Pete Greig divides his book into two parts, with the first part being on the external voice of God (through the Bible and prophecy) and the internal voice. This study looks at the chapter which ends the first part, examining how to hear God’s word through prophecy.
4 – Hearing God’s Word in Prophecy: in recent years, many have become concerned with the abuse of prophecy and the prophetic ministry. But we must not throw out this amazing gift! Instead, let’s learn biblical and common-sense guidelines. It helps to understand the difference between logos (what God has said) and rhema (what God is saying now). We are sustained by feeding on God’s now word (Matt.4:4). The focus of prophecy is other people, and its purpose is to strengthen, encourage and comfort (see 1 Cor 14:3-4). Love must be the primary motivation. We can be inspired but also intimidated by amazing examples of God speaking prophetically through someone, so start by learning practical principles from the story of Samuel. Firstly, recognise that there will be seasons when ‘the word of the Lord is rare’ so don’t expect dramatic words all the time, but wait and watch patiently. Secondly, find your Eli – those who have learned to discern God’s voice – and learn from them. Then, recognise that God is patient with us and continues to speak to us until we get it; we may well get it wrong a few times as we are learning, but that’s okay. Next, use and stretch the gift to grow it like a muscle – seek to excel in it (1 Cor.14:12). When stepping out in the gift, use the ABC filter – is it affirming, biblical and Christlike? Also, realise that we often miss God’s voice not because it is strange but because it is so familiar – like Samuel mistaking God for Eli. He uses our normal life to speak to us. Consider also how you receive prophetic word – weigh it (they’ll often involve a blend of good and bad and you need to hold on to the good), wait on it (words are sometimes for a future season so wait and see) and walk in it (ask yourself whether you need to do anything practical in response to activate it), as Samuel did. The best way to grow in hearing God more is to be faithful to obey what he has already told you.
Some Key Quotes
…we are sustained not just by studying the things God has said in the past as revealed in the Bible (logos), but also by feeding on the things God is continually speaking to us here and now (rhēma). (p.115)
Most of the time we miss the voice of God not because it’s too strange, but because it’s too familiar…He speaks in a familiar accent. He impregnates the natural with the supernatural and makes the mundane holy. Again and again he comes to us, as one mystic puts it, disguised as our own life. (pp.128-129)
Talk to people who hear God in extraordinary ways and you will invariably discover lives of extraordinary sacrifice. There’s a sort of holy dance between God’s word and our response. He speaks and we obey, and the more we obey, the more he seems to speak. When it comes to prophecy, our action often activates something more. Conversely, there are few things that stop the flow of divine revelation in our lives as effectively as a sense of entitlement and apathy. Sometimes God pauses from speaking simply because he is waiting for us to act upon the things he has already revealed to us. (p.135)
The more you practise, embedded in community, the sharper your discernment and stronger your prophetic muscles will grow. (p.138)
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- What has been you experience so far of using the prophetic gift? When did you clearly hear God for someone else and how did it come to you? What can you learn from that?
- Are there any prophetic words that you need to be activating through practical obedience? Are there any old prophecies that you need to be dusting off and seeing if there is fresh life in for now?
- How can we encourage each other in this gift and grow a prophetic community?
There is a PDF version of this study here.