One of the reasons that prophecy leaves a bad taste in some people’s mouths is the lack of discretion in proclaiming prophetic words. We must be careful to deliver a pure word, clearly differentiating between what God actually said, and what we interpret from what He said. We must also discern between what God is speaking literally, and what is symbolic – and when we are not certain which is which, we should wait on God for greater understanding.
When we receive words for our local church which go beyond encouragement and comfort, they should never be prophesied directly into the congregation. Words which address the direction or vision of the Body should be brought to church leadership for discernment. While they are being discerned by leadership, we must treat them as top secret, and wait for the go-ahead to share them. This means we shouldn’t talk about them with other intercessors or prophetic people, or share them over coffee with our best friend, either.
We can save leadership a lot of time, and save ourselves a lot of grief as well, by making absolutely certain we are hearing from God, and that it is His intent for us to share it, before releasing our word to them. Again, we must be careful to clearly state what was actually seen or heard, and what is merely our interpretation of what was seen or heard.
Did you know that not every prophetic word is meant to be shouted from the housetops? Some prophetic words are for prayer purposes only, especially when the words are of a negative nature. If you think God is communicating to you that something bad is going to happen to someone, please do not immediately go tell the person! If what you are receiving is from the Lord, 99% of the time it is given so that you can pray that the bad thing won’t happen. It never needs to be released to anyone. God’s intent is not to fulfill such a word, but to avert it. And if you pray that God would avert it, and the prophetic word is then never fulfilled, you did not hear God inaccurately; you did your job, and God’s purpose was accomplished. Amos 7:1-6 tells of two incidents where the prophet Amos received visions of destruction for the sole purpose of averting those disasters through intercession.
A few years ago, a prophetic person in our area had a vision that within two weeks’ time there would be severe illnesses, calamities, and even deaths among several pastors of our community, and that this was a judgment from God. The vision was shared with a few intercessors, some of whom confirmed that they were hearing similar things. I was quite alarmed when I was told of this vision, and expressed that, if it truly was a word from the Lord, God’s will was to pray mercy and a staving off of judgment for those pastors. A few of us prayed diligently for protection for them over the next two weeks, and at the end of the two weeks and beyond, we did not hear of a single pastor in our community having had calamity come upon them.
Several things were wrong about how the vision just mentioned was handled. Very likely, it was never from the Lord in the first place. The intercessors who “confirmed” the word were closely tied together and had similar unhealthy issues with the person who released the word. Secondly, such a word should never have been circulated among other intercessors. If released at all, it should have been taken to the prophetic person’s pastor and left up to him whether to pass it to a select group of discreet people for discernment. Instead, it became a matter of gossip and eager anticipation of its fulfillment. Thank God the prophecy never came to pass!
When we receive a prophetic word, especially one that concerns our local church or our community, we need to wait on God and ask questions such as, “What do You want me to do with this word?” “Is there more You want to tell me?” “Should I keep it to myself and pray about it, or should I release it to my pastor?” “When do You want me to release it? Give me Your wisdom on timing, Lord.”
Sometimes prophetic people receive, or think they receive, a negative word as a warning for someone else: “If you do not repent, then such-and-such will happen.” Although this can legitimately happen, it is rare and is usually reserved for the mature prophet. God will not often give such a word to someone who is not already in relationship with the person being warned. Such words must be weighed very carefully before releasing them, and the prophet must make sure his or her own heart is clean from all personal ill-feelings toward the person they are prophesying to. It’s amazing how many times “words from God” are really only our own issues coming to the forefront. Repeat: legitimate prophetic warnings for others are rare.
Using discretion in holding onto or releasing our prophetic words will save us from much grief and embarrassment. Discretion will protect the body of believers from confusion, offense, fear, and disillusionment (from a word not being fulfilled).
Next time, we will talk about misuse of the prophetic.
Excerpted from Lee Ann’s book, The Intercessor Manual