How do I handle prophetic messages?

If you attend a charismatic or Pentecostal church, you may at some time receive a personal “prophetic word” from either a spiritual leader or someone who attends.  The average person doesn’t always know what to do when that happens.  In this teaching, we will help to answer the following questions:

  1. What is prophecy?
  2. How to deal with prophecy?

What is Prophecy?

The word prophecy can refer to several different things.  It generally is seen to refer to predicting the future.  Yet in the Biblical sense, prophecy is simply about God speaking a “clear message” to a “specific person/group” through a “chosen mouthpiece”.

God’s plan has always been to speak to people directly – not through an intermediary. Adam & Eve – Gen 3:8; Enoch – Gen 5:22-24; Abraham – Gen 17:1; Isaac – Gen 26:24; Jacob – Gen 35:9; Noah – Gen 6:13.

The desire for this personal connection was rejected by the nation of Israel.  They wanted an intermediary and so God gave them what they wanted.

Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off (19) and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” Exo 20:18-19

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.  Deuteronomy 18:15-19

As a result, God chose specific people to speak to & through. These were called “prophets.” The thirty-nine books of Old Testament were written by prophets.  In fact, at least forty three prophets are accounted for in the Old Testament.  God held the hearer accountable for the prophetic word – and held the prophet accountable for the accuracy.

God’s desire was to go back to speaking to people person to person.  In fact, we see in the Old Testament the promise that God would go back to this format.

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. (29) Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. Joel 2:28-29

When Jesus arrived, He taught those who know Him – will hear His voice by the Holy Spirit.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. Joh 10:27

“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. (26) But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:25-26

While the Spirit enables followers of Jesus to hear Him, he also calls people as prophets as gifts for the church. (Ephesians 4:11)

For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged. 1 Corinthians 14:31

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Ephesians 4:11, Acts 21:9-10

How do I deal with prophecy?

So how should you handle moments in time when people approach you with a message from God?

1. Do not despise prophecy. To despise is to feel contempt or a deep repugnance for. Scorn, disdain, contemn, misprize, detest.  Recognize that prophecy is a gift of the Holy Spirit and a way that God chooses to speak to us today.

Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. 1Th 5:20-21

2. Test Everything

Don’t just believe everything you hear.  You need to test it for yourself against the context of scripture.  This is what we find in Deuteronomy 13:1-5.  In fact, Jesus asked people to test Him in light of the scripture: Mat 5:17; Luk 24:44.  So did the disciples (Acts 28:23)

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.2Ti 3:14-17

If someone gives you a prophecy and you aren’t sure what to do with it, here are a few suggestions.

  • Write it down.  A written copy is easier to analyze than a verbal version.
  • Give it to a few different Christian leaders who are not connected to the person who spoke it.
  • Don’t immediately change your life based on the words of the prophetic test.
  • Learn to filter it.

3. Filtering the Prophetic Word

Here are a few ways to filter the prophetic word.

  • What is the principle behind the message? Does it align with the word of God taken in context?
  • Does it confirm with what God has been personally leading you into and speaking to you about?
  • Separate parts from each other.  What parts are clear, confusing, directional, affirming, prescriptive, descriptive, conditional, unconditional?
  • For a short period of time, ask God to confirm things that were spoken through the prophetic word in clear ways than can be confirmed by others and not seen through bias confirmation.

If God is silent to you or you don’t know God’s voice for yourself

  • Place a higher value on God’s voice than prophetic words. Pursue His voice. (1 Kings 13)
  • God may be developing spiritual muscle in you. Don’t bypass what God is trying to teach you in the silence. Don’t stunt your personal and spiritual growth. Seek his voice first.
  • There may be sin in your life. Seeking prophetic words may release deceitful spirits to speak to you and confuse you.  Don’t fall for traps (2 Chronicles 18; 2Peter 1:20-2:3)

Key Questions

  • Does the prophecy fall in line with what God is already speaking to me about?
  • Is the prophecy new material – is it something new?
  • Does the prophecy enable me to walk in faith/confusion based on God’s voice to me?
  • Does it confirm my own journey with God?
  • Is the prophecy clear – or is it convoluted and do I have to figure out what is being spoken about?

Key Actions

  • Writing down the prophetic word will help you to better test it – separate what you thought you heard from what was spoken.
  • Discern the spirit of the prophecy or the attitude it was given to you in. 1Co 14:3
  • Discern the type of Prophetic Word: Forth telling (1 Tim 4:14) vs. Foretelling (prediction)
  • Discern the Conditions vs. Promises. What is stated in the prophetic word  What is implied by scripture?  What is the promise and what are the conditions?  What is potential vs. actual
  • Discern the responsibilities: What is God’s role and what will He sovereignly do?  What is my role and responsibility?
  • Discern the time frame:  Is it stated/implied in the prophecy: test it according to Deut 18:21-22 – If a prophet’s prophecy doesn’t come true in the time it is appointed to come true, he/she is not a true prophet.  If timing is not stated put it on the shelf.
  • Discern the layers of the prophecy.  What is known / unknown?  What are all the possibilities? What is being said? What isn’t being said?
  • Submit it to the Elders.  All prophecy needs to be given publicly not privately – for the interpretation and application (1Co 14:29).  Because elders are given the task of overseeing the church (1 Peter 5:1-3), prophecy should be submitted for the discernment of the elders of a church.

4. Hold fast what is good

Before Timothy was sent to Ephesus, church elders (the presbytery) surrounded him and prayed over Him. In that time of prayer, the gift of teaching was given to Him. Other prophecies also proceeded to foretell what He would face. Paul encouraged Timothy to

1) Walk in Faith – Paul encouraged Timothy to stay true to Word of God that was there before the prophecies came. To stay strong and grow in faith. If we need multiple confirmations, we need to ask for it. If the circumstances are overwhelming, we need to ask for the grace to go on.

2) Persevere under circumstances – In spite of the circumstances, Paul reminded Timothy to keep doing what He was called to do – preach and teach the word – operate in His spiritual gifts.

1Timothy 1:18-20 This charge I commit unto thee, my child Timothy, according to the prophecies which led the way to thee, that by them thou mayest war the good warfare; (19) holding faith and a good conscience; which some having thrust from them made shipwreck concerning the faith: (20) of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I delivered unto Satan, that they might be taught not to blaspheme.

1Timothy 4:14-16 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. (15) Be diligent in these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy progress may be manifest unto all. (16) Take heed to thyself, and to thy teaching. Continue in these things; for in doing this thou shalt save both thyself and them that hear thee.

12 Hindrances that lead to a wrong application

  1. Unwillingness to be changed through pain
  2. A distorted view of God’s timing (when)
  3. A distorted view of God’s ways (how)
  4. Allowing offense to override a major truth (what)
  5. Misunderstanding of God’s overall plan (why)
  6. Human presumption!!!
  7. Quick life altering decisions!!!
  8. Over spiritualization of scripture.
  9. Ignoring God’s existing revelation to you about your existing calling as a spouse, parent, etc
  10. Ignoring wisdom
  11. Not obtaining counsel from a spiritual covering
  12. Misunderstanding signs as prophetic words.