost when you see the words on a page, compared to just thinking about or hearing them.
You may need another pause, to reflect on the word and the answers you have received, so far.
Don’t worry about stopping and waiting for the Lord to speak. This keeps us humble before God and honest with each other.
Another aspect to this, is to test the prophecy. You must work out if it really is from God, and if so, if there are any areas where your own mind or thinking may be interfering.
If you genuinely can’t get anything more from the word, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know”.
Our goal is to share “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. We want to ensure that we don’t embellish the word with our own pre-conceived ideas, even if they are borne from a desire to help and encourage the recipient.
Integrity is important at all stages of learning to prophesy. It’s better to leave a word or picture with the recipient, so they can pray over it for themselves, than to make something up out of the fear of looking foolish!
When you hear a prophetic word from God, you need to share what you got.
When you come to share a word or picture with someone else, pray about the best way to do that. Stay in tune with the Spirit so you’ll be able to bring the greatest blessing into their life.
There are two sides to this: How and When.
Ask God whether it should be spoken or written down (or both). I have seen people draw a prophetic picture on paper and on some occasions, the Lord has asked me to act out a word, instead.
If in doubt about whether you heard God correctly, share it with a trusted friend or leader first. Ideally, this should be someone you know is Spirit filled and sympathetic to the gift of prophecy.
Ask the Lord if now is the right time to share the word. Would it be more appropriate at a later date?
If praying for someone in a one-to-one ministry situation, God is gracious and usually gives words that can be shared immediately.
However, I have experienced times where the Lord has revealed something to me about a person across the room from me, but then told me not to share it with them at that point.
Sometimes, this has become a prompt to pray for that person separately. At other times, I have shared the word with them days, or even weeks later.
These are my guidelines to help you go deeper with your prophetic gifting. They’re the exact steps I teach in the 4 Steps Prophecy School, but in a lot more detail than I have space for here.
Remember though, that these steps are guidelines: a pattern or outline, not rules or formulas.
The Golden Rule that trumps all the guidelines is this:
“Keep prophecy positive, particularly while you’re learning.”
Yes, it’s true that sometimes the Lord used his prophets of old to speak judgement on people or nations. However, that was in very specific circumstances. It was also through people who were already well established and recognised in the prophetic ministry.
As you are learning, encourage people and show them that they are loved. It’s difficult to go wrong with this, even if you manage to miss what the Lord is trying to say to them.
Once you’re familiar with listening to God, you’re ready to use the method I teach in the 4 Steps Prophecy School to learn how to prophesy. It’s designed to accelerate your growth and help hone your prophetic skills.
Surprise! We’ve been looking at these steps already in this post, but there’s much more I’d like to share with you.
I cover them in a lot more detail in the school, but to recap, the essentials are wrapped up in the “4 Ts”:
They are all summed up in the Most Important Thing:
“Stay close to, and in tune with Holy Spirit, so you can ‘do what the father does’, just like Jesus did”
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