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The other night I participated on one of the prophecy teams from my church, and one of the people we ministered to was very "hard to read." In short, it was hard to tell if what I was picking up was in the spirit or in the natural. I want to talk about this a little, and share the process by which I sorted this out. I am doing this just in case you encounter someone who is hard for you to read, and would like some clues of what to do about it.
Let me give a tad of background. Our church offers prophetic ministry by appointment twice a month. We take three to four people for each ministry session, and a team of three to six people prophesy to them for about 45 minutes. Some of the people who come to receive this prophetic ministry are from our church or are loosely associated with our church through one of our Church's other ministries. We also get people who hear about us from a friend or who read about the ministry on our church web page. At times, we have people who drive four or five hours each direction for one of these appointments, but most of the people we minister to live within an hour or so drive from our church.
The Lord has been doing amazing things in people's lives through this In-depth prophetic ministry, and we who serve on the teams get such a spiritual "high" (e.g., a joy) out of watching the Lord minister to His own through the prophetic word. Many on the teams have been doing it for years, and we have a few newer people who are in training, who are still learning how to hear from God and speak His life into the person who we are ministering to.
It is usually very easy for me to prophesy in this environment--both because the Holy Spirit is very present with lots of anointing and because I have teammates who are very capable to prophesy. We tend to build on each other's words a lot; e.g., the Holy Spirit speaks to one of us as we hear another share their word, and we speak even more into what they said.
Recently we ministered to a group of three people who were friends with each other. We did not know any of them, but one of them had received prophetic ministry from our teams about a year ago. She came back, and this time she brought two of her friends (a married couple) with her. The friends had never been exposed to the prophetic, so this was very new to them.
First we ministered to the lady who had been here before, then we ministered to the wife. The husband, of course, was present for both of these ministry sessions and listening to everything that was said. He had a very "on guard" type of body position for the entire one-and- a-half-hours that we were prophesying to the other two. He was sitting very stiff and erect in his chair, his arms crossed and a rather stern and unpleasant expression on his face. He seemed to be very leery of the ministry we were doing, even though we were getting a lot of detailed and accurate words of knowledge for people who he knew well. He seemed very uncomfortable to me, and I assumed that discomfort was related to the prophetic ministry we were doing. He seemed to be "on guard;" leery and closed to the prophetic.
We were prophesying to his wife, and the Lord was speaking a lot of tender and inner-healing type of things to her. I wanted to focus on her, but I kept noticing the husband, especially his body posture and nonverbal communication. As a result, I started "getting" stuff for him, even though we weren't ministering to him yet.
He seemed to be "on guard," and that reminded me of a small subset of people I'd ministered to in the past who God had appointed as the "spiritual gatekeepers" for their congregations. They would carefully watch the "new" things coming into the church and be a protection against heresy or deception coming in. They tended to be rather guarded towards anything "new" until the Lord assures them that He was really in that thing. They have what I call the "Thomas" anointing--someone one who is divinely called on to test and watch carefully, least the enemy sneak in with a deception and lead God's people astray. Since that was coming to my memory, I sort of assumed that was God's word to him, and he must have that anointing too. But at the same time, I felt this strong check in my spirit--a check that God would need to resolve for me before I could release that word.
I tried to forget about him and concentrate on his wife, who we were prophesying to at the moment. But I kept noticing that her husband had a very "unreceptive" body posture and uncomfortable facial expression. He looked skeptical even when his wife gave feedback that the words we had for her were 100% accurate and fit her situation perfectly. I could not sort out what was going on with him and I kept asking God to speak to me, and to protect me from saying anything that wasn't really God's word to him.
Fred was the team captain that night, and when we were done ministering to the wife, Fred turned to her husband and said, "Ok, now it is your turn."
His body language changed at that instant. He uncrossed his arms and leaned forward into more of an "eager" position. His face sort of lit up, and he suddenly seemed much more open and receptive. I realized that I had been reading his body posture instead of hearing from God. The body posture had reminded me of things in a way similar to how God sometimes speaks to me by recalling things to my memory. I was so grateful that God had given me a check in my spirit to prevent me from speaking forth the things I'd picked up from his nonverbal communication. I had formed an inaccurate opinion of the man as unreceptive and on-guard, and that effected my ability to hear God speak to me about him.
I went slowly because of this. It was harder for me to pick up what God was saying because I'd had the mis-queue earlier, and I wanted to be doubly sure that I heard clearly from God before I said anything. Each time I got something, I double-checked with the Lord and weighed it before I said anything. I am usually the first (or one of the first) on the team to prophesy, but I held back because I was sorting all of this out.
As I was processing all of this, God was kind enough to explain to me that I'd been reading the man's body language instead of hearing in the spirit. I wanted to make sure I did not do that again with his new body-language, so I went slowly and carefully. Each of my teammates kept looking at me when they finished, expecting that I would want the tape recorder next. They seemed a bit surprised that I wasn't jumping in to share my word. But I wasn't going to speak until I was sure it was God.
Normally I speak tons of stuff for a person, but I only shared a little for this man. However, when I did share what I was sure that I heard, the man got very excited. He jumped in with affirming feedback as soon as I was done speaking.
We debriefed as a team afterwards. This man was hard for most of us to read, because his earlier body language was shouting something different than what the Holy Spirit was saying. Many on the team also found his wife hard to read. (I had found her easy to read, but I found it difficult to put what was hearing into words in a way where she would be able to receive it.)
There is one thing that I did not sort out at the team debrief, but the Lord spoke to me about it afterwards as I drove home. He showed me a bit more about what was going on in my teammates regarding the wife. She was struggling with a lot of inner-healing issues that most of us struggle with to some degree. When people on the team would hear the Lord give them things for her, a part of them would say, "Hey, I struggle with that too. Maybe that is just my stuff coming up and not the Lord's voice." That is why she was harder for them to read.
I'd like to close with a short general teaching about what I call "hard to read" people. E.g., people who you have a problem hearing what God is saying to them when you don't normally have a problem hearing His words and prophesying. (You might just be in a bad place and unable to tune in to the Lord at the moment, but that is not what I am talking about here. I am talking about being able to hear clearly for many but your hearing is blocked for a specific individual.)
There are different reasons that a person can be hard to read. Sometimes it is a spiritual factor. There are demons that can be assigned to someone, whose job it is to interfere with anyone who is trying to prophesy to their assigned individual. Sometimes that type of thing is in operation, and it takes authority prayer to overcome it--but that is pretty rare.
Most of the time when someone is hard to read, it is for one the following reasons:
In all three cases, the way to handle this is to go slow, check in with God and ask Him to clearly show you what is going on and what He wants you to speak to this person at time particular time. When a person is hard to read, it is better to say less than to say something that might not really be the Lord.