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I love God with all of my heart, but I have been going through what people call a "desert experience" for about two months now. I am not in any rebellion or sin that I know of, but He feels very far away, and it is harder to pray and read my bible right now. I know that sometimes God takes us into the desert for a time, and He eventually brings us out of it and back to our normal relationship with Him. My pastor says God does this so He can teach us to lean on faith and not on our feelings.
My question is this: is it ok to prophesy to people when we are in the desert? Or should we abstain from using our spiritual gifts to help others when we are feeling spiritually dry ourselves?- In A Dry Place
Dear In A Dry Place
You are asking: "Can we prophesy accurately when we are in a spiritually dry place?"
I believe the answer is that is usually yes, but it does depend on just how spiritually dry we are. It is possible to reach a point where we are so dry that we cannot hear God's voice at all or discern His leading. If we get that dry, then it would be presumptuous to try and speak for Him, since we have absolutely no idea of what He is saying.
But most of the time that we are in a desert, it is our emotions (and not our spirit) that is in the dry place. It may feel like we are spiritually dry and it may feel like we cannot perceive His nearness or feel the warmth of His love shining down on us, but we are not really separated from Him, and He remains active on our behalf. Most of the time, God doesn't let us get completely dried out when He takes us into what feels like a 'spiritual dry spell.' He is a good and loving Father, and He does what is in our best interest. He knows it is not in our best interest to keep us truly separated from Him, or to blind us to His leading or deafen our ears to His voice.
There are times when He takes us "into the desert" to test us; or to strengthen us against certain types of enemy attack by letting us wrestle with the enemy. That is what He did with Jesus at the start of His ministry. We see this in Luke 4:1-2a, "Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into[a] the wilderness, 2 being tempted for forty days by the devil."
Did you get that? Jesus did not wander into the desert by accident; God intentionally took Him there. The Holy Spirit put Him into a situation where He would have to wrestle with the devil.
Please understand, that experience was pretty miserable for Jesus. He was physically uncomfortable--look at Luke 4:2b: "And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry." Imagine how hungry and weak you would feel at the end of a 40 day fast. Now add on the dimension of camping outdoors in rugged terrain without a tent or sleeping bag. It was tough and it was uncomfortable. Mark 1:13 tells us, "and was with the wild beasts."
Also notice that the Father did not manifest Himself to Jesus or assist Him directly during this time. Jesus relied primarily on His knowledge of Scripture to get through this desert time. Each time the devil tempted Him, Jesus refused the temptation by quoting the bible. There were times when Jesus got so physically drained that He could not go on. In those times, His loving Father took care of Him by sending angels to strengthen Him, but God did not manifest directly to Jesus during this time. Look at Mark 1:13. It says, " "And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him."
Jesus had just come off a spiritual high where the Father and the Holy Spirit both physically manifested themselves to Jesus at His baptism. The Father physically manifested Himself to Jesus at the Mount of Transfiguration (another spiritual high), and I believe that the Father manifested Himself to Jesus all those times when Jesus went to a secluded place to be alone with God and to pray all night.
But when He sent Jesus into the desert, He did not manifest directly to Him. That is one of the characteristics of being in a spiritual desert; we don't have our usual sense of God's nearness and presence. That doesn't mean that God is not with us, it just means that we don't perceive His nearness at those times.
Jesus remained spiritually attuned to God even though He did not appear to have a direct sense of the Father's nearness. He was still able to perceive and do God's will. He was able to follow the Holy Spirit's leading even in the desert.
I believe that most of our desert experiences are like Jesus' experience. We may be uncomfortable (maybe even miserable) and we can't sense the Father's presence, but we are still lead and guided by the Holy Spirit. And I do believe that it is possible to prophesy accurately in those situations.
Have you ever wondered why God the Father sent Jesus into His desert experience? It was part of Jesus training and preparation. 1 John 3:8 tells us "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." Jesus had to learn to overcome the devil in His own life before He could "bind the strongman" and set his captives free. The Father was not angry with Jesus when He lead Him into the desert. He was not being mean to Him and He was not punishing Him; He was preparing Him for His ministry. He was equipping Jesus with the tools that He would need to do Acts 10:38: "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, Who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him."
You might feel "spiritually dead" in your desert experience. But the truth is that Holy Spirit may have lead you there to train and equip you to walk out the fullness of your destiny. You might be in the center of His will and following His leading. He might be delighted with you, Even though the desert feels like a terrible place, it might actually be a good place with God; and it would not surprise me for God to give you ministry assignments in that place. It is completely feasible that He might give you prophetic assignments in the midst of that type of desert experience.
On the other hand, if you are in the desert because you are in sin and rebellion against God, then He is not likely to give you ministry assignments until you repent and get right with Him.
Let's look at another prophet from the Bible: King David. It might surprise you to learn that David, a "man after God's own heart," when through a bunch of spiritual deserts. He wrote about them in his prophetic songs (or Psalms).
Psalm 61:1-2 shows David in a dry place:
1 Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer.
2 From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
But even in that desert place, he makes a commitment to continue minister. Look at verse 8:So I will sing praise to Your name forever,
That I may daily perform my vows.
Psalm 63 is another example of David in a dry place, where God feels far away and he is hungry for Him. The first two verses describe his spiritual desert and the longing he has to be close to God again:Psalm 63:1-2
1 O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.
2 So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory.
The next six verses talk about David's strategies to bring himself out of that desert. He chose to praise God because of God's nature instead of because of his feelings (verses 3-5). He reminded himself of things God has done for him (verse 6-7) and he continued to press in when he feels spiritual dry (verse 8), having faith that God would meet him.
There are several other Psalms where David poetically describes what a desert experience feels like. I can't possibly list them all in a single lesson, but let me close with one of David's prayers that is one of my favorite prayers when I find myself in a desert place:Psalm 51:11-12
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.