How can we tell that God is talking to us? How do we know it’s his voice and not our own thoughts? I did not grow up with the understanding that God spoke to us. I knew that people “felt led” or “felt the hand of God” or something similar, but his voice? The little church I grew up in actually did not preach against prophesy or tongues or any of the more “troublesome” gifts of the Holy Spirit. But there was an unspoken consensus to not speak about them. As I grew older and read the Bible for myself, I knew there were many practices that seemed normative in the early church, that we simply did not do. One of those was prophesying.
The first time I found a group that practiced prophesy, was after I graduated from college. I came to attend a Vineyard church plant that was meeting in the office complex where I worked. During that time, I went on a mission trip with another Vineyard church based in Atlanta. We traveled to Brazil, and one day went to a slum outside Campinas. We were standing in a circle praying, and one of the men, prompted by the Holy Spirit said, “Someone has something.” I felt the words forming in my mind, but I didn’t really know if they were true or not. It seemed strange to speak out what was only an impression, but we were standing there waiting, and waiting. So I eventually spoke out what I felt.
The skies didn’t part, the trumpets didn’t sound, and I don’t remember what I said. But that was the first time I remember speaking out what the Holy Spirit laid on my heart, something that did not come from my own store of ideas. After that trip, I became involved with another church back in my hometown that practiced what they called “prophetic teams,” where a team of 3 or 4 church members that had been through some training would pray for encouraging words for anyone who wanted to sit before them. Nearly everyone in the church was on a team, including the children, who had grown up in this environment where hearing from God was normative. He spoke frequently, and they fully expected to hear him. When I joined, a senior member of the church immediately gave me the training tapes. He must have thought, Of course Joni has this gift, he didn’t even question it, although I had never said anything to him about it.
So, when I read about Philip’s daughters who prophesied, I think of the kids at that church. I remember that because it was such a normative experience for everyone there, that I knew it must be for me, too. It made me hungry for something I had long suspected existed but had no personal knowledge of. The desire for more made prophesy worth the risk. We do not always know, and we will not unless we try, unless we move forward in love with what understanding we do have.
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Your Turn: Have you ever had something in your head and you knew you were supposed to say it to someone. How can you tell if it’s God…is it His voice or your own thoughts? Share with us the first time you knew God was prompting you to say something to someone else. How did you feel afterwards? Share in the Leave a Reply below. ~ Joni