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Over the last three weeks we have looked at the question, 'What do we do when we receive a prophetic word?'. Firstly, we looked at the difference between Old and New Testament prophecy. We saw that in the New Testament, prophecy is almost entirely within the church where there is a great emphasis on the need to discern the prophetic word. Last week we looked at the whole process of discernment. This week we want to look at the question slightly differently. We want to look, practically, at what to do when we receive a prophetic word from God. It may be a word for another individual or it may be a word for the church, perhaps we are not even sure for whom the word is... just a strong sense that God is speaking to us.
We may wonder, is this really from God? Am I hearing correctly? As in last week, the first test has to be against the scriptures. God will not give a word that contradicts scriptural principles. There are no exceptions!
Sometimes this is not hard, we may be standing in front of someone and the Lord gives us a word of encouragement for them. We can go ahead and speak the word and, hopefully, the person will be blessed. However, the prophetic word may reveal something to us of a more delicate nature about someone or some situation. It may be a word about our church or our nation. Is the word revelation for us? Is it for now, or perhaps, a later time? Is it for intercession?
There is a very close connection between prophecy and intercession. Whenever we are at prayer we want to hear God. Often, a prophetic word given is to guide the direction in which we intercede. All the senses need to be used, the revelation may come through a 'feeling', 'knowing' or 'seeing'.
We need to feel the father's heart. Jesus felt the father's heart 'As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it'. Often in praying we have a sense of overwhelming joy or sadness or even pain. Then we are feeling the father's heart for a person or situation. Of course, we only feel a fraction of what the father feels, our human frame could not bear the whole of it. Here is an example of prophetic intercession that I have experienced. It is described in the book 'Prophetic Lifestyle and The Celtic Way' (page 139),
'Jane was ministering to a young woman lying prostrate on the floor. The young woman was in evident discomfort and inner pain. She wept uncontrollably and occasionally thrashed around on the floor. The whole time Jane continued to pray quietly and authoritatively. The strange thing was that two other people in different parts of the building were exhibiting the same behavior as the girl receiving ministry. When she screamed, they screamed. As she wept, they wept. And yet they were out of sight, both of the girl and each other. Andy walked over to one of the women and asked if she knew what was happening. She commented haltingly that she was in intercession and prayer for the young woman Jane was ministering to. Andy approached the other prostrate girl and asked the same question. The reply which came back was that this young spiritual warrior was feeling the inner pain of the girl receiving ministry. After some time the young woman found peace. At this point the two who were praying also found peace. They were engaged in prophetic intercession.'
We need to know the father's will. John says 'And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.' (1 John 5:14) There is also the example of Abraham in Genesis 18. This is a significant chapter in understanding prophetic intercession. Abraham receives the word from God that Sodom is to be destroyed, through interceding Abraham was able to stand in the gap. We know the story didn't end well, only Lot was righteous and Sodom was destroyed anyway. However there is an important principle here. We need to be diligent to intercede when we receive words.
'And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing
that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the
nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will
command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the
way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon
Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.
And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.
And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the Lord
And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? And the Lord said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes: Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty's sake. And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake. And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake.'
We need to see the tactics of the enemy. The way to defeat the enemy can be
revealed as we press into prophetic intercession. Here are a couple of Old
Testament examples of God revealing the direction of the enemy, The first
one shows David seeking the Lord about the battle against the Philistines.
Interestingly, the Lord gives David different insight on the two occasions.
We need to continually seeking prophetic revelation for strategy against
our enemy, the devil.
'When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, all the Philistines went up in search of David; but David heard about it and went down to the stronghold. Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the valley of Rephaim. David inquired of the Lord, "Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?" The Lord said to David, "Go up; for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand." So David came to Baal-perazim, and David defeated them there. He said, "The Lord has burst forth against my enemies before me, like a bursting flood." Therefore that place is called Baal-perazim. The Philistines abandoned their idols there, and David and his men carried them away. Once again the Philistines came up, and were spread out in the valley of Rephaim. When David inquired of the LORD, he said, "You shall not go up; go around to their rear, and come upon them opposite the balsam trees. When you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then be on the alert; for then the Lord has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines." (2 Sam 5:17-24)
The other example shows the King of Israel being forewarned of impending danger by the prophet, Elisha. 'Once when the king of Aram was at war with Israel, he took counsel with his officers. He said, "At such and such a place shall be my camp." But the man of God sent word to the king of Israel, "Take care not to pass this place, because the Arameans are going down there." The king of Israel sent word to the place of which the man of God spoke. More than once or twice he warned such a place so that it was on the alert. The mind of the king of Aram was greatly perturbed because of this; he called his officers and said to them, "Now tell me who among us sides with the king of Israel?" Then one of his officers said, "No one, my lord king. It is Elisha, the prophet in Israel, who tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedchamber." (2 Kings 6:8-12). If we are to be effective intercessors, we need the prophetic revelation to see into the enemy's camp.
It is worthwhile to keep a record of all the prophetic words that are received. It is interesting, and beneficial, to be able to look back and see a developing pattern in God's communication to us. It may be that we do this daily, that it becomes our secret place with God, where we reveal our deepest thoughts. Or, it may be that we journal for a season, that for a specific period we record all that God is saying to us. It should become not just a plain record of prophetic words, but a place of fearless moral inventory where we deal with God as he deals with us.
I want to include here some practical guidelines about how to give prophecy. These are, of course, just a few things that may be helpful. They are not rules!
It is important to remember that 'the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, for God is a God not of disorder but of peace'. There is no need to give a prophetic word as soon as it is received. It may be pertinent, or wiser, to hold it a while. If you feel you are about to 'burst' with the prophetic word it may be helpful to write it down until the time to share it arrives. I find a useful quick prayer is, Lord, if this is of you, increase it, if not take it away.
If it is a word for the church, learn the ground rules for prophecy in your fellowship. In our meetings we make space during worship for prophetic words, people will come to me and I will make a microphone available to them. Thus, we ensure that everyone can hear the word given and that it can be recorded. Each fellowship will probably do things differently. I have been in meetings where words are just shouted out from the congregation and in places where words have to be firstly submitted in writing for discernment by the leaders. I want to stress that there are no right and wrong ways. However, it will make a difference in how your words are received if you bring them at the appropriate time.
There are also varying views on how the words are phrased. Again, it is well-worth, as far as is possible, trying to give the word in a way that you know will be well-accepted. In our meetings, we discourage people from using 'Thus says the Lord'... followed by a word in the first person. We prefer it to be phrased 'I believe the Lord may be saying' or 'I am sensing...', thus giving the responsibility to discern to the listeners. I am well aware that others proceed differently. Probably God is amused by all our idiosyncrasies. But we do need to be conscious of these things, we don't want to create artificial barriers that would prevent the word being received just because of our mode of delivery!
It is also important to share with sensitivity. Prophetic revelation is never given for us to embarrass or humiliate another brother or sister. And, we can share in our normal voice. God is using ordinary people, there is no need to become 'super-spiritual'.
Be in relationship with others who have prophetic gifting. There is something that happens when prophetic people get together, they fire each other. The words can become sharper and fuller. These little groups are often called 'Prophetic Nests'. However, do remember that they are never to become places of criticism or pulling down even under the guise of prophetic revelation... we want prophetic nests, not nests of vipers!
Once a word has been given, the responsibility of the person giving it is discharged. There is no need to 'check up' whether it has been acted on or not. This especially applies when the word is for a church or church leader. The prophetic does not lead the church. David Pytches says in his book, Prophecy in the Local Church, 'Leaders must not allow themselves to be spiritually manipulated against their better judgement, nor should they retreat into a false humility which may lead them to abdicate from their responsibilities.' (page 104) Look at the example of Paul in Acts.
While we were staying there for several days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. He came to us and took Paul's belt, bound his own feet and hands with it, and said, "Thus says the Holy Spirit, 'This is the way the Jews in Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.'"Agabus was a respected prophet (see Acts 11:27-30), yet when he gave the prophetic word Paul had the freedom to choose how to respond to it. May we always have such a heart of submission when we give prophetic words.
When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." Since he would not be persuaded, we remained silent except to say, "The Lord's will be done." [Acts 21:10-14]
If we are committed to developing in prophetic ministry we need to be dedicated to the scriptures. Many times the Lord will use the scriptures within the revelatory word we receive. The prophetic is never to supersede the scriptures. We need to go deeper into God.
Lastly, I want to touch briefly on our own lives. We need to be healed and forgiven... and to be quick to forgive. Being healed enables us to hear God more clearly. Incidents will happen that will leave us feeling rejected and hurt. We need to learn to keep short accounts. We should continually go before God to keep our lives free from any hurt that could become a root of bitterness and hinder us receiving words from the Lord.
Here is a prayer that we encourage all those whom God is gifting prophetically to use.
'Father, I confess that I have allowed others to influence me unduly. I have been afraid of what others think of me. I have quenched your Holy Spirit.
Please forgive me.
I forgive gladly those who have wronged me, misunderstood me or hurt me in any way.
Father, allow your holy Spirit once again to move within my heart and spirit. I desire earnestly the gift of prophecy.
I make a commitment to use faithfully the gift you have given and to be in good relationship with those in my fellowship.'