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Recently someone spoke a "prophetic" word over me (actually, several different things at one setting). None of what they said bore witness with my spirit.
I have heard people say that a prophetic word should always confirm what the Lord has already begun to speak to your heart. Is this a biblical statement? I just want to be careful not to write off something that could be from the Lord.Wanting To Discern
Dear Wanting to Discern
The bible tells us to judge prophesy in 1 Corinthians 14:29, but it does not lay down a clear standard or criteria to use for judging prophecy. We can glean a few criteria from Scripture, but there are not many that are explicitly laid out. Here are three that I could find:
- It must turn people towards God, and not away from Him (Deut 13:1-5)
- Accuracy -- e.g., the things prophesied must come to pass (Deut 18:20-22)
- It carries the power of the Holy Spirit to convict unsaved people and turn them to Jesus (1 Corinthians 14:22-24)
Other than that, the bible does not explicitly lay down a lot of criteria for judging prophesy. However, we are able to drawn information about God from His word that help us to lay down some additional standards.
One of them comes from John chapters 14 and 15, where Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit, and how He helps us to understand things that Jesus would say to us. For instance, John 14:26 says, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you." We draw a criteria from that verse that the Holy Spirit will bear witness to our spirit about the word--and He frequently does that--but He is not obligated to do that with every single prophecy. We also draw an inference that the Holy Spirit will put a check in our Spirit when something is not from God. That is how He often works, but again, there is not guarantee that if the "check in your spirit" is missing, then the word is correct.
There is another criteria we draw. The bible says that God cannot lie. We accept the Bible as His written words, so we hold it as an absolute standard. If we ever hear a word that contracts what God has said in His written word, the bible, then we reject it.
Then there are other criteria that were developed for judging prophecy based on what we know about the nature and character of God. I will speak about those criteria later one, but let's get back to your question.
Chances are very high that the Holy Spirit will give confirmations to your spirit as the words are being given to you. But there are occasionally times when this does not happen. The word may hit on an upcoming situation that you are not yet aware of. Or it may touch on a blind spot (sorry, we all have them). When God's word hits on one of blind spots, it is easy to want to reject it. But there is a simple test that you can do--run it by some of your close friends. They will know your blind spots and if you promise them not to get angry, they will probably be willing to tell you. Another option is to run words you are not sure about by your pastor or a prayer partner or a Christian leader who you look to for advice and counsel.
Please be aware that prophetic ministry will not provide any easy fixes to your situation, as God usually works through a process. However the words can give you increased understanding and insight into what God is doing in your life, so you can better cooperate with Him in it. One of the primary goals of the prophetic is to help you connect more with God and to be encouraged to walk out His plans for you, and to help you be able to hear Him more clearly yourself. God's goal is to cause you to grow and mature in Him, so that you can become more like His Son Jesus.
You should be aware that some words are figurative (or symbolic) and are not to be taken literally. For example, one time I ministered in a public setting to someone who was struggling with a besetting sin and who had been crying out to God for help in overcoming it. God addressed their situation/concern in a symbolic way so that the person understood the word but the others in the room did not know the specifics. That way, the person was encouraged instead of embarrassed.
The symbolic word went something like this: "I see you following God up a mountain trail. You make a lot of progress, but then there is a big bounder blocking your path, and you cannot seem to get around it no matter what you try. It has been there for a long time and you haven't been able to make progress. You have been praying and asking God to remove the bolder. The Lord says that He is now coming to blast that boulder into small pieces so that it will no longer block the path. The Lord wants you to know that He has heard your cry and He is rousing Himself on your behalf to help you get rid of this boulder that has been blocking your path."
Some Criteria For Judging A Prophetic Word
Having said all that, let me give you some criteria that are often used to judge prophecy:
- Be sure to bounce it against Scripture... Scripture is the final authority and anything that contradicts Scripture must be rejected.
- Look for the inner witness of the Holy Spirit to your spirit. Also look for a witness of His peace with the word (Col 3:15).
- Pray it through. Take the word back to the Lord and discuss it with Him. Ask Him to show you if there are any conditions He wants you to meet, any changes He wants you to make in your life or thinking. Ask Him to show you if any parts of the word are not from Him and to confirm the parts that are from Him.
- Compare the word against other things God has spoken into your life through prior prophecies, personal devotions, pastoral counsel, etc.
- If you have any questions or alarm or fear or discomfort about a particular word, run it by your pastor or a leader from your church.
- Do NOT act on any predictive, directive or calling/gifting definition words unless you get confirmation from other sources. If this is a word from God, He will be happy to confirm it to you.
- Do not "read into" the word what you want it to say. Here are examples of what to avoid:
- A woman was given a word that she would meet the man she was to marry in 5 years and he would be a musician. She was in fact engaged to another man, who was not a musician and married him a few weeks after receiving the word. She redefined the word to meet her circumstances, changing its meeting to: her fiancÚ would become a musician in 5 years. The marriage did not go well and they separated three years later...it was invalid to use this word as a basis for marrying this man because she twisted the meaning to fit her circumstances.
- A woman was given a word that had a figurative portion about her standing at a light airy window overlooking a green valley. She went home and noticed that her house did not overlook a valley and did not have any light airy windows. So she interpreted the word as "sell your house" and did so without seeking any sort of confirmation from the Lord from any other sources.
- A minister was involved in a building project and began to encounter financial difficulty; the money stopped coming in and they were about to default on the loan. About that time, the minister received a word that God would "protect that which was most precious to him and not allow it to be lost or destroyed." He took that to mean God would supply the needed money for the building project, since that was the circumstance that was prevalent in his mind. But the money did not come in and the bank foreclosed on the property. He lost it all.
He felt devastated that God did not keep his word and to make matters worse, his daughter ended up in a life- threatening situation, and he had to spend months nursing her back to health. Finally he confronted God as to why God had not kept His word to him regarding the property. Then God replied the word was never about the property...it was about his daughter who had nearly died. When he got the word, the circumstance it applied to was not yet in his life, so he assumed it applied to his current circumstance.
Processing Prophetic Words That You have Judged As Valid
If you decide it is a valid word after judging it, then either listen to the prophecy tape frequently (if it is taped) or transcribe it and print it out and review it often. If the word is not taped, then immediately sit down and write notes about what was said while the word is still fresh in your memory.
Also, pray regarding the word. Invite God to work in your life to bring it to pass and ask Him to show you any conditions in it that He wants you to meet to fulfill it. Ask the Lord to reveal any prerequisites that must be accomplished before the word can be fulfilled. For instance, if the Lord gives you a word that you will be used to bring revival to the nation of Mexico, He may require that you learn to speak Spanish first. Sometimes the prerequisites are spelled out explicitly in the prophecy. Other times they are not. Ask God to show you what (if anything) your part is and then ask Him to empower you to do it.
Ask the Lord what His time frame is for the word. So often people have jumped the gun and tried to fulfill a prophecy in their own strength (or by their own resources) before it was God's timing. This often creates messes to clean up. An example of this is Sarah's attempts to have a child through her maid...she had a true word of God (that Abraham would have a son) but she tried to fulfill it in her own time and through her own resources. It is important to know (and follow) God's time table and His strategy for fulfilling His word.
Once you are sure it is a word from the Lord, stand in faith for your word to be fulfilled. This is "warring" over your word, as per 1 Timothy 1:18: "This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare" (NKJV).
Words can be both for "now" and also for later. So enjoy and process your word, but don't throw away the word once you are done. The Lord may impress on you to listen to it again at some future date. And when you do, you may find that the word applies strongly to you at that time as well. I cannot tell you how many times God has had me review a prophecy from five or six years ago and I discover that it is very relevant to what God is doing in my life now.