Obeying the Promptings of the Spirit


13"If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would follow my ways, 14how quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes! (Psalm 81:13-14).


If we want to be led and controlled by the Holy Spirit, we must obey the Holy Spirit's promptings. What do I mean by promptings? Let me give you an example: Several years ago, when we were living in England, my American-born wife, Sandy, left our home to visit the United States to see her parents for two weeks. The night before her return, she called me from the airport in Chicago to confirm that she was boarding her plane and it would be an eight-hour flight and would arrive at Heathrow airport at 6 am. I got up at 3:30 am to drive the two hours to the airport, and while I was getting my things together, the thought popped into my head, “take your passport!” When the idea came to me, I immediately rejected the notion, thinking that I would not need a passport, I wasn’t going anywhere, so I carried on getting ready. I had my keys in hand, and just as I put my jacket on to go out the door, the thought came to me again, "take your passport!" Again, I thought it was weird but decided to obey the impulse because I had some experience listening to those kinds of promptings, so I dashed upstairs, found my passport, and ran out of the door to the car.


I got to Heathrow airport on time, and as I went into the Arrival Hall, I looked upon the screens and saw that Sandy’s flight had arrived on time. However, after two hours of waiting, I began to get worried. The time to wait is usually only half an hour after landing before getting through customs and immigration. Then over the public address system, I heard a message, "Would Mr. Keith Thomas come to the Information Booth?" I was even more worried when I did not see Sandy there. A uniformed Immigration officer was waiting for me. "Mr. Thomas?" he said, "We can resolve all this mess if you just happen to have your passport on you!" With a big smile from ear to ear, I pulled my passport out of my pocket while he told me that British Immigration just needed to know that Sandy's husband was a British citizen. Only the passport would prove it! Sandy was relieved after waiting for at least a couple of hours, detained in a small room at the airport. Unknowingly, Sandy had only been on a visitor visa, and her residency status had not yet been approved. Without proof I was British, and she was my wife, she would have been sent home on the next plane.


God was gracious in prompting me to take my passport the second time. I wonder how many other times the Lord has inspired me like that, and I haven't listened. If we would only listen to Him, how many victories and miracles of provision could we receive? God longs to be gracious and speak specific things to our hearts if only we would quiet our spirit enough to listen:


If there is a secret to being filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit, it is by learning to listen and obey the inner promptings of the Spirit. One way that I have found helpful in distinguishing the Holy Spirit's prompting from my mind is to process the thought that comes, to see if there was a chain of successive thoughts or if the idea or thought popped out of nowhere. If there is no link of thoughts, and it was like a light bulb suddenly turned on, it could be the Holy Spirit's prompting. The next thing to do is ask yourself: What would be the likely outcome of being obedient to that thought? Is there a chance that God would get glory out of my step of obedience? Would it be following the Scriptures? Is there a possible blessing that would come out of it? What is the worst-case scenario if it was just your thoughts or a result of indigestion, and it was not the Spirit's prompting? If the only thing to risk is a possible embarrassment, then go for it! “If my people would but listen to me…how quickly would I subdue their enemies” (Psalm 81:13-14). Keith Thomas