In a prior post, I wrote about how to approach prophecy, but in this post, I want to take it to a different level: the psychological processes that receiving a prophecy releases in those who take prophecy seriously. I received a word recently, and have finally come to a place in my walk where I can reflect on it a bit more objectively.
I remember when I was younger, when I would receive words, I could get really messed up. I remember one time the prophet told Jaime (when we were engaged) that she would need to “keep her passport up to date.” I was so depressed, I thought it must mean that we were not getting married, because I knew I wouldn’t be traveling any time soon. A bizarre response, right?
What led to that response?
First, I was giving the prophecy too much authority. A good prophecy usually speaks into processes that are already in motion in your life, not into things that are completely counter to what is going on in your life. If it sounds like it is completely out of left field, then the general rule is to discard it, or at least shelf it.
Secondly, I moved into a place of fear. Rather than trust that if this prophecy were to come to pass, God would cause it to work together with the plans we already had put before Him, I assumed God was coming down from heaven and blowing it all up – that I must be hearing God wrong.
My recent word had a similar tone. A close friend told me that God wanted me to quit relying on my mind and return to my first love. Now, for those of you that know me, I do tend to build the intellectual side. But without going too deep into that, I want to break apart my reaction to the word as a way of exploring this psychological dimension of receiving a word.
Now I’m studying to teach a major church history class in the Spring, and so instantly I started thinking things like “God doesn’t want me to teach the class” or “How can I teach this class?” etc. I started thinking “I need to go on a total fast from knowledge for the next year” and “Close all your books” and stuff like that. In other words, I was dramatizing the word.
Instead of some dramatic shift, a closer look at my life reveals that the word spoke to exactly what he was already doing in my life before receiving the word. I had just repented of a major distraction on Sunday, and just before that was asked by a close ministry partner to teach a class for him on a very spiritual topic – one which, to do correctly, was going to force me to build my spirit, not my brain. It helped me realize how far off the path I was, and I was embracing the process of getting stirred back up again. I was willing and excited to do it.
What God really wanted to say to do was reinforce and highlight the process He had already started. To go with it, essentially, not just teach the class, but follow that process through and put more priority on relationship than I had been. I still need to teach the other church history class, and that still requires study, but I can’t let it take over or become a substitute for being spiritual. I need to put God first.
When you “dramatize” a word, it generally puts you into works. You make these extreme resolutions, which you will inevitably fail to live up to. What you need to do, is cooperate with God, and the grace He is giving you. In general, the God-kind of change is progress, and radical steps (except for cutting out serious sin) are often counter-productive. I don’t need to do something crazy like cancel my other class, what I need to do is allow God to continue to expand His outreach to me, and respond appropriately. As I’m doing that, His mission will be accomplished. This weekend, for example, without additional effort, I’m going to some crazy charismatic conference with Joel, which is most certain to stir up that non-intellectual part of me.
Another major pitfall is in the opposite direction. My tendency is to take words overly negatively or overly seriously. Some people, however, tend to inflate them, or latch on to aspects which speak to an idol of their heart. God wants to say something to you about financial increase, but because you have an idol, you get all excited, and move over into greed instead of whatever transformational work He really wanted to do in your heart. Or even worse, the prophet themselves prophesies to the idol of your heart… Don’t even get me started on the bizarre things that this kind of thinking can do in marriage related prophecies. If your prophecy made you giddy, you probably have an idol, not a word from God.
There are lessons here for the giver too. A “corrective” word does not always have to be or feel corrective. My word could have gone “Will, God is really awakening the Love relationship with you right now. He knows you love intellectual things, but He is stirring the love relationship because He misses you and wants you closer. He is inviting you to a deeper place. Respond to Him as He draws you in. Now, something corrective, has become invitational. Something which could provoke a crisis of conscience has become about embracing a process.
This is a difficult skill. I consider it the finest art of prophecy – giving a word which will provoke the correct psychological response and processes in the receiver.