The biggest problem I see with prophecy, time and again, is what I call “the presumption of assumption.” Most of the time when we prophesy and the prophetic word does not prove true, the problem is not with the word itself. It is what we thereafter do with it. We make hasty assumptions which color our interpretation of what God is saying. One assumption leads to another, we extrapolate a little here, and a little there, and before you know it, we have a huge “word from God” – which is not. We have presumed upon God’s original prophetic word, and it not only brings confusion and disappointment, but it also brings reproach against the Lord.
To presume means to take liberties; to go beyond proper limits. It is the taking of liberties with what God has spoken that creates so many problems. Let’s look at an extreme example:
Someone gives you a personal prophetic word: “I see Bolivia for you.” Based on those five words, you assume you are to be a missionary to Bolivia. You immediately quit your job and head off to Bible school so that you can be a missionary. Or worse yet, you skip Bible school, sell everything you own to buy a plane ticket to Bolivia, and after wandering the streets of La Paz for three weeks without a clue what to do, you decide God has failed to perform His word to you. You head home, totally disillusioned, never wanting to hear the word of the Lord again.
But what was actually said? “I see Bolivia for you.” Not, “Go to Bolivia,” not, “I have called you to be a missionary to Bolivia,” not, “Go to La Paz, Bolivia next week.” You added a lot of assumptions to the original word, which could have meant a future as a missionary to Bolivia, but could have just as easily meant a call to intercede for that country.
Now, that’s pretty extreme, isn’t it! The above scenario has other problems as well, such as acting on a prophetic word coming from outside yourself without having an inward confirmation by God speaking the same thing directly to you. A decision that changes our lives drastically should be based on hearing many things from God personally and through the counsel of those we are accountable to. But we make assumptions (and then presume to act upon our assumptions) every day on a smaller scale, whether it is someone else speaking the word to us, or whether it is what we are hearing for ourselves.
Let’s look at one more scenario. Suppose you hear God speak to you that He is going to give you a healing ministry. Immediately several prominent healing evangelists come to mind, and in your imagination you see yourself on a platform, laying hands on thousands of sick people, who then are instantly cured of whatever afflictions they had. So far, so good. Oh, did I mention that you are a mom with three children under the age of six at this season in your life?
You were always content before, but now you chafe at having to care for your little ones. They are “in the way” of your word from God that you are to be traveling the world with your healing ministry. Wait – did He say that? No, He said He was going to give you a healing ministry. He never said when, and He didn’t say it was a traveling ministry, and He didn’t say you would heal thousands, either. But, if you listen to God, and ask for further light on the word, He may just tell you it is a few years off yet, or He may remind you of your deaf neighbor lady who would love to have you lay hands on her for healing. He may start having people call you on the phone who want you to pray for them.
When we start assuming about what God means, and presume to move ahead on those assumptions, we make ourselves unhappy. I know, because I’ve been there. I’m still learning to be more careful with this one. Assuming, and then presuming, is so common that probably every one of us has done it.
It becomes even more of a problem when we give prophetic words to the Church and then various people’s assumptions about interpretations are added in. This is why we need wise people within our local body of believers to help discern and interpret prophetic words given to the Church.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 – Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
1 Corinthians 14:29 – Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.
We need to be more careful. If we take more care in understanding what God has said and what He has not said, life will be better for us and for those around us as well.
Next time: Discerning Between Literal and Symbolic Prophecy.
Excerpted from Lee Ann’s book, The Intercessor Manual