The apostle Paul urges us to pursue love, desire the supernatural, but to especially desire the ability to speak prophetically (1 Corinthians 14:1). When we prophesy, we are speaking what we’ve heard the Holy Spirit say. We’re not speaking our words, but we are speaking words given to us through the Holy Spirit. Truly, all followers of Jesus hear His voice (John 10:27). If we hear His voice, then we can speak what He’s saying. Jesus lived and ministered speaking only what the Father spoke to Him (John 12:49-50). If Jesus operated in that manner, then we’re to do the same (see Luke 6:40). Holiness is Christlikeness, isn’t it?
How do we enhance our ability to hear the voice? I want to suggest three simple ways to increase our sensitivity to the voice of the Lord. First, we need to listen effectively. Prophetic cultures are filled with people who actively listen to the subtle promptings of the Holy Spirit. As congregations gather to minister to the Lord, the Holy Spirit will speak to them. When the Bible refers to everyone in the assembly prophesying (see 1 Corinthians 14:24), it’s speaking to the church’s ability to listen to the Holy Spirit.
A strategic moment came to the early believers in Acts 13 when they were ministering to the Lord. In that environment, their ears were sensitive to the Spirit’s leadership. The Bible indicates that the Holy Spirit commissioned Barnabas and Saul to a ministry assignment. If we’re listening, then we’ll hear those specific directions from the Spirit for our lives and for those gathered. It is appropriate to plan a service, but it’s essential to hold the plan loosely because the Lord may speak something that’s not on the agenda.
Jim Cymbala, pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle, felt prompted to give an invitation following the opening of the service. While the format indicated that they were to hear a song from the choir, Cymbala was listening to the Holy Spirit. He gave the invitation and a young man who was visiting the service came forward giving his life to Christ. Interestingly, he and his family had to leave the service early to catch a flight from New York City. Had Cymbala waited and followed the service format, this young man would have missed an opportunity to receive Christ. Learn to live with your ears inclined to the Lord not only in church services but in your day to day lifestyle (see Isa. 55:3).
Second, we need to wait patiently. A prophetic culture not only listens, but it knows how to wait in the presence of the Lord. David said, “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1). The two words “waited” and “patiently” are the same Hebrew word (qavah), which means to look for, to expect, to linger; to bind together (as to persevere with something). This verse would literally read: “I waited waited for the Lord.” One scholar said that the best rendering is, “I waited in my waiting for the Lord.” It reveals that David, the writer of this Psalm, did not rush the process of waiting on the Lord. As a result, David was able to say, “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:3).
David said that the Lord put a new song in his mouth. We are commanded to sing a “new song” unto the Lord (Psalm 33:3). New songs are prophetic songs—spontaneous songs—given to those who have learned how to wait in the presence of the Lord. Usually, a new song includes Spirit-inspired lyrics that are new to the vocalist and the congregation (see Ephesians 5:19). There have been times in our church services when people have been touched or healed simply by the presence of God during our worship. Usually, when that occurs, we have been waiting in His presence for an extended period of time. Waiting gives time for the Holy Spirit to move, speak, touch, and heal. Waiting is our surrender to His agenda.
In his book, The Presence Based Church, Terry Teykl likened a presence-based church to Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to every word that He spoke. This kind of church, Teykl said, “spends time waiting on God; therefore, its spiritual senses are sharp, and it receives fresh revelation about the Word and the things God is doing.” Rarely, if ever, is a presence-based church in a hurry. It leans in and waits for the Lord and therefore, it is not presumptuous and impetuous. In this kind of atmosphere, people will often get free, delivered, and healed more readily. Dan Bohi once said, “We need to slow down enough to catch Jesus.” This is another way of saying that we shouldn’t hurry our corporate services.
Third, we must learn to obey instantly. Obedience to the voice is critical to developing and maintaining a prophetic culture. Obedience is not contingent upon us understanding the Lord. In a prophetic culture where people are listening and waiting on the Holy Spirit, He will speak. He will give us prophetic utterances, songs, dances, paintings, or even specific assignments. At our church, we’ve witnessed each of these leadings. However, it doesn’t mean that we fully understand what God is doing at the moment, because in our relationship with God, obedience is our love language. We are learning to obey Him without questioning Him.
Paul and Silas probably didn’t understand why the Holy Spirit didn’t permit them to preach in Bithynia, but they obeyed anyway. As a result, Paul was given a vision to come to Macedonia and help the people. Soon after a church was started in Philippi which was a leading city of the district of Macedonia (see Acts16:6-12). Obedience increases revelation. Rarely will God continue to speak if we haven’t been obedient to what’s already been asked of us. However, by walking in obedience to every word spoken, it increases our opportunities to have God continue to speak.
These are simple instructions: listen, wait, and obey. But they’ll bring amazing experiences into your life.
Jesus, teach us to listen to your voice, wait in your presence, and obey your every word, amen.