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I have a question that came up when I was talking with a friend of mine. She moves very easily in the prophetic and says that she has seen "visions" from as far back as she can remember. She says that it is a gifting from God and cannot be learned.
She also said that when we seek for words or visions that we open ourselves up to receiving from either God or the enemy--that both will come at us. I explained that we pray before seeking and bind any spirits other than God from speaking, but she said it didn't matter, that we could still receive the wrong one, or just make something up in our head. That's not right is it??
Also she said that not all people can "see" and that I shouldn't be trying to obtain it because it was a gift given by God, and that if He wanted me to have it, He would just give it to me without me having to chase it. Do I just need to proceed on, and not listen to her? Do you have any thoughts on this?--Sincerely Seeking Him
Dear Sincerely Seeking Him
I don't doubt that your friend hears from God, but it is not clear to me that she is knowledgeable about the prophetic. She seems to assume that God only speaks one way to everyone, and that you have to either hear from God the way she does, or not at all. But if she were to read her Bible more carefully, she would see that God communicated differently with different of His prophets. Some saw pictures, like she does. Others heard God speak to them verbally. Others got their prophetic directions from angels, etc.
Your friend mistakenly assumes that prophetic revelation only comes from pictures. But there are at least four different common ways that it comes: seeing (pictures), hearing God's voice (usually in your thoughts), sensing (or being prompted by the Holy spirit) and prophetic flow (where you yield your mouth to the Lord, and He speaks through you without telling you in advance what He is going to say).
Another mistake that she makes is that the prophetic is NOT to be learned. This is a common mistake that people make when they are not knowledgeable about the prophetic. They believe that this is an "all or not at all" type of gifting--e.g., you either have a strong gift of prophecy or you don't, and there is no timeframe where God develops this gifting in you. People who hold this viewpoint have no use for prophetic schools or prophetic activations or in teaching people to move in their prophetic gifting. They feel that if you have the gift of prophecy, you know how to prophesy and no one has to teach you.
Unfortunately, this viewpoint arises out of a misunderstanding of how kingdom things work, because God usually works through a process. For instance, Jesus did not come to the earth as an adult man ready to face the cross. He went through the process--He started at the beginning. He was born as a baby and had to grow up. He also had to "grow" in knowledge of God--He put aside His supernatural knowledge when He came to earth as a baby and had to grow and develop. Luke 2:52 says, "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." Jesus had to study and learn the law. Luke 2:46 tells us, "After three days they found Him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions." Since Jesus had to go through the learning and development process, it should not surprise us that God makes us go through it as well.
Some people apply a different standard to the gift of prophecy than they do to other spiritual gifts, such as the gift of teaching. They recognize both as spiritual gifts because of Romans 12:6-7, "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching." They recognize both as spiritual gifts, yet they apply different standards to them. They expect the prophetic person to "just know" how to prophecy without going through a learning curve. But at the same time, they expect teachers to study the Bible, to learn to teach, and possibly even to attend bible college or seminary. Teaching is just as much of a spiritual gift as prophecy--yet they expect the person with the teaching gift to develop it and the person with the prophecy gift not to develop it.
I do not feel that this is a realistic expectation. I believe God expects us to grow in our prophetic gifting and develop it, just as we do with any other aspect of our walk with God.
Romans 12:6 ties our ability to prophecy to the amount of faith we have, because it says that we are to prophecy "in proportion to our faith." The Bible makes it clear that we are to grow in our faith from passages like 2 Thessalonians 1:3 which says "your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing." And 2 Cor 10:15 says "as your faith continues to grow." Since our prophetic gifting is tied to our faith, and we are expected to grow in faith, it stands to reason that we are also expected to grow in the prophetic.
In addition, the Bible gives us an example of someone learning to prophesy in the Old Testament. We find that example in 1 Samuel 3. When God first tried to speak to Samuel, he did not know how to listen to Him, and Eli had to instruct him. Then, after God gave Samuel a word, Eli had to coach him in delivering it, because Samuel was too afraid to share what God had told him. In that context, look at verse 19, "So Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground."
People often misread that to mean that the boy Samuel physically matured and grew up to be an adult. But if you look at the context that the verse is taken in, you can understand the true meaning of it. The chapter talks about Samuel's first very awkward experience prophesying. Then it says that he grew (in his ability to prophesy) and as a result, his words became accurate and powerful. E.g., "...the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground." This is a clear cut example of Samuel growing in the prophetic, and it is also an example of him being trained in it by another person (Eli).
I believe your friend is theologically wrong in this area. In addition, She seems to assume that hearing God's voice is for a privileged few when God clearly intended it for all of His own. There are many verses on this, but the one that pops to mind is John 10:27, where Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice.
Your friend seems to be so eager to limit people from the prophetic. She is probably a nice/good person with incomplete teaching, but that exclusion attitude sort of raises red flags for me. Many people who want to exclude others from things God gives freely to many in His body are trying to set themselves up as more important, better or holier. They act as if they got this gift because of their own merit instead of because of God's plans and purposes to build up His church. I am not saying your friend has this exclusion attitude, but it is the attitude that is commonly behind the theology that the prophetic is only for a select few.
Your friend is ignoring Matthew 7:7-11 and the parallel passage in Luke, where God encourages us to ask, seek and knock. The tense in the Greek is roughly equivalent to "ask and keep on asking until you receive."
It is true that there is a gift of the Holy Spirit called prophesy, which is one of the three forms of prophesy (gift of prophesy, office of prophet and spirit of prophecy). The gift of prophecy is given to the church as a gift to comfort, exhort, edify, build up, etc. (see 1 Corinthians 14). Also in that chapter, Paul suggests that we should desire earnestly (e.g., expectantly) to prophesy. When you combine that with Matthew 7:7-11, that sounds like God is saying that if you desire earnestly to prophesy, then you are in His will, and if you ask Him for the gift of prophesy, He will probably give it to you.
But even if God doesn't give an individual the gift of prophecy, there are times when the Holy Spirit moves over a congregation and releases what people like to call a "spirit of prophesy"--where God so desires to communicate to His body that whosoever wills can participate with Him in those times.
I could go on and on with this topic, but I don't have the time to do so. I personally find that not everyone can prophesy, but everyone can hear God's voice clearly and distinctly.
I only know two people who earnestly desired to prophesy and have asked God for the gift and have not received it. On the other hand I know literally hundreds of people who asked and received, which leads me to the conclusion that most of the time when you ask God for a spiritual gift (with good motives) He gives it to you.
Hope that helps a little.