One of my good friends often jokes that prophecy is eighty percent preparation, twenty percent inspiration, a hundred percent perspiration, and a thousand percent trepidation. Often, the main cause of failure in the prophetic is that we have moved under pressure rather than in peace and relaxation in the knowledge of God. I am under enormous pressure, everywhere I go, to move in prophecy. I have visited churches where leaders have slept in sleeping bags outside of my bedroom, wanting a prophetic word in the middle of the night. I’ve gone to the washroom at 3 a.m. and been followed in by a person wanting prophecy. I have been at conferences where I have been expected to prophesy from 6 a.m. at a men’s breakfast straight through to when I wrap up the main session at 11 p.m.

I accept some pressure as part of my ministry, but there is no way I can live under the weight of false, or unfair, expectations. Many churches and leaders see prophetic ministry as a glorious shortcut. Instead of laboring to create vision in the church from the roots up, leaders bring in a prophet to prophesy a vision that can be imposed on to the people from the top down.

Prophecy will confirm and broaden a vision, it can be a catalyst in the Spirit to reveal the unseen and unknown. Vision is further developed through prayer, seeking God, and sharing our hearts and dreams with people in the work.

Every day, I have to push away the burdens of other people’s expectations. To be still, to live in the grace of God, to be aware of His presence, and to be at rest are the goals of prophetic ministry. Into that environment, God can drop His word, create faith, and release the prophetic flow. Worship is important to a prophet. Being at rest and peace in our relationship with God is absolutely vital.

When we do not dwell in rest and peace, we find ourselves reacting to situations. Reaction rather than rest is poison for a prophet. People moving under pressure can often indulge in mental gymnastics rather than hearing a word in their spirits. Prophecy becomes tainted.

Most people think prophecy comes from “somewhere out there” into our minds. This isn’t the case. In fact, we cannot receive prophecy in our minds. The mind only receives information. Our spirit, however, receives revelation. Prophecy comes from within, through our spirit’s communion with the Holy Spirit. It then moves from our spirit into our mind, through the link of faith. Faith is the vehicle that takes a prophetic word from our spirit into our conscious mind.

Our minds are very good at putting things in order. They can organize billions of gigabytes of information, sorting it and making it understandable. Revelation comes in bits and pieces sometimes. We may receive part four, then part two, followed by parts one and three. The mind is brilliant at putting those pieces into order so that they come out correctly. We must always let our faith loose on a prophetic word first, so that it can move from our spirits into our minds. This faith is simply the confidence that the word we have is truly from the Lord.

Sometimes we can get a word coming into our spirits that makes no sense whatsoever to our minds. That is because our minds cannot understand revelation; they can only process it and put it in order. Revelation, sometimes, is totally illogical. It does not always make reasonable sense. If we seek to understand revelation with our minds, we can slip into uncertainty and fear, and become paralyzed by the thought of being wrong. Our courage can evaporate as we ponder the very real possibility of looking stupid in front of other people. That fear can cause someone to cut their losses and say nothing. To make up for it, we often say something general (but dressed up in spiritual language) that our mind can cope with rather than the significant, supernatural word we’ve been given.

In a meeting in London several years ago, I gave an appeal for people who were experiencing relational difficulties to come forward for prayer. As I worked through the line, I came to man in his late forties. I had no idea about the relationship in his life that was causing him pain; the man said nothing to me. All I could do was reach out in my spirit and ask God’s perspective.

At that instant, I had a fifty-fifty chance at being right about speaking out whether it was a male or female this individual was having trouble with. If I guessed correctly there, the odds lengthened, as I had to decide if it was a mother, wife, girlfriend, sister, daughter, employer, co-worker, church member, pastor’s wife, or a hundred other relational possibilities.

As I reached out to God, I said, “The Lord wants to speak to you about your wife.” At that point, I received a picture of a tall young woman in her mid-to late-twenties with long blond hair. My mind was screaming at me that this was his daughter. However, in my spirit, I heard the word “wife.”

I took a second to rest in my spirit and let my faith loose on the original word. I ignored my mind and spoke prophetically. The word spoke of how the man had been married for three years to a woman twenty years his junior. Under his love and care, she had blossomed in her personality and had changed considerably. She had grown from a mousy introvert into a more confident and outgoing personality. This had changed the dynamic of their relationship to a point where he was becoming less confident of her love and more convinced that she would leave him for a younger man. Into that situation, the Lord spoke a beautiful word of comfort and reassurance that lifted his spirit immeasurably.

Very often, a real battle is waged within our life between our mind and our spirit. Our mind wants to be in control, but God has created our spirit to know Him and move with Him. This is why peace, quiet, and rest on the inside are so vital to a healthy spiritual life.

Some people are “feelers” in the prophetic. We feel people’s pain, joy, excitement, or other emotion. We feel things from the heart of God. Some people are “seers.” We see in pictures and have dreams. We live a life of metaphor and symbolism. Some people are “hearers.” Sometimes, we can move in all three. It is a good thing not to get locked into one methodology. Try to have a variety of ways to receive and deliver prophetic words. After all, God Himself is full of infinite variety.

-An Excerpt from Graham’s book The Exercise of Prophecy. Available here