Prophetically Speaking by Dave Devenish - (Part 2)
Newfrontiers Magazine – Winter 2001
4. Weighing and Testing.
What about weighing and testing? This is obviously something that Paul encouraged us to do with prophetic words. The New Testament suggests that this should be done after two or three prophetic words. I would not want to be legalistic about this but it is helpful to summarise what we believe God is saying in a meeting after a few prophetic words have been given, otherwise we can lose track and their effect can be lost. The idea of weighing, I believe, not only means testing (1 Thess 5:21) but also giving weight to the word that has come. Sometimes the weighing may take place by asking people to response to the word. If the word is in any way directional to the life of the church, then the elders may say that they will consider the word and also invite others to pray about it and to let the elders know if they have anything they feel God is saying about it. It is very important then that elders give feedback to the church where there has been a significant directional word.
5. How do we weigh?
It is obviously important that we weigh prophetic words in accordance with Scripture. What God may be saying now will never contradict Scripture. In Acts 15 James summarised what God was saying to that meeting by reference to a Scriptural promise in the book of Amos. Prophecy will be Christ-honouring. ‘The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’ (Rev 19:10). We also need to test the attitude of the person bringing the prophetic word. Whatever is said can have three origins. It can be human, demonic or of God. Sometimes there can be a strong human element in prophesying which needs to be sifted. For example someone may feel very strongly about a particular subject; they may be quite right to feel strongly about it. However this does not justify ‘prophesying’ about it. It may just be better to say that we feel strongly about it. Only very rarely have I heard prophetic words that seem demonic in origin because of the content or the heaviness that they can bring into a meeting. Here we do need to be responsible and say that we believe that contribution is not of God. It may be even appropriate to stop the person mid-flow.
It is important to say that condemnation is not of God. We need to distinguish between conviction of sin, which is specific and which requires repentance and general condemnation. Sometimes there can be a misunderstanding of Old Testament prophets and they way they brought messages in an attempt to justify condemnatory prophesying today. We are living in a New Testament era when, praise God, ‘there is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 8:1). Furthermore the Old Testament prophets spoke about specific sins and brought clear conviction. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. They did not simply bring blanket condemnation.
If prophecy is predictive or directive, we do need to look for confirmatory prophecies. God may speak more than once and such prophecies will usually be confirmed over time by others. It may be helpful to say this in a meeting. If I am bringing something particularly directional to an individual or a church, I ask God for a ‘word of knowledge’ component to my prophesying. I once received a prophecy to the effect that someone was going to be an evangelist. However because this was so directional in his life, I asked God for a word of knowledge. I immediately sensed from God that this person had been beaten up recently. This word of knowledge raised faith for the directional prophecy because the facts were true. With predictive prophecy, however, we must remember the ‘implied condition’ of most prophesying. We may hear words about amazing things for which we shall be used in the future. However if we do not continue to live godly lives and perhaps train for what God has for us, then we should not be surprised if they are not fulfilled.
We also need to recognise that some people who have remarkable insights and an established prophetic gift can sometimes be wrong. We must not accord to any person in our current age the status of infallible prophet.
It may be helpful to say another word about individual prophecies. Often these are given in ‘ministry times’ following meetings and may therefore be given ‘one to one’. Personally I discourage ‘one to one’ prophesying. The reason for this is that because all prophecy needs to be weighed and tested, it is important that there are those present who are able to weigh and test the words. I usually like to bring individual words in a public setting so that they can be tested. This may be a bit daunting to somebody who has had less experience in bringing individual prophetic words. However under these circumstances the importance of testing is even more relevant. When bringing an individual prophecy it is helpful to ask one or two others to be present when the word is given. I do not mean people selected at random because they may not have maturity to test the prophecy. Ideally those called to test the word too should have a degree of authority in the local church and know the circumstances of the person receiving the prophecy.
6. Getting Started.
You may be saying ‘This is all very well but how do I start prophesying?’. First of all let me encourage all of you to have faith for it. Paul said, ‘I would like every one of you to speak in tongues but I would rather have you prophesy’ (1 Cor 12:5). The vast majority of you who have been baptised in the Holy Spirit will have no problem with faith for speaking in tongues. This same faith is available for us to prophesy.
Let me be very practical. Here I am not giving explicit biblical teaching but some practical hints that may help you. When you first prophesy you may feel you have heard something from God and start to ponder it. Often this can be accompanied by natural sensations such as a nervous stomach or clammy hands. You are getting nervous because God is speaking to you and something may be required of you. Sometimes there is the sense of the hand of God upon us compelling us forward. It is often helpful to ask God for confirmation. Sometimes you will find a clear reference to what you believe God is speaking to you in somebody else’s prayer or a reference in a song that is currently being sung. Take that as an encouragement. Also ask God to clarify the word in your mind. You may have received a picture so ask God to clarify it and give an interpretation. A prophetic picture does not just fade away or get confusing. It becomes clearer and usually God gives some interpretation.
Sometimes somebody else brings the word you were going to bring. You could at this point get negative and feel that you have missed God. I would rather you saw it as an encouragement. It is God confirming that you are beginning to hear His voice.
There are different ways of bringing prophecy and we need to be sensitive to the promptings of God in this as well. Sometimes we speak out the picture because that will help people understand what God is saying and then we explain it. Sometimes we simply speak out words of interpretation even though we may have seen a picture. Sometimes it is helpful, as we have said above to accompany our words with actions. We may be in a one to one situation, perhaps counselling, when the prophetic word is not to be given in the form of a prophecy but to encourage us to ask relevant questions.
It is very important to learn to obey the promptings of God. Sometimes this can be very risky. However it develops our ability to hear the Shepherds voice.
There are other matters to consider as we start bringing prophecy. The Bible says that we prophecy ‘in part’. This means that parts may be right and parts not. We need encouragement but we also need correction as to the way in which we brought the word, what was said, whether it was said at the right time or whatever. If we cannot receive correction then we cannot really operate in the prophetic.
Do be careful about manipulation. We can sometimes try and change circumstances or somebody’s mind by speaking in the form of a prophecy when we are really just expressing an opinion. Also we need to be very careful with time predictions. Because the prophet ‘sees’ the word in the present then he or she may be way out as far as dates are concerned. Also we must rule out prophecies regarding who should marry whom and be very careful about bringing prophecies in emotional circumstances such as terminal illness. If you do receive a word about someone’s healing then this should encourage you to pray more fervently. It is not usually right to share something like this in traumatic circumstances.
Prophetic ministry is a vital part of the life of a healthy church. It is essential that we make room for the Holy Spirit to speak to us in this way, applying the appropriate safeguards to ensure authenticity.