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.