Friday, May 1, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 65: prophecy

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13 NASB)

But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, 1 Corinthians 12:7- 10 NASB 

Before we begin this section, we need to clarify something. I've heard quite a few people say that we no longer have prophets, we no longer have prophecy, and that God has given all the prophecy He will ever give. If you read Scripture at all, you know that's not true. Our Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever. If He spoke through prophets in the past, (and He did) He still does today. The Word would not mention the manifestation of prophecy if it were not a manifestation. We do not serve a God who offers something then says, "Sorry, I was just kidding." He tells us the Spirit will manifest through prophecy because He will.

Surely the Lord G OD does nothing Unless He reveals His secret counsel 
To His servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7 NASB)

God does not send judgment without warning His people. He tells one of His prophets. It is the prophet's job to tell the people what God has told them, and God will give the prophet a platform by which to deliver the message. When a prophet has a message, they must deliver it, despite the consequences of the delivery. 

The word translated as "prophecy" is prophÄ“teiaVine's defines it as "a discourse emanating from divine inspiration and declaring the purposes of God, whether by reproving and admonishing the wicked, or comforting the afflicted, or revealing things hidden, especially by foretelling future events." 

The one who has the gift (or manifestation) of prophecy will, of necessity, be one who spends considerable time in prayer, listening more than talking, as well as time studying the Word of God. The one with the manifestation of prophecy will take note of the world around him (or her) and consider carefully how current events relate to Scripture. Not everyone who claims to be a prophet actually is, but that does not invalidate the prophetic truth of those who do speak for God. 

I spoke to a women's group at a church that emphasized prophecy several years ago. As a gift to me, the ladies had spent considerable time in prayer for me as I prepared to speak. They had also asked that God give them a "word" for me and, after I spoke, there was a time for them to share what God had put on their hearts. A couple of the ladies were so confident of what they had heard in prayer that they had written it down on a card to give to me. When I read what they had written, I was struck by the absolute truth of it. Their words spoke to a need in my heart that had not been shared with anyone but God. They didn't understand what they had written nor how it applied to my life, but I did.

Some months ago, I attended a conference. My roommates (previously strangers) and I prayed together in the evenings. The second night, they offered to pray for me instead of just with me, and to prophecy over me. I had no idea what to expect, because I didn't know the ladies well and they didn't know me. As the women prayed for me, they spoke whatever God placed in their hearts. One woman spoke about my gift for intercession with such precision that I knew it had come from God. Another woman spoke with such clarity about my life, my profession, and my future that it could only have come from God alone. What she said God was going to do was such confirmation for what I thought I was supposed to do, that it was incredible encouragement for me. Neither of these women knew enough about me to have made these things up. It could have only come from God.

Later, I had another experience of people I did not know praying for me. One woman, who had no idea whatsoever about my life and with whom I had never had a conversation, prayed for me. There had been a situation not long before in which I had done exactly what God had put in my heart. People I love and respect had criticized me for it and it had hurt. In obedience, I had carried on, but it was made harder by the disdain of others. When this particular woman rested her hand on my shoulder, a warmth spread through me. When she began to pray, I was utterly shocked. She spoke specifically about the very instance for which I was criticized. She said, "You obeyed and God was pleased. Do what you hear Him say." I cannot begin to tell you how comforting that was! 

James Dobson and David Wilkerson are people who have been considered modern-day prophets. They have looked at modern culture in light of Scripture and, over decades, predicted which direction our nation would go with accuracy, but they have not always been well-received. Prophets are not usually popular, because they often tell us what we do not want to hear.

Ministers often speak prophetically when they teach the word of God and explain how it relates to our lives. When they "cast a vision for the future", they may be sharing a kind of prophecy.

It is important that we are not blown about by every wind that blows, or led about by every person who claims to be a prophet. Scripture is clear about the possibility of false prophets and how important it is that we not be led astray. When someone speaks a "prophecy" to me, I always ask God for confirmation. I never want to be led exclusively by the words of someone else, nor do I make life-changing decisions on the basis of what someone who claims to be a prophet says. It is the Holy Spirit's job to guide me and speak to me. If He chooses to speak through a prophecy, He will confirm it in at least one other way.  

I had just begun to write full-time but was very uncertain about it. Over a period of two weeks, God confirmed that decision in no less than five different ways by people who, while praying for me or speaking with me, spoke about a "creative outpouring unlike anything you have previously experienced." In every instance, the person speaking had no knowledge of what the other person had said nor any intimate knowledge of me. The final instance was so dramatic and surprising that there was no denying it had come from God.

How does this happen? People who pray prophetically do not just pray their own words. They get still and quiet, then listen for the Still, Small Voice in their hearts. They pray whatever they hear, whether it makes sense to them or not. 

Can we experience the manifestation of the Spirit through prophecy? Yes. When we seek God's will in a particular situation and He gives direction about specific actions to take, that is "divine inspiration declaring the purposes of God". In a way, it is prophetic, but even more, it is a place to begin. If God never does anything without telling His prophets, (and His word says that is true) we can be sure He has told someone. If it concerns us, He will be sure that we get the message. After all, He is more concerned about our obedience and our understanding than we ourselves are. Do you want to know God's will? Just ask Him.