Every prophetic word must go through a process. The Scriptures are full of people processing prophetic words (1 Cor 14:29, 1 John 4:1, 1 Thess 5:20-21, 1 Cor 2:15, Genesis 15, 18, 37, and Luke 2:19 to mention just a few). Many times this can be instinctive. We can quickly evaluate what we hear. There are other times when we need to deliberately process prophetic words.
Have you ever received a prophecy and didn't immediately know what to do with it?
Some prophetic words immediately make sense and some are an encouragement for the moment. We receive these and continue fighting the good fight a little more encouraged and aware of God’s presence and love in our lives. But some prophetic words require much more processing.
Today, I was processing about ten prophetic words from different ministers over the years. I chose those ten because they all featured significant predictions. Some of these predictions have come to pass. Some of them I am still waiting to come to pass. And some seem to have fallen to the ground.
Each of these prophecies has stuck with me in different ways. I want to remind myself of what God has said. And I want to make sure that I am in the center of God's will and following through on all that He has told me to do.
Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 1 Timothy 1:18
Here are three ways that you can begin processing prophetic words in your life.
Record the Word
Recording devices did not exist in Old Testament or New Testament times, but most of us are blessed to have one today. Smartphones are everywhere—even in poor nations. Oral cultures tend to have excellent memories, but we do not live in an oral culture. We can use the help.
Whenever possible, I grab my phone and record any prophetic word directed my way. I do this with dreams and visions as well. I record the audio and then review it later. Recording prophetic words allows us to meditate on the word and hear it again and again. It also prevents us from hearing things that the prophecy didn’t say. I can’t tell you how many times I remembered things differently than the recording.
Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope. Psalm 119:49 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:26
Transcribe the Word
Here comes the hard part: transcribing the word. While I recommend recording every prophetic word you can, I don’t recommend transcribing every single one. That would be a lot of work, and many prophetic words are an encouragement and a blessing, but we don’t need to study them.
We should transcribe prophetic words that contain instructions, promises, or predictions from God. There are a couple of ways to do this. You can pull out your notebook or open up Microsoft Word and transcribe the audio recording by hand. You can send the audio file to a transcription service (this should only cost a few dollars). Or you can turn the file into a video and upload it to Youtube. Youtube will automatically transcribe your audio. There are probably other ways to transcribe audio for free. Most of these options will require you to edit the transcript yourself, but that will give you one more opportunity to go over the prophetic word.
Judge the Word
Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21
Judging prophecy should be its own blog post. But let me assure you that all prophecy must be judged. Check out How to Discern Prophetic Dreams and Identifying False Prophecy by Art Thomas for more on how to judge prophecy.
For this post, I will pass on seven criteria for judging prophecy that I was taught:
Is it scriptural? (Deut 13:1-5)
Does it edify (1 Cor 14:3)
Does it glorify Jesus Christ? (John 15:26, 16:13)
Is the person who gave the prophecy reliable? (1 Thessalonians 5:12)
Have any predictions come to pass or did it contain accurate supernatural knowledge? (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)
Are the predictions scriptural and do they lead to obeying Jesus? (Deut 13:1-5, Acts 16:16-18)
Does it feel right with your spirit? (1 John 5:6-9)
Applying the Tests
There can be a lot of nuance to testing and judging a prophetic word. It may require some work and not all of these criteria are equal. For instance, if the prophetic word is not scriptural or if it lifts up a different god then it doesn’t matter how well it passes the other tests. A prophecy may pass every test and still not feel right. Some prophetic words will feel wrong because you are correctly discerning that they are not legitimate, and some feel wrong because they are addressing a blind spot in your life. You simply have to pray about it.
I once received a personal prophecy that passed every test, but it came from a person I considered unreliable. Because of this, I approached the prophecy with caution but applying the prophecy turned out to be what God wanted (I am still waiting for part of it to come to pass). God can use anyone to prophesy. We prophesy by grace through faith, not because of our merit. Sometimes people prophesy simply because God chooses to do so (John 11:49-51, 1 Samuel 19). A person we find unreliable may give a perfectly accurate prophetic word.
One of the prophecies I was processing today clearly contained both a prediction that came to pass and a prediction that did not come to pass. How do I process that? There are several possibilities. The prophet could have made an error. No minister is perfect. Prophets are not perfect either. In the same way, I or one of the other people involved in the prediction could have made an error or strayed from God's plan. Or maybe something more is occurring that we don't understand. This is part of what I will be processing in the days ahead.
Even applying these seven criteria is not a fool-proof process. As always, the leading of the Holy Spirit and the authority of Scripture will have to provide the final answer. Give yourself some time to judge the prophecy and pray.
Process Your Response
Now that you have a recording of the prophecy and a transcript of the important words, the processing starts. You may want to use different colored highlighters or annotate your transcript to answer some of these questions.
Is there anything that is obviously true? Identify those parts.
Is there anything you don’t understand?
Are there any predictions?
Are there any promises from God?
Are there any instructions or directions from God?
Now go back through the prophetic word again.
Praise God for the true parts.
Thank God for the promises.
Ask for guidance and discernment for any parts you don’t understand.
You may want to take the prophetic word (or part of it) to leaders you trust and ask for their counsel.
Finally, pray through any instructions or actions that the prophetic words tell you to do. Ask the Holy Spirit how to take action on those instructions or actions.
Do what the Holy Spirit tells you to do.
War with your Word
You can continue this process for a long period of time. If you are processing one of the key prophetic words for your life, you may end up repeating this process several times and reminding yourself of what God said.
Paul instructed Timothy to wage warfare with the prophetic words that he received.
This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 1 Timothy 1:18
Prophetic words are meant to wage war on discouragement and lies. We use them as weapons against deception. We wield them against demonic attack and against unbelief. We use them in order to align with God’s plan. We strategize with them. We confirm our position with them. We learn to trust God with them.
If God has spoken to you through prophecy, let that prophecy change your life. Give God’s prophetic word traction by processing the prophecy in a way that makes the most of its impact, usefulness, and blessing.