If you’ve been around Pentecostal/Charismatic circles for any length of time, chances are that at least one person has delivered a “prophetic word” to you. A great example of this can be found in the biblical book of Judges when the Angel of the Lord said to Gideon, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior” (6:12). Gideon had not yet functioned as a mighty warrior; however, the Angel of The Lord prophetically declared how God saw Gideon.
So how can we know if what someone tells us is actually a prophetic word from God? After all, the Bible tells us to test prophetic words: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22). Sometimes we are too quick to reject a prophetic word when we haven’t yet done the hard work of testing it. Here are five methods I use to test prophetic information:
The Word of God.
What does the Bible have to say about the information I just received? Is it for or against it, or is it neutral? By neutral I mean the Bible doesn’t directly speak to the information I’m inquiring about. If the Bible speaks against it, I automatically chuck that information out the door. If the Bible is silent on the topic, I treat it like a yellow light and proceed with caution.
The character of God.
I test the information against the character and attributes of God. Does what I know about God line up with what I’m hearing?
The inner witness of the Holy Spirit.
When that word hits my spirit is there resonance? Is there peace? Does something inside me agree with what was spoken even if I may not understand it intellectually yet?
Another way I test prophetic information is by getting spiritually wise counsel. I say “spiritually” wise counsel because we’re dealing with spiritual information. So I may submit the information to close friends whom I know have spiritual depth in their walk with God or to a pastor or spiritual mentor. Their opinions should not make my final determination, but sometimes in the process of interpreting spiritual information we need a few people with enough distance from the situation to be able to speak objectively and spiritually.
Does the prophetic word confirm at some level what God is already saying to me? As I grow and mature in my walk with God, His voice and His word should be my primary source of direction. The prophetic word should then come as confirmation to what God has already been trying to tell me. A danger in the prophetic is that we can start running after prophetic words instead of cultivating our own ability to hear from God. In other words, the prophetic should usually supplement an already deep walk with God.
About the Author
Jonathan Lumbard is lead pastor of Spirit of Life Church in Kearney, Nebraska, and author of the book Sustaining Presence. He serves on Open Bible’s Mountain Plains regional board and on the national board as a regionally appointed member. Jonathan has also served in various staff pastor positions including directing the Des Moines Master’s Commission. He and his wife, Becky, have three daughters: Kayleigh, Aria, and Lydia.