Understanding How the Prophetic Works
Though Christ’s prophetic gift and anointing have been restored to the church for a few decades now, sadly, there is still much misunderstanding of the principles and guidelines associated with them. This is true even in charismatic circles. Because prophecy can be misused and misunderstood, many leaders would rather avoid the gift altogether, rather than study and teach about it. This creates ignorance and confusion, as well as the loss of this important anointing. It defrauds the body of Christ.
Being one of the five gifts/anointings of Christ to the church (Ephesians 4:11-12), and prioritized highly in both 1 Corinthians 12:28 and the Ephesians verses, this clearly reveals the prophetic gift as something we should strive to understand. Many leaders, however, would rather leave controversial subjects alone. Again, this hurts the body of Christ. The prophetic gift need not be controversial when properly understood.
One of the most harmful misconceptions regarding the prophetic is the belief that if a word doesn’t come to pass, it is a false prophecy. In other words, some people believe that if prophetic words, dreams, and visions are truly from God, they are guaranteed to come to pass. Actually, however, most prophecy is no more guaranteed than are promises in Scripture. Biblical promises are always conditional offers. Just because Jesus did not qualify every promise He made, did not mean there were no qualifying conditions. He said, “Ask and you will receive,” (Matthew 7:7). Yet millions of people have asked Him for things and did NOT receive them. Was Jesus lying? Of course not. He simply did not qualify this and other promises because it was to be assumed that all of His promises were conditioned/governed by all of Scripture. For example, if you have unforgiveness in your heart, your prayers won’t be answered. It would be foolish to think that every promise or offer made by God must be accompanied by all of its qualifying principles.
Personal prophecy, dreams, and visions are likewise conditional. Usually, they are informing us of what God is “offering” or “desires” to do. He shares this with us in order that we might cooperate with Him through prayers, faith, and obedience. God works with and through us, not independently of us. When someone gives me a prophecy I believe is from God, I immediately begin seeking Holy Spirit and His word to understand what I must do in order to receive the fulfillment of the word or promise. And I begin releasing my faith in order to lay hold of it (see 1 Timothy 6:12).
In the above verse, 1 Timothy 6:12, Paul told Timothy to “lay hold of” his “eternal life” through faith. Timothy already had God’s zoe life in him, but was not receiving the full benefits of it. It was in him, yet not being worked out from his spirit. The words “lay hold of” actually mean “to seize” (epilambano). “Grab it! Seize it by faith,” Paul was telling Timothy. God’s promises don’t just automatically fall in our lap simply because He spoke them. They must be laid hold of, possessed by faith and obedience. Personal prophecy, dreams, and words spoken to our hearts by Holy Spirit are no different. Passivity will always go unrewarded. This principle is NOT to be equated with “earning” God’s blessing. Just like our free gift of salvation, his blessings are procured by faith.
The faith and action requirement of God’s promises can be seen in a passage of Scripture concerning Elijah (1 Kings 18:1). God told Elijah it was now time for a judgment upon Israel - which had manifested in the form of drought - to end. Yet, for this to occur, Israel had to repent (I Kings 18:39-40). Elijah then prophesied that the rain was coming but still had to travail in prayer for it to occur (1 Kings 18: 41-46; James 5:16-18)! The verses in James tell us it was also Elijah’s intercession that stopped the rain 3 years earlier, even though the drought was obviously God’s will (James 5:17). Amazing.
Daniel realized through reading a decades-long prophecy by Jeremiah that it was time for a 70-year period of judgment in Israel to end (Daniel 9:1-2). Yet, he still went into an intense period of repentance for the nation’s sins, prayed fervently, and fasted for the fulfillment of this prophecy (Daniel 9:3-19). God answered his prayers and restored Israel, though the demonic “prince” of Persia tried desperately to stop the restoration. God’s will, God’s timing, God’s promise, a true prophecy - yet He still worked this will through a person!
In Exodus, a promise from God can be seen going unfulfilled. Moses was told, “But now go, lead the people [to the place] where I have told you. Behold, My Angel shall go before you”… (Exodus 32:34 Amplified Version). The beginning of the next chapter makes clear that this “place” was the promised land: ”The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Depart, go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought from the land of Egypt, to the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel), saying, ‘To your descendants, I will give it.’ I will send an Angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite. Go up to a land [of abundance] flowing with milk and honey…” (Exodus.33:1-3)
God did not list conditions; He simply said MOSES would lead THESE people into the promised land. Yet Moses did NOT lead anyone into the promised land, nor did these people enter the land! The people's unbelief, fear, and rebellion negated their promise (Numbers 14); and Moses’ disobedience negated his promise (Numbers 20: 8-13). Yet, by the standards with which many prophets and prophecies are judged today, this would be a false prophecy.
Stating that prophecy is conditional is not offering an “out” for the person releasing the word. It is simply stating the biblical principle that all promises from God are conditional. To be sure, those releasing prophetic words, dreams, or visions should be careful how they deliver the word. Though it would be an unrealistic expectation for them to list conditions, they should also be extremely cautious about guaranteeing an outcome.
Let us not abandon God’s gifts because of extremes, or due to our ignorance. Nor let us make the mistake of hearing the word of the Lord and neglecting our part in seeing it fulfilled. Let’s be like the sons of Issachar, “discerning the times and seasons,” so that we can “know what to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32). Let us be a people who “lay hold of” God’s promises “through faith and patience” (1 Timothy 6:12; Hebrews 6:12). NEVER be afraid of Christ’s gifts to the church - none of them.
There are many good books on understanding the prophetic. I have listed a few at the end of today’s post.
Pray with me:
Father, we are on a growth journey of learning and understanding You and Your ways. We find it exciting - though in our humanness, at times, it is also a bit intimidating - to know that You work Your wonders through us. Yet, You have given us Your Word to instruct us, and the Holy Spirit to teach us. Therefore, we refuse to allow the intimidation to rob us of our inheritance in Christ.
Teach us Your ways. Mature us in our sensitivity to Your voice, take us to higher levels of accuracy regarding Your prophetic gifts. We can know Your voice, we do have the mind of Christ, and Holy Spirit is the Spirit of revelation. Most of all, we can study Your Word to know Your ways and will.
We pray for those who have stumbled due to misunderstanding the prophetic, or due to error or lack of wisdom in someone’s delivery of it. Comfort and encourage them. Remove fear of the prophetic from them. Cause those who operate in the prophetic to go to higher and higher levels of accuracy. And remove the critical spirit existing in some toward this wonderful anointing and gift of Christ to the church. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
We declare that we have ears to hear what Holy Spirit says to the church, we will judge all that we hear by Scripture and biblical principles, and this will cause us to prosper and succeed.
Click on the link below to watch the full video.
Here are some good books I recommend regarding understanding the prophetic gift:
Prophets and Personal Prophecy
Prophets: Pitfalls to Avoid and Principles to Practice
Both by Dr. Bill Hamon
Dreams & Visions
Discernment: An Essential Guide for Hearing the Voice of God
Both by Jane Hamon
The Lifestyle of a Prophet
Both by James Goll
The Essential Guide to the Prophetic
The Voice of God
Both by Cindy Jacobs
When God Speaks
by Chuck Pierce