To understand what goes on when a spiritual activity such as ministering takes place, it is best to first back away and explain the process of communication between one individual and another, or others. Simply put, communication occurs when one person speaks words to another, and that person hears and understands the words, so that the intended thought goes completely, successfully from one mind to the other.
What is happening in ministry is a bit more complicated. To properly and correctly convey a spiritual thought, it needs understanding that the thought itself begins with God. He puts the thought into the mind of the person speaking, and that person speaks the appropriate words to correctly convey the thought to the listener. This is where God the Holy Spirit comes into the process. The thought, being from the Father, needs the personal experience of the speaker and the conveyance of conviction within the heart of the hearer, to fully complete the process. It is this combination of experience and conviction that not only impresses the force of the thought, but also the ability to understand the thought, because it is not only the particular words that do the job. Words are mechanical creations, made by the mechanical motion of speech. The thought, the particular intention of understanding, is made possible only as the Spirit has been able to so permeate the soul, heart and life of the person speaking, that the Spirit works through the very words spoken. Paul spoke like a high-speaking, learned man of his day. Peter was said to be more the street talker, it is said. God used both men to convey His thoughts and feelings to the audiences that each of these people spoke to. So, while there is Divine origination of thought, there is individual expression of it by the person speaking. In each case, Divine thought and conviction are expressed, received and understood.
But, while communication may be happening, reception may be meeting with resistance in the heart of the hearer. People still have a will. People can harden their hearts. Some will disagree with this idea, but there is the verse in the Old Testament “do not harden your hearts” ( Ps. 95:8, Heb 3:8)
And, another factor which figures in is the heart of the speaker. If that person is not given to being available to God for Him to work in his own heart, then how can the speaker speak spiritual truth and know that he is truly ministering? Some preachers can speak for hours, and their words fall on the floor, never getting inside a soul. Prayer and seeking the Giver of the Message are the prerequisites of the speaker before he EVER dares to speak a word of prophecy!
These mechanics of ministry particularly come into play in the act of comforting. People often visit grieving people and say the exact wrong words! Or they say what are appropriate words, but no comforting happens. The Holy Spirit is doing the comforting, to be sure. People can just show up, and be there, and the very presence is used in the heart of the one grieving to comfort them.
Words go to the ears, and comfort and conviction go to the heart. That’s the mechanics of ministry! The speaker speaks to the part outside, the ears, and the Holy Spirit works to the part inside, the heart, and that makes it happen!