Refining Life, on Purpose

Spirit Promptings: Inklings and Gentle Whispers of God

Spirit promptings are more than emotions and an inward call. They are rooted in relationship with God and studying his living word.

Many folks report having spirit promptings – a compulsion or feeling of obligation seemingly from God. For instance, I once did mission work with someone who was convinced she was supposed to give her shoes to a resident of the area we were working in. Looking at his feet, adorned with shredded and overly worn shoes, she was provoked. She saw that her and his feet were about the same size and remembered an extra pair she had at camp.

It was a spirit prompting. And she followed through on our last day, giving this gentleman her shoes.

That may be a small example. However, we often forget about the importance of the Holy Spirit. As J.I Packer points out in Knowing God, “without the Holy Spirit, there would be no gospel and no New Testament.” This is backed up in the words of Jesus:

But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. – John 14:26 (NLT)

Packer further explains that “without the Holy Spirit there would be no faith and no new birth – in short, no Christians.” So, to say the Holy Spirit is important is pretty much an understatement.

For this reason, we should be wise and alert. We should be tuned in to Spirit promptings so we are ready to move forward with what God is calling us to do. As Chuck E. Tate says in 41 Will Come:

“Sometimes God answers, but we aren’t paying attention. Don’t stop listening. God moments and divine appointments are easy to miss because of busyness or frustration. God also gives countless answers through his Word. We won’t find them if we don’t take the time to look – and listen.” (242)

What Spirit Promptings are Not

We can get ourselves confused about the way God speaks to his children (psst… that’s us). Sometimes, we tend to look at it like there’s some single purpose we need to find and achieve. Further, this perceived purpose is often absent of any study of scripture and/or prayer. Just this nebulous “special purpose.”

Packer calls this thought hogwash (at least, that’s how I’m interpreting him).

“In fact, however, this quest for inward explosion rather than an inward communion shows a deep understanding of the Spirit’s ministry… As such, his task and purposes throughout is to make Christians realize with increasing clarity the meaning of their filial relationship with God in Christ, and to lead them into an ever deeper response to God in this relationship.”

Spirit promptings are more than emotions and an inward call. They are rooted in relationship with God and studying his living word.

Spirit promptings are more than emotions and an inward call. They are rooted in relationship with God and studying his living word.

What Spirit Promptings Are

So, was my cohort’s urge to give away her shoes a spirit prompting, or was it otherwise? On the surface, knowing nothing else about the situation, we might call it otherwise. However, this decision came only after having spent time in prayer, forming a relationship with the receiver, in examining circumstances and consulting with trusted people of faith.

It was a response to her relationship with God, whose spirit spoke to her heart and gave her clarity in what was being asked.

Jonathan David Golden – of Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Company – refers to spirit promptings as “inklings” in his book, Be You, Do Good. He further explains that “… God’s Spirit offers countless entry points to the adventure you were made to live.”

As a Christian, it’s our duty to connect to God and with proper, honorable attention to the word.

How to Respond to Spirit Promptings

As we’ve learned, a spirit prompting is more than an inward feeling or emotion. Even though I don’t believe complex things like this can be neatly wrapped up in just a few easy steps, here are some suggestions for recognizing and responding to spirit promptings:

Put Jesus First

When you have no other tools or roads you can take, you will have prayer. This is the key way we connect with our heavenly father. And, as Pete Greig explains in Dirty Glory, “When we put Jesus first, walking in step with the Holy Spirit over months and years, unintended patterns start to form from the chaos of our lives. Coincidences occur surprisingly often; disparate voices unexpectedly harmonise.”

Live in a Mode of Prayer

Greig (mentioned above) is well-known for leading the 24/7 Prayer movement. He certainly would agree with its importance and value in our lives. Another voice cheering it on is pastor and author, Mark Batterson, who says in his book In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day; “Living in prayer mode is the difference between seeing coincidences and providences. Prayer has a way of helping us recognize that what we might dismiss as human accidents are really divine appointments.”

Seek The Word

Of course, few individuals can call up an applicable scripture for every life circumstance with little or no notice. And applying the scripture is not always easy. It can seem daunting. That’s why it’s important to spend time studying the word in some fashion. Whether it’s doing a proverb a day, following a reading plan, Sunday School, regular devotionals, or in reading or listening to books by reputable sources – get in the word.

Process your Prompting

Having taken your inkling – or spirit prompting – to Jesus, praying over it, and consulting the wisdom and insight you’ve cultivated, it’s time to process it all. Analyze. Golden offers the following suggestions for processing an inkling (or spirit prompting):

  • Think over what it is you are being prompted to
  • Brainstorm and flesh out a purpose
  • Share it with others for feedback and insight
  • Decide to go after it or not
  • Make it happen
  • Celebrate it

Be Transformed – and Take Action

Finally, it’s time to take action. Remember that all are new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are not the same. We are transformed. And God does his transforming through relationship with His creation and his creation’s application of scripture. This is what cultivates the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – Galatians 5:22-23).

His creation can then live according to his divine plan.

So, when you have a spirit prompting, take action. Because, foregoing relationship with God and/or scriptural application (which requires understanding – which requires study) ensures your personal spiritual stagnation.

About Chad Gramling

Chad Gramling makes his home in Indiana with his wife and three daughters. He’s the founder and primary blogger at 1Glories, a vision cast onto his heart and detailed in Listen Up Kids: Foolish Dreams, Syncing with God & Running to Win.