The “Prophetic” is Not a Playground

Posted: August 1, 2010 in Discernment, IHOP, Mike Bickle, Prophesy, Truth, Uncategorized

I believe that the majority of what is labeled today as being “prophetic” is sadly the farthest thing from it. I believe this for a number of reasons…and these reasons are more than just the scope of my experience with the self-labeled “prophetic movement” that has been given its name by the leaders who spearhead it. The greatest of these reasons is that what I often hear being called “prophetic” does not line up with the tenets of scripture and also is not congruent with the nature and character of G-d and the uses for prophecy that scripture clearly defines.

The subject of prophecy is a vast and deep one and I’m sure none of us will get it “right” or fully comprehend it until we are with the Father and He makes known the fullness of it to us. We still very much see dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12).   So please understand that this post is by no means an exhaustive expository on the prophetic movement or prophecy as a whole. I’m simply hoping to illustrate the difference between what is often called “prophetic” with what G-d tells us in His word that this gift actually is and how it is to be rightly used to glorify HIM and not promote the agenda of man. You may have a differing view from the unique vantage point of your own experience but if we all humbly take our experiences and ideas and line them up with the word of G-d I would hope that we can come to the same conclusions and be united in the areas of our agreement. I just ask that you please understand in your commenting on this post that I realize I’m not presenting every side or bringing to light every issue that surrounds this topic.

Mike Bickle speaks often of “practicing the prophetic” like it’s a sport you train for or a kind of spiritual target practice you keep “trying” at.  But no where in scripture is prophesying something that we are taught to practice or get better at like a human skill in need of training.  It is a gift from G-d and it comes with an owner’s manual.  Prophecy was never designed to be yielded to the trial and error of personal experience.

G-d speaks quite clearly in His word about prophets presuming to speak things in His name.  In Deut 18:20 it records G-d saying ‘But if a prophet presumptuously speaks a word in my name which I didn’t order him to say, or if he speaks in the name of other gods, then that prophet must die.’  So it doesn’t sound like there’s a lot of trial and error room here for prophetic target practice.

Here is some of the dangerous “fruit” that accompanies abuses of prophecy:

1) A personal platform. There is the great tendency and ease with which one can speak their natural perspective, thoughts or ideas about a person or situation and simply say “Thus sayeth the L-rd” in front of them.  This adds “credibility” to one’s personal opinion and puts them seemingly above questioning because to question their “word” is to question what G-d said.

2) Merchandising.  For the past few years IHOPers have participated in psychic fairs under the guise of being prophets with “redeemed” giftings…as if to imply that they and the psychics use the same methods but that because psychics aren’t believers their “prophetic gift” is still unredeemed and is being used for the wrong kingdom. (read an IHOPers personal account of these psychic fairs here)

3) Promoting of personal agenda. On July 25, 2004 Mike Bickle got up on the platform in the prayer room to declare a 30 day fast. To promote the fast and get everyone’s buy in to get on board he had Paul Cain get up on the platform to talk about things G-d would pour out and do if people participated in the fast. This is an example of calling something prophecy and using another’s words to promote a personal agenda. (This was also when top IHOP leadership were aware of Paul’s alcoholic/homosexual lifestyle even though it wouldn’t go public to the masses until around Sept/Oct of that year. Paul was still used as a puppet to promote IHOP’s agenda because he still had status and reputation and who at IHOP was going to question what Paul Cain said?)

4) Making prophetic promises. I’ve been in a number of conferences where “prophesies” were cloaked spiritual promises–like dangling carrots to engage certain actions. I remember attending a Shawn Boltz conference in August 2004 where there was an altar call for people to have their prayer language changed so they could speak in new and different tongues to communicate with G-d on a higher level. There was a hook, a promise that if they would come out of their seats and fill the front and the aisles that G-d was going to do such and such. Everyone was asked to raise their hands and begin speaking in tongues so that new tongues would be transplanted as they spoke. Mike has also used altar calls to manipulate through emotion and making promises of what G-d was going to do if they came to the front. Mike’s most commonly used altar call has always been “if you feel….(a warmth, a fire, a tingling sensation, etc, etc.) then that’s the spirit of G-d touching you and we want to pray for you so come to the front”. A feeling meant G-d was doing something and they want to stir up that feeling so a promise would be made for what would happen if you came up for prayer and that suggestion would cause people to expect a certain manifestation. If you didn’t feel what Mike said then G-d wasn’t really touching you and you were left out of the altar ministry unless you just lied or faked it and went up anyway. Yeah, pretty twisted and convoluted. I know.

So let’s roll out a big black trash bag and sack the nonsense so many of us have been sold about what prophecy is. Let’s shred and burn this idea that prophecy is about goosebumps, getting emotional, having manifestations and buying into promises. There is not a shred of evidence in scripture of this anywhere so it’s quite safe to toss and chuck it up to being fabrications and creations of a deceived human nature.

Let’s see what scripture defines as prophecy and start there.

1) When a prophet spoke it was to draw people to repentance. (Ezek 14:6, 18:30; Acts 3:19, 8:22, etc)
Prophesy wasn’t about glitter and goosebumps or feel good, ear-tickling messages. It wasn’t a spiritual happy hour. Repentance was about calling people to line up their lives to G-d’s instructions and reminding them to obey what He had asked of them in order to spare them from judgment and destruction. It was a repentance that would bring about hope and healing and would restore people to right relationship with the Father.

2) Prophecy was in response and obedience to a direct command from G-d to do so.
Throughout the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel G-d gives specific instructions and tells the prophet to speak and prophesy specific things. Ezekiel 13:1-7 says:

1 The word of ADONAI came to me: 2 “Human being, prophesy against the prophets of Isra’el who prophesy. Tell those prophesying out of their own thoughts, ‘Listen to what ADONAI says! 3 Adonai ELOHIM says: “Woe to the vile prophets who follow their own spirits and things which they have not seen! 4 Isra’el, your prophets have been like jackals among ruins. 5 You [prophets] have not gone up to the breaks in the barricade or repaired it for the house of Isra’el, so that they can stand fast in battle on the day of ADONAI. 6 Their visions are futile and their divination is false; they say, ‘ADONAI says,’ when ADONAI has not sent them; yet they hope that the word will be confirmed. 7 Haven’t you had a futile vision and spoken a false divination when you say, ‘ADONAI says,’ and I have not spoken?

There is no account in scripture of a prophet speaking a word on their own initiative apart from an instruction from G-d to do so without an account of it going badly for them. G-d’s word must be spoken in the way G-d instructs because when we take things out of context and misrepresent Him by saying He said such and such , we are on dangerous ground because we are mishandling His word and will be held responsible.

3) Prophecy is the testimony of Jesus the Messiah recorded throughout scripture. (Rev 19:10) Jesus is in scripture from Genesis 1:1 on. He doesn’t suddenly insert himself into the human scene in the book of Matthew. The prophesies about the Messiah who would come and everything He would fulfill are recorded throughout the Torah (instructions) in the first 5 books of the Bible, the prophets, the Psalms, and so on. Prophecy was about the foretelling of the Messiah who was coming and once He came Jesus was the embodiment of that prophecy. He fulfilled many of the prophesies of Isaiah, King David and others in His first coming and will bring complete fulfillment to the remaining ones through His 2nd coming as scripture promises.

Prophecy is not ever to be used to manipulate a person into acting or doing what someone else wants. It should never be connected with monetary gain (such as paying for someone to prophesy over you). It should draw attention to G-d the Father and never be about promoting the “ministry” of the person speaking. It should lead people to repentance and deepen their trust in G-d. It always points to who the Messiah is and brings the light of truth and salvation to those who hear it.

Let us be wise and diligent to only call something prophecy when it lines up with what scripture teaches us that prophecy is for. Always test the spirit of what you hear and question any prophetic word that promotes self or exhibits the dangerous fruit mentioned above. Let us walk in the light of truth and use the gifts G-d gave us according to His instruction manual on how to use them.

[Click HERE for the latest post on the blog on “Obeying G-d: A Relationship Based on Truth Not Feelings”]

  1. Sandy says:

    When I was little, I had friends in school who played with ouija boards and read the daily horoscope in their parents’ newspaper. My mom told me many times that these things were not of God and I should stay away from them. Fast forward 30 years and we see just how enticing these “games” are – even to Christians. My mom, who I once considered a rock of spiritual strength, now subscribes to daily “prophesies” and regularly listens to these modern prophets. “Oh, no”, she says, “we have to test them according to scripture”. But can she? No – she’s placed herself so far under the authority these false prophets and teachers that she wouldn’t recognize an unBiblical thought if it beat her in a tickle fight. Pray, pray, pray for these deceived people.

  2. DeAndra says:

    Thank you! I love this!
    I’ve had a few people “prophesy” over me over the last two years. Some things are just so obvious how could that be anything related to prophesy. It was only flattery. “You are going to be a great woman of God, part of Joel’s army, you are going to raise the next generation of intercessors and musicians for the harvest field *voice gets louder* LORD!” and on and on it goes. Now, what does all that even mean? Nothing. It was like a good fortune cookie of the obvious. How many people can that fit into? To me it was all about merchandise and flattering the ego for their own self.
    Thanks Ariel for highlighting the scriputure in reference to prophecy!

    • Ariel says:

      Thank you DeAndra! You hit the nail on the head. I had many “prophetic” words at IHOP of the exact same thing. I remember once when I was up front for prayer and I was singing along with the worship song playing and Mike Bickle came up and started “prophesying” to me about being a singer and a worshiper. In hindsight I am thinking “Well duh. Aren’t we ALL called to be worshipers? Why do only the “singers” get ‘words’ like that?”

      • jamadan says:

        Since the gift of prophecy is meant to “encourage, edify and comfort” according to Scripture, a word as simple as “Jesus loves you” can be prophetic, even if it’s obvious. So I would encourage anyone not to judge a word based on whether or not it was obvious or not.

        Now, that said, I understand what you are saying. Prophecy is not based on what the senses can discern and detect. And why is it everyone has these grandiose visions of doing marvelous things for the Kingdom of God, when in reality most of us are called to humble, simple service to the Lord without all the fanfare? And any “word” that simply recruits and reinforces the ministers teaching and vision also is highly suspect. I’m actually surprised that Bickle now prophesies, he used to claim he did not have that gift and had to figure out how to shepherd prophets without having the gift himself.

        I also have a major concern with the entire paradigm of people prophesying over one another all the time and constantly seeking “words”. Why aren’t people being taught to hear the voice of the Lord on their own? We aren’t supposed to be led by the spirit of the prophets, we’re to be led by the Spirit of the Lord.

      • Ariel says:

        Some very good points Jamadan. Thank you! I tend to put “Jesus loves you” under the category of encouragement rather than prophecy. It is speaking truth to build up and edify another but I don’t believe it fits the biblical criteria for how scripture defines the use of prophecy. Totally agree though that the continual chasing after words and turning “getting prophecies” into a drive-through experience is a major concern.

  3. annunk says:

    Two things: 1. Jamadan, (the person who left the 2nd comment on here) appears to be giving all the IHOP-twisted-scripture-rationales for why the way IHOP’s doing “their version of” prophecy is correct.

    Jamadan – read those scriptures you wrote IN CONTEXT. Ariel had it right.

    2. In 2004, Bickle still had Paul-I-love-boys-Cain giving his infamamous prophecies from the pulpit, right? So like is this where Mike Bickle teaches about when “G-d used a DONKEY to bring forth His word”?!???

    Only one thought on that one, Mr. Bickle: THAT mule wasn’t steeped in sin and Paul Cain? Well ‘ol Paul has never publically repented – or even apologized for that matter.

    • jamadan says:


      Perhaps you could be a little more specific as to what you think I interpreted out of context. I believe I stated things quite accurately and in context.


    • jamadan says:


      Just to clarify for accuracy sake, Paul Cain did publically repent. He posted a letter on his website confessing his sins and asking for forgiveness. Charisma published the letter as well. Not that I endorse his ministry – I don’t.


  4. Julie says:

    Yes, the OT, indeed, got it right. And, I say, unless the rules for prophesying got changed in the NT via Jesus, or the Apostles, the OT rules stand today. Good post, Ariel, and good comments.

  5. jamadan says:

    Hi Ariel,

    While I agree with some of the points you are makig and definitely recognize the abuses you are highlighting, I do have to disagree with a key points.

    Prophecy is not just for producing repentence. There are many examples of prophecy in both Old and New Testament that reflect other purposes such as providing direction, but most specifically, in the New Covenant, the gift of prophecy is primarily to provide edification, encouragement and comfort.

    1 COR 14:3 “But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.”

    Also, we operate in all of the gifts of the Spirit according to two things (1) the measure of grace the Spirit has provided (level of anointing), and (2) our measure of faith.

    Romans 12:6 “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.”

    So when someone is first filled with the Spirit and receives prophecy as a gift, there faith is small and they will naturally start off hesitantly and should exercise caution saying things such as “I believe the Lord is saying” and “please pray about it and if it’s not true or does not resonate with you, then ignore and forgive me”. Over time and with demonstrated accuracies, the prophet gains faith and confidence in discerning the voice of the Spirit.

    Also, as Jesus taught on the talents, when we are faithful with little, we will be given more. So if we handle the gift of prophecy correctly with little faith and little anointing, the Lord with bring and increase in both to increase the impact of the gift through us. This is Scriptural and I have witnessed it numerous times.

    However, if the prophet misses it, he or she needs to repent and stop speaking and allow the Lord and others to instruct him or her for a season. We shouldn’t have this non-stop babbling of “words” that are hit or miss. None of the proposed 60% accurate garbage. Prophets must be accountable for inaccuracies and if a pattern of inaccuracies occurs, they need to stop. And we can never use the gift to speak on anything other than what the Spirit is saying, as you point out. Using “thus says the Lord” to manipulate people is witchcraft.

    Obviously there is much more since prophecy is a rather broad subject and rife with the potential for abuse.


  6. Kathleen Williams says:

    Thank you! You know we should be trembling as we read accounts of how G-d used Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and of course Yeshua- prophets actually feel and live the moments of the prophecy. They are given the immersion of the realities that have such gravity we ought to tremble. Then they are rejected by men for their correction.
    The prophets have also suffered obeying G-d and absorbing the weight imparted to them. They were not honored in life as they should have been as their murders even witness about them. They didn’t get to wear suits and go on TV and sign autographs and write books reaping the glory of how much G-d has gifted them. It is all about how we fit in the Messiah’s story of His victory for good or for evil. The Scriputres are very clear about the danger of calling yourself a prophet and conduciting yourself in a reckless way before G-d. l have know those who travel to schools of prophecy to be prophesided over each year. To me that equates to nothing more to going to a fortune teller each year or going to be flattered each year. I am sure they give some sort of offering. I have never went. The explanation for the physic fairs fall into the trap of satan that everytbing spiritual is safe. Physics prophecy from workers of evil has nothing to do with redeemed gifts or unredeemed gifts. You can repeat something an evil spirit says and call yourself a prophet. Thank you for restoring the Spirit of the Fear of the L-rd to this subject.

  7. nowzdharvest says:

    Oh – I forgot to say, Can I have an amen on that?

  8. nowzdharvest says:

    I love how Mike Bickle uses the seemingly waxy flow of verbage to say we can “grow in prophecying”. That’s like saying God’s giving you a gift. He’s wanting you to learn how to use it. You’ll make mistakes at first because He can’t get you all the correct things to say at first, but don’t worry, He wants you to really grow in that gift. Eventually, He will be able to send you the exact right things to say. But in the meantime, just do your best. PRAY that whatever you say will come to pass. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. Don’t worry, just keep prophecying over whoever will be good enough to receive it from you.

    OT talks about those who prophecy falsely as being fools. I think the OT got it right.