The elder was astonished. Susan had prayed specifically for what he knew was the root of the problem. Without realizing it, Susan had entered into prophetic intercession.
THE TRAINING GROUND OF PRAYER For Susan and many other women, intercession is the training ground for the prophetic gifts. Often it is the way a woman first begins to receive what she later comes to recognize as prophetic words.
A woman who has a prophetic gift tends to pray differently than other people. She may begin by praying a simple prayer of petition. Then, all of a sudden, the tonality of her voice changes. A ring of authority comes. It is as though she has shifted gears in the Spirit as the power of the Holy Spirit energizes the words of her prayer.
When her intercession hits the mark time and time again, she begins to develop confidence that she is actually hearing from God. Eventually she may begin to step forward to share what she is sensing from God at other times.
The fact is, very few people who stand in front of others and give prophetic words on a regular basis start out in such a public way. Most begin by praying for people and having those people exclaim, "How did you know to pray like that? What you prayed fits my need exactly!"
That's how it happened for me. When I first began prophesying, I had no idea that what I was doing was prophetic. People at my church just kept asking me to pray for them, and I did.
After a while I began to notice that the things I prayed proved to be accurate, and my prayers were often fulfilled in dramatic ways. I realized that God was giving me supernatural knowledge--I was hearing the voice of God! Since then, I've come to recognize and trust His voice all the more.
Typically God doesn't give me a lengthy prophecy while I'm in prayer. Rather, a name or some other piece of information will come to me. Then, as I open my mouth to pray, I trust God to fill it with the words of intercession that He wants.
Sometimes this kind of praying involves a progressive revelation of the Lord's will. For example, I was interceding one day and kept hearing a particular man's name. I heard no other words, yet I felt great alarm for this man--whoever he was.
"Father, protect him. Encourage him," I prayed. "Don't let him do something he shouldn't do."
The next day I received a request to pray for a well-known traveling evangelist who was suffering great discouragement. His name was the one that had come to me the day before!
From that point on I was able to pray for this man with even greater knowledge. I believe the Lord may have averted a suicide attempt through the prayers of intercessors during this critical period in the evangelist's life.
NO FORMULA Although it's true that many women are trained in the prophetic gifts through intercession, hearing the voice of God and responding to His prophetic call can't be reduced to a formula. For one thing, not all prophetic calls are alike.
We are unique in the gifts and abilities God has given us. As a result, God's methods for stirring up our spiritual gifts will differ from woman to woman.
The important thing is that we learn to be sensitive to God's voice and respond to His prompting when it comes. This sensitivity is often easier for women than it is for men, since women tend to be naturally more sensitive. Our innate ability to "tune in" opens our hearts to hear the voice of God in many different ways.
Sometimes what we call "women's intuition" is really the gift of prophecy at work. For example, Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, had a "prophetic intuition" one day that caused her to stop what she was doing and immediately begin praying for the protection of her daughter, Danae.
She had no reason to believe that Danae was in any danger. But later that evening she understood why God had prompted her to pray with such urgency.
At about the time Shirley began praying, Danae was driving through a rainstorm on a mountain road. All of a sudden the car began skidding on the wet gravel, and Danae lost control. The car rolled and landed upside down in the middle of the road.
Thankfully, Danae escaped with only an injury to her left hand. According to the police, the outcome could have been much worse. If the car had skidded another 30 feet, it would have reached a part of the road that had no guardrail and plunged down a 500-foot embankment.