10 + 1 Ways to Discern if A Prophetic Word Is of the Lord

There are SO many prophetic words swirling around the body of Christ right now. When we’re in the midst of “the time of trouble” (Psalm 27:5) how do we discern the TRUE from the FALSE words of the Lord?

As a pastor/leader in the prayer movement for a good number of years here’s ten (plus a bonus) guidelines I’d suggest to help us believe, receive and activate prophetic words of the Lord. (This is intended for corporate application, but some may also be applied to our lives re: individual words of the Lord)

1. The Holy Spirit abides and dwells (with might) within us. What is your first sense about the word that is being given?

2. Realize that there also dwells within us the lurking way of self. How does the word stimulate any of the five ways of self? Self-gratification; self-glorification; self-evaluation; self-determination; self-sufficiency?

3. How does the word line up with scripture? (One can proof-text anything.) A woman/man of integrity in the Spirit will honestly analyze the word in light of what in scripture supports it, and bring before the Lord scriptures that do not support it. This is prayer-fodder.

4. Dialogue with other praying believers. This is no matter for private interpretation. Over the years I’ve discovered the Lord is releasing words that are meant to be communally discerned, and not merely left up to the subjective/personal interpretation of each individual. There’s a lot to be said about this. It’s primarily a pastoral issue of helping and leading the body of Christ to hear and appropriate the word of the Lord, together! (This is so important.)

5. Ask yourself, where does the word draw the eyes of your heart? If it isn’t to the increase of Jesus’ glory, the John the Baptist in me says – spit it out. (For a good number of years, I’ve been listening to several notable “prophets” in our American evangelical circle. It grieves my heart to hear several of them rarely and almost never reference the focal point of all prophecy “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). The absence, more than any other facet, has become a tip-off to spit out the word.)

6. Pay attention to the spirit of the message itself. Do you hear a spirit of pride in the word? Again, over the years, I’ve noticed that most often a spirit of pride in the “prophet” also leads to a portrayal of God as a vengeful, intolerant tyrant. Weird how those two go together…

7. Does the word invite hearers into a redemptive posture? Is there a word that reveals God’s way of mercy through the cross? (Not merely through doing better, or being more sincere?) Does the word actually engender a spirit of authentic humility in the hearers? A spirit of humility that manifests itself in one’s attitude toward God, toward others AND toward self?

8. Does the word invite hearers into a spirit of intimacy and increased love and faith in Jesus Christ?

9. Does the word come to pass? This is the end-all. But the Holy Spirit is not the author of confusion. He’s not willing that the people of God be led on fruitless goose-chases. It’s His loving desire that we increasingly assess the veracity of words well-before we marshal corporate energy, witness and resources to the activation of prophetic words.

10. Having said this, all prophecy is meant to be activated with faith IN THE GOODNESS OF JESUS’ PRESENT LEADERSHIP. (The words in caps are essential.) Every word is meant to draw us closer to His intimate guidance of our lives – corporately and personally. It’s vital that we ask ourselves if our faith in Jesus’ leadership is being enhanced in the task of responding to a word of the Lord. Again, the end-result is a Man, and His increase in our lives, and in our world.

And the bonus: Over the last 12 months, I’ve also learned to look for whether a prophetic word is reflecting, or has an understanding of the Psalm 2 narrative. If not, it usually draws my eyes, and the glory, to some other reality or competing storyline, and I spit it out.


JSB • September, 2020

Feedback? What would you add? What would you underscore?

Once you have determined that you are going to receive and activate a prophetic word, what can we do next?
“How Do We Respond to Bonafide Words of the Lord?”


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