“And it shall come to pass afterwards,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.” (Joel 2:28-29 – http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Joel%202:28-29&version=ESVUK)
Have you ever met someone who was so in-tune with the Word of God and could hear God’s voice so clearly that they spoke tremendous truths into your life and brought immense encouragement into a situation that you never even addressed with them personally? If so, it is very likely that you have met someone with the prophetic gift!
Now before you start getting carried away and thinking that all of this is just some type of Charismatic hoopla, let me stop you for a minute and explain the gift of prophesy.
Before going to IHOPKC, I personally had a lot of doubts about prophesy. I didn’t grow up in a church which believed in the prophetic gifts, and I had never received a prophesy myself which made any degree of sense. At least I didn’t think I had. But that’s because I had the wrong idea of what prophesy was! Like many people, I believed that prophesy was some type of fortune telling akin to the lady with the crystal ball and tarot cards. I believed prophets to largely be people who were making things up for the sake of gaining attention. However, at IHOP I acquired a different understanding of what prophesy is. Sometimes a prophet might be able to speak a word into your life concerning some future event which is to take place, however, more often than not it is about confirming stirrings which others have already started to feel, encouraging individuals about where they’re at in their walk with God while making them crave more, and boldly declaring the Scriptures through rightly dividing the Word of Truth. People who exercise the prophetic gifts often have a keen sense of observation, a deep level of empathetic compassion which enables them to literally feel the needs and hurts of others, and an ability to pray through the Spirit in an intercessory way which the average young Christian cannot. Prophets also must have enormous Spiritual maturity as it is a gift which has great potential to be abused. It is for this reason that when someone prophesies over you it becomes very important to be on your guard and to use discernment before accepting a Word from the Lord for there are many false prophets in our generation. It is also important to test all the Spirits to see if the Spirit behind the Word is coming from God or a person’s wrongful desires. You will know that the Word comes from God if it brings you encouragement or admonition into an area of your life that you have been seeking out God’s will for and if it comes as reinforcement or reassurance to questions already brought before the Lord. On the other hand, if the Word seems to go contrary to other doctrinal teachings and contradicts Scripture itself, you can be sure that there is some reason to raise a level of concern about the Prophetic Utterance. Finally, if the Word is truly from God, it should also be consistent. Therefore, the teaching of Prophesy is to ask at least one or two other prophets to see if they receive the same direction from God concerning your life. If all the prophets reveal the same message than you can be sure that the prophets truly had the gift of God. On the other hand, if a prophet mentions something unsettling to you or which does not seem to fit and you approach other prophets who do not have the same Word for you and the Words seem to be entire disconnected, it may be possible that you have come into contact with at least one false prophet! That’s not to say that God will never disturb you through a Prophetic Word. Just like the Prophet Nathan, sometimes God calls us to prophesy difficult realities over others on topics we would much rather avoid or which are somewhat unpleasant. Yet, even when God brings our sin to light, a true Prophet should be able to also deliver some level of hope to the situation.
The most common form of prophesy is likely in the form of Prophetic Utterances of Scripture. If you listen to the majority of people who truly have the gift of prophesy, you will notice that somewhere between 80-95% of what they are saying is either Scripture word for word or messages which are hidden within the Scriptures. They aren’t just pulling words out of the air, rather they are saying specific verses which are able to speak truth into your circumstance. Prophetic Utterances of Scripture are verses which are spoken at the right time and in the right way. Just like the book of Proverbs tells us, “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” This is yet another way to test if a person is truly prophetic or not. If you have doubts, you can think back to what they told you and try to match it up with the actual Word of God. A true prophet cannot contradict what God Himself says! Oftentimes, when people prophesy they may be able to give it to you in writing or via a recording. This makes it even easier to look back at their prophesy to not only see if it came true, but also to see if it is following the Word of God.
Sometimes people have this mistaken understanding that prophesy will reveal something life altering to them. However, this is often not the case. For the most part, prophesy simply confirms stirrings that have already been in your heart for quite some time or things that you have been praying about (or have been on your mind) for a while. These thoughts or images that have been pressing on your soul for the last little while may not be anything grand, they may not be a new calling or a new life direction, but nevertheless, hearing a prophet declare truth over the situation you are struggling with can still bring much encouragement. Oftentimes, these confirmations can be revealed to a prophet during prayer. Be wary of a prophet who prophesies without first opening in a word of prayer. Often the Holy Spirit must be tapped into and invited into our midst so that we can truly discern the Word of God. Without asking the Spirit to come we are simply taking words at random and hoping that they will somehow apply to the situation.
Also, do not doubt your own personal experiences and what Christ is teaching you. Often a prophetic word which God has given directly to you concerning your own life can be used as a prophesy to others. Sometimes I have been in a group of people and been able to sense a certain struggle and other times I have simply shared in general terms what Christ had been laying on my heart or teaching me only to hear murmurs from others that that was also a word to them. Sometimes people were truly encouraged because it felt to them like God was giving a direct Word to them, even though in reality I was just sharing what Christ was teaching me that day. That’s how prophesy happens sometimes. It can happen organically.
The very first times I received a prophetic word, I had so many doubts that I often went in with this type of attitude that the prophet should be able to reveal everything about me even though they had never met me before. I thought that prophesy was exactly like having a tarot card reading. However, I soon learned that God does not reveal everything about your situation to someone even if they have the strongest gift of prophesy that you will ever encounter. Personally, I believe this is one way that God protects us. Sometimes, like in King David’s case, the exact sin is laid before the Prophet. However, more often than not, our personal sins simply stay between God and us. There is no reason for a prophet to know all that is going on in our minds and our hearts. In many instances God only gives as much knowledge to a prophet as is beneficial to the relationship and will bring healing and wholeness to us. It is for this reason that I’ve had many people minister to me prophetically in ways that were so specific they could not be generic without the person ever saying specifically what I was struggling with. They may not have known the circumstance, but God revealed enough to them about it that they could deliver a prophetic word which let me know that it was directly from God and that God had given them a specific insight and filled them with compassion because of it.
I think part of the reason that IHOP has become such a controversial movement is simply because they DO place so much emphasis on the prophetic gifts of the Holy Spirit. I do not agree with every teaching that IHOP espouses on prophesy, however, I think that perhaps the fact that it is controversial means that maybe, just maybe, they are doing the work of Christ who taught us that “if they hate you, keep in mind that they hated Me first.” Jesus used strong language here. He didn’t say, “if they don’t get along with you”, “if they aren’t buddy-buddy with you,” or “if they don’t really like you.” NO. He said, if they HATE you. If they persecute you. If they say all kinds of evil things against you. Our culture, even our churches, have become so politically correct. So cautious about offense. There’s nothing politically correct about the Gospels! The fact that IHOP is offensive to some shows that to a degree they have gone back to the Biblical roots of Christ!
Perhaps gifts of the Holy Spirit are as foreign to you as living cross-culturally. Perhaps you don’t know where you stand. But maybe that’s the point. Maybe the point is to begin to question and to begin to search out the Scriptures fervently and ask God and trusted mentors in prayer what it’s all about. Maybe the point is that it will never fully make sense to us until we reach glorious perfection – but I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I understood it would take away the glorious mystery. But I can still trust and wait regardless.
Actually, it’s crazy looking back at my experience with prophesy and prophetic utterances. Now that I have a deeper and clearer understanding of what prophesy means I realize that I have often experienced it, sometimes even by people who don’t even believe in the prophetic gifts! I have experienced words of prophesy as interpretations of tongues, as encouragement from peers at Tyndale who spoke into a circumstance without even knowing it fully, and through the occasional dream or vision which God gifted me with and left me with a burning to passionately intercede for someone in need of prayer. Yet, until recently, I didn’t even know that those instances were examples of prophesy! It’s so cool when I think of the fact that I, who once was sceptical, have been so filled with the Holy Spirit both during and after the IHOP conference that I have almost completely forgotten what it’s like to not believe in the charismatic gifts. I almost catch myself asking the former Deborah, “how could you not see it? It was happening right before your eyes the entire time!” But that’s the beauty of grace and faith. That’s the beauty of realizing that I never knew what it was called so I could not claim it as a lovely blessing sent right from the lap of God.
Not everyone has the gift of giving prophesy, but all of us who are Christians have the ability to strengthen our capacity to hear the Voice of the Bridegroom and through being attentive to that Voice to offer encouragement and support to others. Thanks be to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Here’s some further info about prophesy if you’re interested: http://www.kingwatch.co.nz/Prophetic_Ministry/testing_prophets.htm