I have this theory that the spiritual gift that you’re most interested in is usually one God desires to exercise through you. What follows is my personal experience of being intrigued by the supernatural realm, being trained in the prophetic and eventually flowing in the gift of prophecy.
Having grown up in Baptist and Presbyterian churches, I knew most of the accounts about the prophets from the Bible, but there wasn’t a whole lot of prophesying happening around me. I count myself lucky to have been in an environment where, although the gift wasn’t flowing very powerfully or even that often, it wasn’t being ignored either!
I was 14 years old when I received prophetic training from the late Richard Mayberry. A handful of people from my church spent several evenings together learning about how God speaks to His people and what New Testament prophecy looks like before Richard put us in groups to have a go ourselves. Being someone who really enjoys analogies and word play, I was so encouraged by how simple the process of prophesying seemed to be: all we needed to do that evening was ask God for a picture for the person we were praying for and then tell them. Easy peasy. We were such babies in hearing God that no interpretation was required!
Prophetic Emotional Healing
Having struggled with cycles of depression, rejection, insecurity, condemnation, suicidal thoughts, loneliness, repetitive sin and self-hatred as a teenager – and all this as a believer – looking back, I can see how God used the prophetic to do some major inner healing and deliverance, strengthening my identity in Jesus in a way that none of the other spiritual gifts have impacted me.
I’ll never forget the day I met Mandy. I was 17 years old when she came to speak at our school’s club for Christian learners one Friday afternoon. After warning us about a whole lot of New Age things that were a point of fascination for school kids at the time, she asked if anyone wanted prayer.
At the time I was enduring high school with a sparkly veneer over my life, acting like everything was fine on the outside, but really harbouring a lot of pain underneath that felt almost impossible to share. It felt overwhelming and like no one would ‘get it’. I went up for prayer, not because I was experiencing emotional pain in that moment, but because I thought, “What the heck, who doesn’t need prayer!”: famous last words if I ever heard them.
Her declaration punched the web of lies that had held me captive in the face and sent me reeling. With an iron wall hemming in my emotions on any given day, Mandy’s prophetic words of knowledge cracked it right open. Cue the ugly cry. About two weeks later I met up with Mandy, her daughter and another young woman to go through a prophetic prayer and deliverance session, which was the first major encounter I’d had with the Lord that began to shift how I saw myself.
(On that note, if you’re struggling with anything right now, consider signing up for the Soul Care course or asking your community group leaders to arrange a prayer session. The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll get blessed and free!)
Growing Up in the Lord
The gift of prophecy helps a congregation flow with the Holy Spirit during meetings; it can help worship leaders discern God’s ‘mood’ and how he wants to be worshipped during a gathering of the saints; prophecy and words of knowledge can be used powerfully in evangelism and it’s an essential gift for encouraging and building up the Body of Christ and directing elders! In fact, Paul strongly encourages believers to desire the gift of prophecy because it’s so helpful to the Church:
As I grew in the gift of prophecy I saw that there were all these unseen layers to the world around me that were affecting and influencing my everyday experiences and I began to realise that my life was, in light of the reality of what Jesus accomplished on the cross, a whole lot more exciting than I had thought it ever could be!
Towards the end of my high school career my mom discovered some Graham Cooke tapes that we listened to on a road trip. Graham’s radical testimonies became one of the tools God used to fan my desire for the prophetic into a bonfire! I began to read more books on prophecy, I’d practice prophesying over any willing church community members, I began to train myself in hearing the Holy Spirit’s voice by listening for His little heart nudges on which route home he’d like me to drive, and I even attended a prophecy course with Rory and Cathi Mole some years later. My drive to grow in the gift of the prophetic just seemed to roar on!
Today, most people can’t believe that I was a shy child. I hated having to get up in front of an audience to speak or perform. Heck, I even hated having to meet my parents’ friends, or being forced to play with children I didn’t know! Learning to flow in the gift of prophecy was a major tool God used to break the extreme discomfort of ‘all eyes on me’, off of me. For several years, when I was most terrified of bringing a prophetic word in front of my church, I could relate with Jeremiah’s experience:
I would constantly experience mixed feelings about hearing from God in a meeting: on one hand I was desperate to hear Him speak and to flow in the prophetic, but on the other hand I was petrified of having to share what I felt God was saying with 400 people – and getting it wrong!
While under the New Covenant God has made provision for all believers to prophesy, it’s important to embrace your unique prophetic flavour and to stop coveting other people’s gifts. Once, when I was sitting in the third or fourth row of a rather wide room full of people listening to Timothy Cascaden encourage us with some incredibly accurate prophetic words, he stopped mid-sentence, looked at me and said, “Stop desiring other people’s prophetic gifts! God has given you your own prophetic gifting that you need to embrace.”
What made that moment even more dramatic was that in the three seconds before he spoke that prophetic word out, I had been saying to myself, “Why can’t I prophesy like this guy?!” It was a rebuke of the sweetest kind. Since that day, I’ve made a point of really leaning into and resting in the fact that I have my own flavour that God wants to use and that He needs me to be different from other people. Trying to contort myself or my gift to look like someone else’s is really insulting God’s design and call on my life.
Think of Elijah the Old Testament prophet and Elisha, his protégé. I’m pretty sure Elisha learned everything he knew about being a prophet from serving and supporting Elijah daily, as well as observing and putting into practice his everyday habits and attitudes. They spent years in one another’s company before Elijah was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire and the powerful prophet’s baton was passed on to Elisha, who actually received a ‘double portion’ of Elijah’s anointing. (Read the story, it’s inspiring!). Although you may not necessarily be called to hold the office of a prophet, being discipled in the gift of prophecy still works in kind of the same way.
If you want to grow in the prophetic, in words of knowledge, in evangelism, in hospitality, in studying the scriptures, in love; consider who God might want to connect you with so that you can serve, learn and be trained and changed by them. Another great place to start for growing in the prophetic? Sign up for the annual JoshGen school of prophecy.