Receiving a word from the Lord is the easy part of the prophetic ministry. The hardest part is learning how to communicate the word once it has been received. The OT prophets communicated in a variety of ways. We have many more communication tools available to us today. We need to learn how and when to use them in obedience to the Lord. If we can receive a word from the Lord, we are capable of receiving guidance about how it should be communicated.
When God gives a prophetic word, he also gives instructions about how it should be delivered. Prophets must make sure that they get his instructions and act on them. A word that is delivered in an incorrect way is nullified, and effectively becomes a false prophecy.
So a prophet needs to know more than what to say. He needs also to discover how God wants to him to say it (John and Paula Sanford - The Elijah Task p.90).
Many times the biggest challenge for prophets is not necessarily in hearing the voice of God, but in learning how to minister the word in wisdom. This speaks of the timing, the manner, the place, the wording, the intent, the context, and the attitude of hear when ministering figures (Tom Hamon - The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation).
A word can be delivered in a variety of ways. We must be open to all the creativity of God in the delivery of his word. These are some of the methods that God uses:
The most common method for delivering a prophecy is for the prophet to speak directly to the recipient(s). God is a god who speaks. He will give instructions about the right time and the right place to speak. Getting the time and place right is really important.
Sometimes a word may be quietly spoken to the person receiving it.
I never cease to be amazed at the number of persons who tell me that God spoke through me, giving them specific directions for their lives of great encouragement in the midst of personal tribulation. When I reflect on our time together, I remember only table conversation, but they recall prophetic truth. I had shared what I felt at the moment but they had heard the voice of God in that communication. Since I was but the channel- not the source- of the communication , I didn't share their awareness of God's involvement (Iverna - Tompkins - Advancing in the Prophetic, p.32).
God may get another person to speak out the prophecy. When Jeremiah was in prison he would write the word down and Baruch would read it to the recipient.
A message from God may sometime be given in a sermon. Some of the most prophetic words that I have heard were delivered as sermons.
A word can be written down and delivered to the recipients. Isaiah and Jeremiah were writing prophets. The scriptures promise a blessing for those who read prophecy.
Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near (Rev 1:3).
Nathan told a story to get his message across to King David. He probably would not have received a direct work from Nathan.
The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, "There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. "Now a traveller came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveller who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him." David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity." Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man! (2 Sam 12:1-7).
Sometimes God asks a prophet to take an action that will illustrate the word being brought. The prophet becomes a living parable or visual aid. For example, Ezekiel lay on his side tied up with ropes for many days as a warning of the exile to Babylon (Ezek 4). Jeremiah bought a piece of land to bring home a prophetic message (Jer 32:1-9). Isaiah walked naked in the street to demonstrate the shame of Israel (Is 20).
The key people sometimes become actors in a living parable.
By the word of the Lord one of the sons of the prophets said to his companion, "Strike me with your weapon," but the man refused. So the prophet said, "Because you have not obeyed the Lord, as soon as you leave me a lion will kill you." And after the man went away, a lion found him and killed him. The prophet found another man and said, "Strike me, please." So the man struck him and wounded him. Then the prophet went and stood by the road waiting for the king. He disguised himself with his headband down over his eyes. As the king passed by, the prophet called out to him, "Your servant went into the thick of the battle, and someone came to me with a captive and said, 'Guard this man. If he is missing, it will be your life for his life, or you must pay a talent of silver.' While your servant was busy here and there, the man disappeared." "That is your sentence," the king of Israel said. "You have pronounced it yourself." Then the prophet quickly removed the headband from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognised him as one of the prophets. He said to the king, "This is what the Lord says: 'You have set free a man I had determined should die. Therefore it is your life for his life, your people for his people' " (1 Kings 20:35-42).
Sealing the Word
Sometimes a word must be sealed up for delivery at a later time. Daniel was told to seal up some of his words for the future.
He replied, "Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end (Dan 12:9).
For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it lingers, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay (Hab 2:3,4).
We should not assume that because we have been given a word that we have permission to share it. We must ask what he wants us to do.
Even if we hear right (and I think that most of the time we do hear right) we can still destroy the effect of the word by wrong delivery - wrong wording or wrong timing. If we get the timing and the wording wrong then the prophecy does not have the effect for which it was intended. If it doesn't have the right effect then it is not the word of the Lord. So - a word is only "right" when all three come together (http://www.africaprophecy.co.za/2prophets.htm).
One of the lessons I have learned the hard way over the years is to not give a word prematurely. Often, the Lord will give a word well before the appointed time of release. This may be because intercessory prayer is necessary as part of the preparation, or it may be that it will take the hearer of the word a bit of time to get the whole word. And on occasion it is because the Lord wants to the messenger of that word to grow into the reality of the word before it's released to others (Marc A Dupont).
The seer gathers experience, not like those with ears itching, not like those who never care to draw conclusions and never learn. Prophets are old men, experienced men, men who have taken time and opportunity to unveil and unmask the glittery and sensual moves and modes of the world without and within the Church. The seer has learnt to stay silent until the proper work of defining and labelling is finished. Prophets wait until they have received a word from the Lord, and they keep on waiting for proper timing (Lars Widerberg - The Seer).
It is a good thing not to get locked into one methodology. Try to have a variety of ways to deliver prophetic words; God is full of infinite variety (Graham Cooke - Developing Your Prophetic Gifting p.83).
How do we discharge the burden of the Lord? After we have received revelation, and made intercession, we will know the best course. Sometimes we will find release through writing, such as Isaiah. On other occasions we may compose a song, as David. Or we may write poems and verse, as Jeremiah. We may act out the word dramatically, as Ezekiel. Or we may thunderously speak the word as Moses, Elijah, or John the Baptist. We may speak in parables as the Lord Jesus. The tools, methods, and ways are different, but the underlying principle is the same. God will give different expression to the proclamation of the Word, and He will be pleased to use the prophets differently in accordance with their unique gifts and personalities (Chip Brogden - The Ministry of the Watchman).
The prophets of the Old Testament sometimes did weird things like wearing ox yokes (Jer 27,28), but these were by the command of the Lord to startle the conscience of the people. Old Testament prophets were men of discipline, wisdom and counsel and insight, not of wild ecstasy (Sanfords).
"For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?"(I Corinthians 14:8) When you can produce a distinct sound, the church will hear you (Rick Joyner - The Prophetic Ministry).
We desperately need oracles from God who can say what this hour means, and what we are tending to, and what God is requiring in the light of the things that point to the consummation of the age. We need men who can communicate the word. If a prophet is not distinguished by his speaking, then do not look for his credentials on the basis of his gifting or his miracles or his gift of knowledge (Art Katz - The Prophetic Church).
The prophets always came forward openly and spoke in the name of the Lord. They did not engage in subterfuge, but evidenced a holy boldness. They believed that God had spoken to them, and consequently, they delivered his words fearlessly. Whatever else may be said about the prophets of Israel, they were men of conviction and they boldly expressed their convictions (Edward J Young - My servants the Prophets p.15).
The prophet stood before men as a man who had been to stand before God (J A Motyer-Prophets and Prophecy).
On the other side, while there are occasions when the prophet must rebuke sharply, we are often guilty of shooting canaries with shotguns (John and Paula Sanford - The Elijah Task p.95).
Jeremiah wept much and yet wished he could weep more, that he might affect a stupid people and rouse them to due sense of the hand of God gone out against them. It becomes us while we are here in this vase of tears (Matthew Henry).
There is no prophecy, which is not linked with tears, for the future is nearly always heavy with nameless terror (Nigg).
Four principles for the delivery of prophetic words
Ask the Lord how he wants the word delivered. If he is able to deliver a prophetic word, he is also able to give instructions about how he wants it delivered.
The speaker's only responsibility is to deliver the word in the way that he guides. Prophetic people are not accountable for the success or failure of the word, or the distance it travels.
The Holy Spirit is responsible for watching over his word and ensuring that it gets to those who need to hear it. He can achieve that in a multitude of ways. If a word is pure and clear, he will get it to those who need to hear it. He is an expert at getting the word of a voice crying in the wilderness into the anterooms of kings.
Communicate clearly and precisely. The first task of the prophet is to listen to the Lord and get the word clear. A confused or impure word will go nowhere.
Power of the Spirit
A prophetic word must be spoken in the power of the Spirit. A word that is not anointed by the Holy Spirit will fall flat and will be wasted even if it is true.
In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy (Acts 2:17,18).
This anointing will come from lives who have endured the test of their calling. And they yet STAND! (Undrai Fizer Substance: The Anointing to Stand and Endure).
A prophet should also speak boldly. He should avoid the temptation to soften God's word. He must make certain it is heard clearly.
The prophets were men of the market place rather than the study. Indeed prophecy throughout the History of Israel was always oral; it was the declared word of God. The prophets were not men who composed carefully considered theological dissertations. The words that came from them were white hot. They were the words of God into the contemporary situation (Clifford Hill - Prophecy, Past and Present p.24).
The most important impartation you should receive in your journey of destiny is not just an ability to speak or preach. The most powerful thing you will have received is an ability to stand. Anyone can speak, but everyone cannot stand. All of the blows, "spiritual rapids" and mazes you have gone through (because of your purpose and destiny) should have built within your soul a certain, prophetic resilience and foundation, one that will be the imparter of anointing into others.
Anyone can speak, and speak well. But it will take more than speaking well to ignite the life-altering dreams in others. It will take prophetic substance (a God developed foundation of understanding and true settling in the will and purposes of God. It is a foundation that was built by fire, rejection, and pain.) You must have substance. You impart from substance. Some individuals crave an impartation of the "external gifts" or the "obvious flow." But, the anointing is birthed and released from a deep well, dug deeply in the trenches of a soul that has been connected to God's appointed destiny for life. This process transcends a traditional, religious experience.
Prophetic substance brings maturity. You can ask for wisdom, but maturity is something you must arrive at. Substance runs deep, very deep. It is the root of anointing that is embedded within you. It is where the river flows from. It is where the revelation and the power comes from. It is the resting place of the Holy Ghost that resides within you. This anointing keeps you from being "tossed about" in unbelief, faithlessness, and spiritual confusion. It causes you to become "full grown" in the experience of the Spirit.
But the servant of God should never threaten (1 Pet. 2:23). A true prophet must stand mute and meek before the will of another. He must never force another to do his own will (John and Paula Sanford - The Elijah Task p.77).
The mature prophet is, as we said before, mute and meek before the will of the other person, and he is a silent observer of what God does. It is God who acts. To be a watchman or a witness is to see what God is doing (John and Paula Sanford - The Elijah Task).
Those who have messages from God must not be afraid of the faces of men (Matthew Henry).
A prophet should speak simply and clearly. There is no benefit in using King James English.
Joseph said to Pharaoh,
Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven years of famine will follow them (Gen 41:29-30).
Joseph was accepted by Pharaoh, because had received a clear straightforward message from the Holy Spirit.
Daniel said to the King,
This is what these words mean:
God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians (Dan 5:26-28).
The Spirit gave him words that the King could not understand.
God wants his prophets to speak to political and business leaders. They will only listen, if the prophets bring clear words. If prophets bring confusion and mystery, they will be ignored. Prophets must learn to hear what the Spirit is saying to the political and business leaders.
The best speakers for God are frequently they who are least gifted with human eloquence; for if that be richly present the mighty power of moving men-there is an imminent peril of relying on it, and attributing the results to its magnetic spell. God cannot give his glory to another. He may not share his praise with man (F.B Meyer - Jeremiah p.12).
True prophets leave nothing to speculation, as their speech is precise and sometimes very blunt. Prophets of integrity do not concern themselves with what people think and they are willing to die for what they speak (Kingsley A Fletcher - The True Prophet in the Local Church).
No one likes to be wrong. A fear of being proved wrong can affect the presentation of prophecies. Two common ways are:
Vague prophecies with precise timing
Precise prophecies with vague timing.
The problem with these types of words is that no one will know if they have been fulfilled, so God is no honoured. On the other hand, they can never be proved wrong. Giving dates is not necessary, but listeners need to know, if the word is for the next few months (urgent), the next few years (get prepared), or later in the century (hope for long-term victory).
Jesus message in Matthew 24 is a wonderful example of a clear precise prophecy. He explained,
What would happen;
When, with signs
Jesus was very clear about what would happen. The walls of the temple would be smashed and destroyed. This prophecy was fulfilled.
Jesus explained clearly why these events would happen. They would be the consequence of the stuff described in the previous chapter.
When asked when these things would happen, he gave a very precise answer. They would not happen immediately, but they would come in the lifetime of most of the people listening.
Jesus gave good advice about what people should do when the troubles started. They should flee to the mountains. Those who heeded this warning were kept safe (Acts 4:36-37).
Jesus also gave a couple of signs that would show them when the time to action was close (Jerusalem surrounded by an army). This prophecy was fulfilled, too.
Jesus also warned them not to be deceived by wars, famines, earthquakes and false religions. These types of event are ubiquitous in every age, so they are not a sign of anything, except that a people have lost the blessing of God.
When asked about the second coming, Jesus said two things. First he did not know when it would happen. Second, there would be no signs of the second coming. It would occur when life was going on as normal on earth, so most people including Christians will not be expecting it.
Jesus also explained that this lack of signs does not matter. He told several parables, which explain what they should do. "Get on with doing the job you are called to do, so you will be ready when Jesus returns".
This is all very clear and precise, and gave Jesus listeners everything that they needed to know. Nothing is missing. No unanswered questions. But many Christians cannot accept Jesus' clear precise message and turn it into something confusing, with multiple fulfilments, so that they can get what they want.
They ignore Jesus' statement that there will be signs for the second coming and try to find signs.
They ignore Jesus' statement that he does not know the day and the hour, and claim that they can know the month and the year and the season.
They ignore Jesus' explanation that famines, earthquakes and wars are common in every unrighteous generation, and turn them into the true signs of the second coming.
No wonder many Christians are confused.
Every prophet should be aiming for clear precise prophecy. This is not easy, but it is a goal to aspire to. The church has been crippled by too much prophetic mush.
Spontaneous v Deliberate
Precision is an important value for prophetic people, because truth is important and there has been too much prophetic mush masquerading as prophetic truth.
The modern church tends to assume that spontaneous prophecy is more accurate. This is also a crossover from the gift of prophecy, where spontaneity is the norm. However, there is nothing in the scriptures that says that that a spontaneous prophecy is superior to one that is pondered for a time and edited to sharpen the delivery of the message.
The Holy Spirit can do both spontaneous and deliberate, and he is free to choose how he will operate in any situation. To shake us out of our comfort zones, he will sometimes be spontaneous, when we want to be deliberate, and he will often be more deliberate, when we want to be spontaneous.
The benefit of a spontaneous word is that the Holy Spirit can drop it into our hearts unexpectedly, before our minds get going and before the flesh starts getting in the way. This is fine for beginners, but it not the basis for developing into a prophetic ministry. The person who wants to be used by God in prophecy must learn to quiet their minds and put their flesh to death. They must learn to distinguish between their own thoughts and the voice of the Spirit. This is difficult and takes time, but essential for developing a prophetic gifting. Relying on the Holy Spirit to beat our minds with spontaneous words is not a long-term solution.
The Holy Spirit loves to surprise us, so he will continue to give us words when we are not expecting it, but we must never fall into the trap of thinking that spontaneous words are superior to those that are received in a more deliberate, careful process. Clinging to the spontaneous will keep us locked in immaturity. Those who want to be used in prophecy will need to work hard at learning to shut out their own mind and flesh and deliberately and carefully seek the words of the Lord.
Sometimes precision is worth waiting for.
Pearls take time to polish:
Mush tends to gush in a flush.
"Rapid fire" prophecy is not superior to a quieter, more measured approach.
Many prophecies would be clearer, if they were reviewed and edited by the prophet and other prophetic people. Many prophecies are spot on for the first few sentences, but then the speaker loses the plot towards the end. Someone should probably have put the editor's pencil through the last few sentences.
Seeing in Part
1 Cor 13:9-12 is often used as an excuse for mediocre prophecy.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears..For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
Paul is explaining our human situation, not providing an excuse for weak prophecy. We see in part, because God does not reveal everything to his people. He only gives each person the small part that he wants them to have.
The common saying that we always see through a "dark glass". That is not what Paul is saying. He is actually explaining the difference between our situation now and that in the next life. Because we live in the physical world, we miss most of the important spiritual stuff that is going in. Human minds just cannot comprehend the reality of the new heaven and new earth.
The Lord speaks clearly. He only gives us each person a small part of the big picture, be he gives it to us very clearly. Because, we are human, we may not always receive it as clearly as he has given it, but often if our heart is right, we do. We can often get our small part of his total revelation very clearly.
The prophet's role is to share their part clearly, not explain to explain all parts dimly. If all the prophets give their part clearly, God's people will get what we need. If every prophet give the entire picture dimly, we will just get confusion.
Explain what to Do
Many prophets are warning of future disastrous events, but very few are explaining what God is doing and how he will work through these events to bring change. A related problem is that many Christians enjoy warnings of judgement on the world, but they are less enthusiastic about strategies that would require them to take action to bring in the victory of God.
God does not cause troubles and calamities; they are rooted in human evil or folly with a bit of demonic mischief thrown in. During a judgement, God takes this human mess and works it for good to achieve his purposes. One role of the prophet is to warn of troubles before they come, so God's people can prepare. Their more important task is to explain what God is doing through the event, so his people can participate in his purposes. Prophets can only accomplish the latter task, if they are standing outside the dark cloud of human events and seeing with the eyes of Jesus.
When a prophet receives a warning of a calamitous event, their task has just begun. The next step is to find out what God plans to achieve through the event, and his strategy for the people who want to participate in his purposes during that event.
According to Romans12:6, Christians with the gift of prophesying should prophesy in proportion to their faith. When a nation is in decline and has lost the blessing of God, prophesying judgment does not take much faith. Prophesying the strategy by which God will use the judgement to change the nation and bring a great victory for his cause takes much more faith. That is a challenge for modern prophets.
Mixing Prophecy and Application
A prophecy and its application must not be confused. The application of a prophecy can be unclear, especially if it is intended for a different person or a different time, or the listeners have hard hearts. The prophecy itself should be clear and precise.
This principle is evident from the scriptures. The application of many prophecies is unclear. Often the application is not clear until they have been fulfilled. This is also true of Revelation. Much of the application of this book is still not clear.
The prophetic word itself is always very clear and precise. The prophets did not just dictate what they heard the Holy Spirit saying, like automatons. They received a revelation from God and wrote down or spoke what they had received. It is clear that what they wrote is very carefully honed. Much of Jeremiah's prophecy is presented as poetry. John recorded the revelations he received on Patmos with an amazing economy of words, yet what he saw is vividly and precisely described.
Jesus never rambled. The beatitudes themselves are amazingly precise and clear. The application of them is much more difficult. Jesus could tell an complicated parable in just a few words, because his communication was precise and clear. His listeners understood the story clearly, their problem was with the application.
Isaiah 53 is a good example. The application of this prophecy was totally unclear, until Jesus had died on the cross. However, the prophecy itself was very clear and precise. Reading now, it is clear that every word was important and is exactly where the Holy Spirit wanted it to be.
Many modern prophets are quite different. They often ramble and their messages are often confused and vague. Quantity of words often seems to be more important than quality. When I look at the prophecies on the various prophetic websites, I find that many of them to be ambiguous and imprecise. Vague words benefit the prophet, because it means that no one can prove that they have spoken a word that is not true. With some prophecies that are said to be fulfilled, it is hard to be sure, because the wording is so loose that you could drive a truck through it.
I am sure that many of these people have received a revelation. They have just not taken the trouble to hone the word and ensure that they are communicating what they have received precisely and accurately. If prophecy is going to be taken seriously, prophetic people will need to communicate much more clearly.
The biblical prophets were very precise and clear in the way they wrote and spoke their words. They knew they would quite likely be misunderstood by a people with hardened hearts, so they made sure that they did not give them and excuse, by speaking vaguely. The application of a prophecy will often be unclear. People with hardened hearts will just not get it, but that is not an excuse for prophets to be lazy with their presentation. I am not surprised that much modern prophecy is ignored, because the wording is often just too sloppy.
The Holy Spirit often shows the prophet an image or a vision. This is just another way of communicating. God uses images just to strengthen the power of communication, because audio-visual communication is often more effective that written words.
God does not speak in images just to suit the learning style of the seer. He communicates this way for the benefit of all his people, so the images are not the property of the seer.
If a Christian has been given words or shown images by the Holy Spirit, the vision should be recorded as accurately as possible. This is what the biblical prophets did. Daniel and John described what they saw (sometimes not very well, because human language was not up to it).
The Christian should pray about whether and when to share the vision. Often the Lord does not give permission to share until some time after the vision is received. Receiving a vision does not constitute permission to share.
Once permission to share has been given, the vision should be described as accurately possible. The best practice is to describe what was seen "I saw.." Any contextual information or interpretation should presented separately. "I believe this means" This approach has several benefits.
Other Christians can test the seer's seeing (Maybe he ate too much ketchup with his fries last night).
Readers are encouraged to think about the nature of what the seer has seen,
- an exact description of what will happen (1 Kings 22:17),
- symbolic of real entity like Daniel's beast, or
- a symbolic presentation of a spiritual truth like Amos's lion hiding in the thicket (Amos 3:5).
Seers often confuse these three different types of seeing when interpreting what they have seen.
People can then apply what the seer has seen to their situation. It may be different from the seer's.
Readers are free to decide about the timing of the fulfilment, because that is not usually contained in the vision.
Readers can test the interpretation of the vision. Sometimes another people will provide a better interpretation of a dream and vision than the seer. Daniel understood the meaning of Nebuchadnezzar's dream better than he did. Some seers are not gifted at interpretations of visions.
In these experiences distinguishing what the Sprit is showing from what the person already know is difficult, but it is also really important. Just as it can be difficult to distinguish the voice of the Spirit from the words that pop out of our mind. However, learning to distinguish the two is critical for sharpening the prophetic gifting. Unfortunately many prophetic people do not bother trying.
If the seer has struggled to distinguish the two, there is nothing wrong with saying that to the readers. It does not diminish a gifting to be humble. The Holy Spirit is capable of highlighting what he wants people to see or hear (that should not be taken as an excuse for prophetic laziness).
This article (Commando Vision) is a really good example of describing a vision badly. I received this vision in 1978. The text at the link is what I wrote down at the time. You will see that is not clear description of what I actually saw. A little bit of description is all mixed up with my interpretation of what it meant. I still believe my interpretation was correct, but because it is all mixed up the vision, and because I did not fully describe what I saw, much of the impact was lost and the message totally misunderstood. The vision was all about commando units and getting prepared for something that happen. Readers assumed that it was all about an economic crisis and started looking for it, while doing nothing to prepare.
If I had described accurately what I had seen, the importance of the commando army would have come through much clearly, because that was the way that the Holy Spirit structured the vision. If I had kept the interpretation separate, it would have supported understanding of the vision, rather than distorting it.
The safest way to keep the description of vision accurate is to write it down as soon as it is received. If too much time passes by, the memory dims and extraneous stuff can creep into the description of the vision.
Vision and Context
God speaks into the context of our experience. He uses the images, words and places with which we are familiar when he does speak to us. When prophets communicate their words, they used words and images with which their listeners are familiar. All the prophets did this.
Sometimes God gives a seer a vision that goes beyond familiar words and images. The seen has to translate what he saw using the words and images with which he was familiar. John's Revelation is a good example of this. Here is a description of something he saw.
At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne (Rev 4:2-3).
I doubt that John saw jaspars, rubies and emeralds. These are physical things and John had been given a glimpse into the spiritual world. He saw things that were beyond is earthly experience, so he was trying to describe the indescribable. He used images of the most beautiful things he knew to describe the wonder of the spiritual world, but this is just a hint of its glory.
The biblical prophets used everyday language and context to describe what they saw, but they were also very clear about what was a revelation from God and what was a description of their response or their experience.
There are two situations with regard to timing in the scriptures.
Some prophecies are conditional, so there is no time attached to them.
In other situations, God is very precise about time.
Therefore we cannot just give up on timing. We actually need to do it better.
When a revelation comes, the prophetic person should ask four questions.
When is the revelation to be communicated?
How is to be communicated?
Is it conditional or does it have a specific timing?
What is the timing?
The need for question 4 depends on the answer to question 3.
The reality is that we do not have a full revelation until we have the answers to all these questions. People get so excited about getting a revelation that they forget to press in and get the rest. They stop before they have the lot.
For the prophecies recorded in the scriptures, the Holy Spirit has to cover the whole of history. So of course many of the prophecies were for times way in the future that the prophet did not have a clue about. The Holy Spirit will give the timing when the timing is right. We are not in the situation of those prophets, so their experience does not give us an excuse to put timing tin the too hard basket.
If Christian prophets want to be taken seriously, they will have to do much better on timing. Being vague about timing is really just a "cop out". Statements like "About this time tomorrow things are going to change" by people who like "feel good fuzzies" are all over the internet. They arrive in spam every day. God can do better than that. God will not always give precise timings, but we need to be sure that it is not because we have not pressed in to get the full revelation.
Publishing Dreams and Visions
When publishing a dream and a vision, it is important to separate the dream or vision from the interpretation. If the Lord gave some interpretation during the dream, then that should be spelt out clearly too.
The person who had the dream or vision knows what they saw, so there cannot be any debate about the content. They should know what they saw. However, there can be debate about whether the dream came from God, or the forces of evil, or was just the working of the dreamers mind. Dreams and vision should be tested by the body of Christ to establish that they have come from God.
Unless the Holy Spirit gives a specific interpretation and application during the dream or vision, the interpretation of a dream or vision can be open to debate. Sometimes the person who receives the dream or vision may not be the best person to provide interpretation. Joseph and Daniel were prophetic people who were skilled in interpreting the dreams of other people.
With many dreams and visions on prophetic websites, the person has received a valid revelation, but seems to have the interpretation wrong. In these situations, someone else in the body of the Christ may have the interpretation. If the interpretation is mixed up with published account of the dream, it becomes difficult to suggest an alternative interpretation, without questioning the inspiration of what has been published.
The best practice is to record accurately the dream and vision as received, and then give the interpretation separately. This was Daniels approach in Daniel 7 and 8. In the first part of the chapter he describes what he saw. He then gives the interpretation that was given to him by the angel. Not only did he keep the description and the interpretation separate, he did not give his own interpretation or application at all.
The book of Revelation is similar. John recorded all that he saw very carefully and precisely. He rarely gives any interpretation (except for stars are angels, lamp stands are churches, waters are people, heads are kings, hills are kings). I presume that the Holy Spirit did not give John the interpretation, so he did not give it.
Most Christians who have a dream or vision to share seem to feel bound to give the interpretation and application at the same time. Moreover, the content and the interpretation are often mixed up together, which makes it hard to assess the source of the dream. It also makes it hard to assess the interpretation. Likewise if the dream or vision is not described clearly without interpretation, it is very difficult for a person who is gifted in interpreting dreams and visions to give an alternative vision, because they do not have all the material that they need.
A prophecy must be delivered in the right attitude. We must speak the truth in love. An incorrect attitude nullifies the truth of the word. Many true prophecies have been made false, because they have been spoken in a harsh or critical attitude.
A prophecy must be delivered in the right attitude. We must speak the truth in love. An incorrect attitude nullifies the truth of the word. Many true prophecies have been made false, because they have been spoken in a harsh or critical attitude.
We can be absolutely correct in the heart of a word and still release it at the wrong time or in a form that the receiver can not accept. I know of several prophets who found themselves in very hot water - not because the word was wrong but because the delivery broke the rules (http://www.africaprophecy.co.za/2prophets.htm).
A man can present truth so arrogantly that men will not listen. That man's truth has failed to find expression in our Lords way; therefore, however factually true it may have been, it has failed to become truth to his fellow men (John and Paula Sanford - The Elijah Task).
When you can produce a distinct sound, the church will hear you (Rick Joyner - The Ministry of a Watchman).
God is showing me that we are missing out on a lot of Truth because we become offended in the messenger or the method of delivery. If something is true, let us weigh it, test it, and discern it on its own merit (Chip Brogden - Overcoming Prophetic Offence).
All prophets should note God's response when he saw the sins of the people who lived during the time of Noah.
The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain (Gen 6:6).
God's heart was "filled with pain". A prophet cannot represent God during a time of judgement unless his heart is filled with pain. A person who enjoys speaking judgement cannot speak for God. Only a person speaking with a broken heart can speak for God.Right Spirit
Some Christians say, "A prophet's job is to say what God says". This is true, but it is only part of the truth. I would say, "A prophet's job is to say what God says in the right spirit".
I have observed many occasions when a prophetic person has spoken a true word, but it was not heard. Sometimes the true word was not received because the listener's heart was hard, but more often it was not heard, because the spirit of the prophet was not right.
I remember a woman who was really upset, because her pastor had not received a word that she and a friend had given to him. She could not understand why this had happened, because the word was true. Her word rung true to me too, but I could tell from the tone of her voice why she was not heard. She oozed bitterness, hurt and frustration.
The hard truth for prophets to understand is that being correct is not enough. A true word from God can be nullified by a wrong spirit. In the spiritual dimension, a true word spoken in the wrong spirit is exactly the same as a false word. When God's heart is "filled with pain" (Gen 6:6), he cannot be represented by just the truth. His truth must be spoken with a broken heart. Jeremiah was a powerful prophet, because he knew the pain on God's heart.
Most prophets put a lot of effort into hearing what God is saying, but few put the same degree of effort into keeping their spirit right. A prophet can never just say, "I spoke God's truth, I have done my bit". Every prophet should be asking, "Did I speak God's word in God's way."
Giving Bad News
Delivering bad news to a person who has asked for a prophetic word is a tricky situation for a prophetic person. The prophet must keep their heart right. Some young prophets can fall into taking pleasure in giving hard words to groups of people that deserve it. That attitude is detestable. Something is seriously wrong with Christians who take pleasure in giving bad news.
Prophets who find it harder to give bad news than good news should ponder the reason. Maybe they think that if bad news does not eventuate, they will look mean, whereas if they give good news and it does not happen, the person will not mind. Unfortunately giving good news that is not inspired by God can do serious harm to the person receiving it. Prophets should check carefully that they are right, whether they have good news or bad news.
If God gives a prophet a word for someone, he can also tell them how to give it. If he asks them to give bad news, they should ask him how he wants it presented.
Micah seemed to use humour or hyperbole to give bad news to Ahab. Despite the funny way that Micah presented his word, Ahab got the message (1 Kings 22:15-23).
Nathan told a parable to get David's attention for a hard word. He told it in a way that sucked David into sympathy for the victim. This made it very difficult for David to reject the bad news (2 Sam 12:1-7).
Jeremiah uses symbolic actions to bring bad news, and to give hope. This made people curious, which opened their hearts to the word (Jer 13:1-12).
Asking God how to give a hard word is very important. Whether bringing good news or bad news, the prophet should present it in a humble way. It does not hurt to say, "This is not nice, but it is what I got from the Lord. You are welcome to test it".
Love is most important of all. If someone knows that they love them, they will find it easier to accept bad news from us.
If a prophecy is for a church, the prophet should find out who God wants it delivered to. Delivering the word to the congregation is wrong, if God intends it to be delivered to the elders and pastor. Prophets should be courteous and abide by the protocols that prevail in a particular church.
If you are a Christian first you will remember that you should walk softly, with meekness and humility, while esteeming others as better than yourself. Then the prophetic word, when and if it comes, will be seasoned with the appropriate amounts of mercy and grace. Remember that without love you will inevitably become as sounding brass - all judgement. If we cannot or will not stay in love, God will set out to humble us shamefully before our brothers and sisters that we may know the depths of our hypocrisy and self-righteousness. That is evidence of his great love for all of us (Chip Brogden - Letter to a Reluctant Prophet).
Prophetic offence is when you say what God tells you to say and people get around it by finding fault with either the message or the one bringing the message. Acting like a jerk or coming to people with the attitude that you're going to "rattle their cage" is not prophetic offence, it's just plain being offensive. Such "shock prophets" are high on boldness but typically low on content, which is why they have to resort to such crude methods to get attention (Chip Brogden - Overcoming Prophetic Offence).
I have observed that when Truth arrives on the scene, people either embrace it, run from it, or attack it (Chip Brogden - Overcoming Prophetic Offence).
Perceptions about the one who brings the word inevitably has a bearing on the attitude to the word. Prophetic people resent this - but it is the truth. We are told to judge people by their fruits - and the church takes that very seriously. They are excellent fruit inspectors - and in their eyes those that can't produce what they are looking for don't have to be listened to.
Are you a prophet in their eyes? You may have prophetic anointing - you could (in God's processes) become absolutely anything - but do they see you as being there now? If not there are very distinct limits to what they will accept from you - and you need to observe those limits carefully.
Churches have criteria for prophets - and they are very high! They look for stunning revelations that have come to pass and really changed the course of events; they expect signs, wonders, miracles or healings that endorse your spiritual authority.
The Word belongs to God
Once the word is delivered, the prophet's task is finished; apart from prayer. Prophets must leave the results to God. A prophet, who nags in support of a word, quickly loses credibility and detracts from the Word. God does not nag. Deliver the word in the right way in the right attitude and God will do the rest.
God is looking for messengers. It is not our job to make people listen it is just our job to deliver the message, with a right spirit. The prophetic should be a practical part of your everyday lives. It should be used to effect and strengthen the Kingdom (Ed Traut).
Brethren, if we will do God's work in God's way at God's time with God's power, we shall have God's blessing and the devil's curses (Leonard Ravenhill - Why Revival Tarries).
A prophet must be careful to keep the word pure. They must avoid the temptation to add to or improve God's words.
Frequently people who prophesy will mix their own thoughts in with the word of the Lord in such a way that God's word is altered or distorted. This happens especially when people are just beginning to exercise the prophetic gift. In one sense, something of our own thought always appears in the prophecies we give, because prophecy operates through us. But when our thoughts add to the word of the Lord, or take something away from it, or distort it's meaning, the value of our prophecy is greatly diminished. We cannot rely upon impure prophecy as the Lord's word (Bruce Yocum - Prophecy).
We must also be careful about speaking too much.
Frankly, we talk too much. As long as we are talking, we cannot hear. We cannot both hear and talk at the same time. There needs to be more hearing, and less talking if the prophetic babel is to come into order out of chaos. Yes, we must speak. But when and how we speak is of great importance. Churning out "red hot" revelations and splatting them on the web is not the way to go. We must speak targetedly and in season. We must speak only as we can do so without losing our internal anchor in the One Who leads us beside still waters. And once we speak, we must immediately Return to our place of waiting and abiding in Him. ..James said it well, "Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak," remembering that, as John reported, the Lord "spoke" only as He "heard." So it should be with us (Anderson C: But I Would Have You Undistracted).
God is still calling prophets, men and woman who will follow Christ fully in the way of the cross, who will call the church to examine its ways and repent, and who will point the way of blessing and prosperity for God's people. A prophet must live on the cutting edge of the spirit's move. It can be a harsh and exhilarating experience. A prophet weeps when the church rejoices and he rejoices when the church is weeping, for he is always looking and seeing just a little further into the future.
Thus it is what the prophets greatest task is not preaching but praying. He must intercede in the Spirit so as to prepare a highway for the Lord in the wilderness. It is often a thankless task that means many tears and real suffering, but the results make the rejoicing much greater than the pain (Sanfords).
Any time a prophet is sent by God and has an assignment to take on, address, or confront an idol, a throne, a principality, or a dominion, or is told to rebuke a demonic horde which has become incarnate in a human being who has authority over people (perhaps a dictator), that prophet is walking into a dangerous place with a very specific mission with narrow parameters of safety. The only safe place for prophets of war is a posture of total obedience from start to finish (Ron Wood).
Luke 14:7-10 is relevant to sharing prophecy and vison.
When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, Jesus told them this parable: When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, "Give this person your seat". Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, "Friend, move up to a better place". Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests.
Prophetic people are often tempted to find a higher place at the banquet for their words and vision. They do this in various ways.
Turning the text into the first person.
Using King James English
Adding proof texts
Quoting big name prophets
Getting them onto the best prophetic lists.
Adding dramatic graphics
Playing sombre musing in the background.
The authority of the prophetic comes from the witness of the Spirit in the heart of the reader/hearer.
It is best to present our words and visions in a humble way near the bottom of the table. Then the Holy Spirit can move them up to the top of the table, if he wishes. This does not mean that we should put our words under the table with the dogs. We do not need to grovel.
God's Word is Powerful and Effective
The word that comes from God will be effective.
God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfil? (Num 23:19). How can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced? (Num 23:8).
God will sometimes confirm his word with signs and wonders. Both Elijah and Elisha had their authority confirmed by signs and wonders.
Elisha returned to Gilgal and there was a famine in that region. While the company of the prophets was meeting with him, he said to his servant, "Put on the large pot and cook some stew for these men." One of them went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild vine. He gathered some of its gourds and filled the fold of his cloak. When he returned, he cut them up into the pot of stew, though no one knew what they were. The stew was poured out for the men, but as they began to eat it, they cried out, "O man of God, there is death in the pot!" And they could not eat it. Elisha said, "Get some flour." He put it into the pot and said, "Serve it to the people to eat." And there was nothing harmful in the pot.
A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing the man of God twenty loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe grain, along with some heads of new grain. "Give it to the people to eat," Elisha said. "How can I set this before a hundred men?" his servant asked. But Elisha answered, "Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the Lord says: 'They will eat and have some left over.' " Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord (2 Kings 4:38-44).