Concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. –1 Cor. 12:1, KJV
1 Corinthians 14 has been called by Don Basham, and others, as the “manual” for Charismatics. I agree, because it explains what speaking in tongues is, the exercise of the gifts of prophecy and interpretation of tongues in the church, etc. However, it’s not the end all; it makes no mention of the presence of God, healing, deliverance, or nature miracles–which are only briefly mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10.
Many books on spiritual gifts only consist of definitions of words, terminology: word of knowledge, word of wisdom, prophecy, faith, healings, discerning of spirits, etc are defined and explained as words and phrases, terms, and the explanation usually stops there. What makes things worse than this minute, simplistic approach to the subject, is that many of the spiritual gifts books contradict one another. Very little practical advice is given on how to acquire or grow in the experience and practical use of such gifts.
Based on my personal subjective experiences, readings of Scripture, and the lives of various saints–I hope to shine some light on spiritual gifts here for a moment. This is not only experiential but hopefully practical:
1. Praise and Worship, Feeling God’s Presence, and Speaking in Tongues. This “feeling” of God’s presence is what we call “the baptism in the Holy Spirit” in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches. When the baptism comes, it surrounds you with the Holy Spirit, and you feel the presence of God all around you. It is comforting, peaceful, and reverent; it is the Spirit of the Fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2) as much as it is peace of God, which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Sometimes this feeling of God’s presence results in speaking in tongues, or praising God with your spirit, as Paul said (1 Cor. 14:15). See John Sherrill’s They Speak with Other Tongues.
2. Bible Study and Private Prayer. Two experienced, older prophets (one influenced by Derek Prince; the other by James Goll and Kris Vallotton) have told me that the more you study the Bible in faith, the stronger and more detailed your words of knowledge will be. I can also confirm this; as I have gone through spiritual dry spells, where I had no desire to study the Word, and in those times, I received very few dreams or signs from God. But once I picked up on Bible study again, the spirit of revelation kicked in. Private prayer, and I would agree with Augustin Poulain (The Graces of Interior Prayer) in saying that contemplation (quietly staring at Jesus in your mind’s eye, with your eyes closed, Heb 12:2), or listening prayer, also plays a role in activating the gift of prophecy in your life. The more you study the Bible, pray, and listen in quiet times for the voice of God–even if nothing happens instantly–you will find eventually dreams and visions will come in the span of about 8-12 hours; and if those don’t come, then signs and strange confirmations and coincidences will come in the day time. God will draw near to you if you draw near to Him; you have His Word (James 4:8).
3. Spiritual Journals. When you start having dreams and visions; hearing voices; and seeing strange coincidences or signs from God happening all around you–it is helpful to go buy a composition notebook and journal these experiences; because amazing as they are, you will probably forget a lot of them, because they will happen so often. Habakkuk 2:2: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets.” Also, this will help you to discern the spirit behind each experience; we need to test the spirits to see whether they are from God (1 John 4:1); to see if the experiences speak according to God’s Word (Isaiah 8:20). As much as it requires faith to pray for dreams and believe God could be at work in them; it also requires faith to evaluate, discern, and judge them to see whether they are from God or the devil (Heb. 5:14). Even saints can have demons speak to them, masquerading as angels of light (2 Cor. 11:14); and we should be especially on our guard against such delusions from Satan; and even more on guard about sharing these experiences openly with Christians who have no experience with the interpretation of dream symbols. See Ira Milligan’s Understanding the Dreams You Dream.
4. Prophetic Ministry. This is something I have little to almost no experience in; but I have had my random and unofficial moments, in a house church, during street preaching, and very recently at a prophetic conference. This is when you are praying for someone; usually the person facing you or standing in front of you; and you are closing your eyes, and you see a picture flash in your mind; and because it comes as you are thinking and praying for this person in particular, you inwardly know that the Holy Spirit gave this picture, or interior vision for this person. Just as with dream symbols, a knowledge of the meaning of Biblical symbols is essential; you should be able to get the gist of the meaning of the vision-symbol right away–and then share the vision with the person and explain what you feel the meaning of it is (this is called prophesying, or sharing a word of knowledge). See Kris Vallotton’s Basic Training for the Prophetic Ministry.
5. Healing Ministry. This is often based on prophetic ministry; because it requires miraculous faith to be able to pray for physical healing and actually expect a result (miracle). Prophecy serves the function of edifying (or building up your faith); so it follows that healing should flow out from the headwaters of prophecy; and you will find that church history’s greatest healers were also prophets (Hildegard of Bingen, George Fox, John Wesley, Smith Wigglesworth, Kathryn Kuhlman, John Wimber, etc). This involves laying on of hands and saying, “Be healed! In Jesus Name!” or other such direct authoritative commands; it can also take the form of other faith-filled prayers for healing. See John Wimber’s Power Healing.
6. Deliverance Ministry. Also called exorcism in the Catholic and Lutheran churches, this is based on prophecy as well, and feeds off the miraculous faith imparted by direct words of knowledge in the form of revelation about evil spirits, called the discerning of spirits. Some kinds of demons, Jesus said, cannot come out except the exorcist prepares by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21); so these ordinances are definitely means of increasing miraculous faith. Once the revelation of the demonic presence is received, the prophet then has the faith to cast it out in prayer: “Devil come out! In Jesus’ Name!” or sometimes, “Spirit of _____, come out!” (based on the discerning of spirits vision or impression received); and this may result in either the demon coming out quietly, leaving the person relaxed with a sigh of relief; or the demon will come out violently or dramatically, and either shake the person or cause the person to scream out or shriek in a high-pitched shrill! See Norvel Hayes’ How to Cast Out Demons.
7. Nature Miracles. Charismatic Christians may have occasions, when like the prophet Elijah, they will pray for the rain to stop, because it is being a present inconvenience in some way. Jesus also apparently did this on the boat when the waves were swamping the boat (Mark 4:35-41). Raise your hand to the sky and speak to the rain: “In Jesus’ Name I pray and tell this rain to stop for the next 3 hours, in JESUS’ NAME!” I have practiced this many, many times; and God has often answered the prayer; and if not totally, then 80-90% so that it was good enough. See Joan Caroll Cruz’s Mysteries Marvels Miracles: In the Lives of the Saints.
There are many other things about spiritual gifts that I do not know; and I hope to experience them, as I grow in prayer and obedience to the Bible; because these things are necessary for the spreading of the Gospel, that the Gentiles may believe in the Son of God.