“For we dare not … compare ourselves with some who commend themselves: but they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” – 2 Corinthians 10:12
If you are prophetic you will:
- Regularly receive prophecies for the local church
- “Read other people’s mail” (give words of knowledge; know what is in people’s hearts)
- Deliver personal prophecies to individuals regularly and/or on demand
- See visions of heaven
- See angels (often open-eyed) or be visited by them
- Enjoy a public (“platform”) ministry using your gifts
Have you heard the prophetic ministry defined in these or similar terms? Did you feel you had all the bases covered, or did you feel discouraged about your inability to live up to the criteria?
One of the hardest challenges I personally faced while growing in the prophetic gifts was being intimidated by a stereotype, both in my own mind and in the minds of some around me, of what constitutes a prophetic person — how we should receive revelation and what that revelation should look like.
The people in my circle were primarily gifted in visions, while I was mainly a hearer. They saw visions of angels in the church sanctuary. They saw visions of what heaven looked like. They saw, they saw, and they saw some more, while I saw nothing most of the time. Many of them also received frequent prophecies for our local church, along with specific words of knowledge for anybody who walked in the doors, while such things were rare for me. I felt like a candidate for the Prophetic Dunce Award.
The problem was not that I was all that lacking in the prophetic gifts, although initially I thought it was. The real problem was a stereotype that I felt the pressure of living up to. So I got into the unhealthy place of comparing myself to the gifted people around me and found I came up woefully short. I suspect that some of my readers have been tricked into the same snare, and I’m hoping that recounting my experience will help bring freedom to you.
Especially in America, we tend to be very performance-oriented, and this is true in the Church almost as much as in society at large. We tend to value ourselves and others based on measurable accomplishment, rather than on the worth Jesus places upon us just because we are His. In addition, inner integrity is not always as highly esteemed as abilities, including the ability to deliver spectacular prophetic revelation. It is the old story, “man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7), and the Church often gets herself into trouble by being too prone to exalting those with flashy spiritual gifts.
I hit such a low place in my frustrations over not fitting the prophetic mold that I finally got mad and said to myself, “Fine. I don’t care anymore. I cannot be like _________ or _________. So what? What you see is what you get, and if anybody else doesn’t like it, TOUGH!”
You know, God had been waiting for that moment for a long time. He began to show me that it was OK to be different from everyone else. I didn’t need to see visions, because He had made me primarily a hearer. And the odd part was that, once I truly came to the conclusion that my hearing gift was just as viable as someone else’s seeing gift, I started to see more.
I realized that although I did not have much revelation on the spur of the moment in the church gatherings, I received things which were more appropriately released behind the scenes. Occasionally I heard strategies for my pastor, I understood God’s intent for our region, and eventually I began to hear things that were coming upon the nation and how to address those issues in prayer.
Much of what I was receiving was meant to be released through prophetic writing, rather than being orally delivered. God showed me things He intended to do in the Body of Christ at large, or the spiritual battles that many believers were currently encountering, and then whispered, “Write about this.”
I learned that prayer is my primary avenue of prophetic release. Although I do not often have personal prophecies for people, I usually find that as I am praying with them, God gives specific revelatory knowledge about how we should pray to receive their answers. While I am in private intercession, it works the same way. And I like that, because receiving answers to prayer is very important to me. I like the eternal purposefulness of changing my world through intercession in partnership with the Holy Spirit.
So, if I don’t have a fantastic word that will knock the socks off my church family or other groups I’m with, it’s OK. Do I like hearing other people deliver those wowser words? Oh yes! – when they are genuine. (Sometimes they’re not. Some “prophecies” thrill the crowd, but are really only soulish flatteries.) But I’m comfortable with not getting those words myself. My function is different.
Once I realized that God’s idea of moving in prophetic gifts is much broader than the stereotypes typically taught, I was able to flow better with how the Holy Spirit speaks to and through me. We know that God doesn’t make any two people alike. It follows that each of us will function uniquely in the prophetic gifts, too.
People will often expect us to operate prophetically within accepted boxes, but these are usually just traditions that they are accustomed to. It goes along with our human tendency to like formulas, which we must guard against. God has no formula-style boxes, other than that we stay in agreement with His written Word. When we realize this, the limitations fall off, and we can move in true prophetic freedom.