Lesson 8 - Prophecy and Prophets - Part 2:
The exercise of prophecy in the church
Most prophecy will emerge without being recognised as such. For example, a pastor may preach quite prophetically, but it does not need to have "Thus says the Lord!" appended to it. Rather, the word of the Lord will become evident when we see its fruit. Many people like to see the spectacular, and would prefer a prophet to announce his or her word as such. Many prophets also like to be in the limelight. But the church must resist all such temptations, if only for the sake of the wellbeing of those prophesying.
There will come times when the spectacular or surprising will occur. Sometimes God needs to get our attention. I remember when, during the 'Toronto Blessing' days, I decided I no longer needed to fall over under God's power. I resisted, and was thrown on my face! From then on I decided it was easier to fall and get it over with. I have rarely fallen since! However, be aware that normally one prophesying should be able to retain control of their own body. If they are overcome by the power of the Lord, that is one thing; but if they are acting out to give their words more 'authority', this is not acceptable (1 Corinthians 14:32). It indicates lack of maturity, or security in their position.
If you are prophesying in a meeting, be sensitive to what is acceptable in that gathering, and obedient to any protocol they may have in place. In particular, if possible obtain permission from those in leadership. The exercise of prophecy should be orderly (1 Corinthians 14:29-33).
The role of one prophesying is to pass on only what the Lord says, not to ensure it is received or accepted, nor to make sure it is obeyed. Do no more unless you are asked to do so, or the Lord has made it clear you are to do so. The protection of the prophet
Prophets are in danger from at least four directions:
- Themselves. Pride or ambition has seen the undoing of many church leaders, and a prophet is particularly vulnerable to getting a big head when they hear accurately from the Lord. People tend to put them on a pedestal, particularly in churches where others do not hear words from the Lord. Prophets may begin to compete with each other.
One safeguard is to have an effective protocol set up in the church only under which people are permitted to give words of prophecy. Mike Bickle and Michael Sullivant outline such a protocol in Growing in the Prophetic. For example, people may not just stand up and prophesy in a meeting. If they have a word they are to write it down and give it to and elder. The elder will decide whether the word should be given; and if so, will read it out. The prophet will not be identified. A prophet would have to be well tried and tested before they could publicly deliver a message.
- The kingdom of darkness. This is obvious, if a prophet is truly speaking God's word then they are a huge threat to Satan's plans. They will come under attack. This is often through their own character weaknesses, as above, but may also be through their own family, either by family members creating trouble, or family members being threatened.
The best defenses are a clean life, a close walk with the Lord, and a group of committed intercessors who will pray for the prophet's ministry.
- The church. Those who the Lord speaks to through a prophet, especially church leaders, may be angered or feel threatened by what is said, and take it out on the messenger. All of the biblical prophets could speak of such experiences, as can many present day prophets.
This danger goes with the job for anyone who prophesies a word which is hard to receive. I spoke into one situation in a church and was placed on trial before the head of the denomination. The Lord can vindicate his prophets, but it helps if a church leadership has the maturity to go to the Lord about a word before attacking the prophet. Apart from that, it is a cross to carry.
- The Lord. If the Lord gives a prophet a word to speak, and they do not do so, or if he says to be silent and they speak, then they are in disobedience. In the Old Testament, the punishment or calamity that would have fallen on those the prophet should have warned would fall instead on the prophet. (Deuteronomy 18:20; Ezekiel 33:1-9)
I do not believe the Lord would normally hold a prophet of today so accountable. However, the result of disobedience, for all Christians but particularly for those especially trusted, is a loss of intimacy and communion with God. And the Lord disciplines those he loves. (Hebrews 12:6)
There have been a number of reports of highly respected prophets falling from grace in the last few years. These were men that the Lord has greatly used in the past, but those who do not repent will no longer be usable by him.
The above points make one thing clear to me. If a person is not called directly by the Lord to be a prophet, then why would they want to be one? Anyone who obviously wants to be considered a prophet is possibly not a prophet at all, or if they are truly called to be a prophet, they are still immature enough not to appreciate the dangers and responsibilities!
However, while all are not prophets, all should desire to prophesy. How important prophecy is to God's people can be guaged by its prominence in the pages of the Bible (See Resource Sheet 12 - Prophets in the Bible). The importance of prophecy today is no less than it was in Bible times.
Bibliography and Suggested Reading
Click on a title for more information about a book
- Bickle, Mike and Sullivant, Michael, Growing in the Prophetic. Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 1996.
- Buchanan, Alex, Explaining Prophecy (The Explaining Series). Renew, 2000.
- Cain, Paul and Kendall, R.T., The Word and the Spirit . Strang Communications, 1999.
- Cooke, Graham, Developing Your Prophetic Gifting, Grand Rapids: Chosen Books, 2003.
- Deere, Jack, The Beginner's Guide to the Gift of Prophecy (Beginner's Guides (Servant)). Ann Arbor, MI: Vine Books, 2001.
- Deere, Jack, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996.
- Edwards, John, Explaining Speaking in Tongues (Explaining). Tonbridge, Kent: Sovereign World, 1992.
- Goll, Jim W, The Beginner's Guide to Hearing God. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2004.
- Goll, Jim W, Coming Prophetic Revolution, The: A Call for Passionate, Consecrated Warriors . Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen Books, 2001
- Goll, Jim W, The Seer: The Prophetic Power of Visions, Dreams, and Open Heavens . Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2005.
- Grudem, Wayne, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988.
- Hamon, Bill, Prophets and Personal Prophecy (Prophets, 1). Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 1987.
- Jacobs, Cindy, Possessing the Gates of the Enemy: A Training Manual for Militant Intercession. Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen Books, 1994..
- Jacobs, Cindy, The Voice of God: How God Speaks Personally and Corporately to His Children Today. Ventura, California: Regal Books, 2004. Cindy has also prepared a two video teaching course based on this book.
- Joyner, Rick, The Prophetic Ministry. Charlotte, NC: Morning Star Publications & Ministries, 2006.
- Pytches, David, Prophecy in the Local Church. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1993.
- Sandford, John and Paula, Elijah Among Us: Understanding and Responding to God's Prophets Today. Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen Books, 2002.
- Sandford, John and Paula, The Elijah Task.Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2007.
- Sandford, John and Paula, Prophets, Healers and the Emerging Church. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2003.
- Sj÷berg, Kjell, The Prophetic Church. Chichester: New Wine Press, 1992.
- Urquhart, Colin, Explaining Deception (The Explaining Series). Tonbridge, Kent: Sovereign World, 1993.
- Virkler, Mark and Patti, Am I Being Deceived?. Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 2001.
- Williamson, Tracy, Voice of the Father (Hodder Christian Paperbacks). Lond: Hodder & Stoughton,1996.