What do you do when people see you as a prophet, but you have nothing to prophesy? You feel the expectation and the demand from people for you to deliver words from God. There are meetings to lead, articles to write, and questions to answer. And so you pray. You worship. You fellowship with God and you sense His presence, but it’s a season or a setting in which the words just don’t come. You might worry that you’ve somehow lost your anointing or that the gift has died. But that’s not possible, is it? The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable, according to Scripture. What to do?
At that point you need to rest in the knowledge that faithful and true prophets never prophesy merely because they’re prophetic or because they can. They prophesy when God is speaking, and ONLY when God is speaking. Never is the true prophetic word under the control of the prophet. You might point to I Corinthians 14:32: “And the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets,” but the language is “spirits” under control, not the word itself. If the prophetic word were under control of the prophet, then it would no longer be the word of the Lord, but rather something from the mind, heart, and imagination of the speaker. One of the most difficult lessons for any so-called prophet to learn is to keep quiet when God falls silent, even when the season of silence seems to be endless.
What happens when that line has been crossed? We get 400 prophets prophesying from a deceiving spirit into the desires of the kings, while just one, Micaiah, gets it right. The kings then choose to follow after the positive words of the majority who bring the popular word, ignoring the warning delivered by the one. Israel loses. King Ahab dies. I Kings 22. You get Hananiah prophesying Israel’s deliverance from Babylon’s domination while Jeremiah tells the truth he himself wants neither to hear nor to speak. Guess which prophetic voice the people responded to? Hananiah dies while Babylon intensifies their conquest of Israel. Israel spends seventy years in exile. Jeremiah 28 and more.
Many times in my travels I’ve asked an audience how many have received prophecies that never came to pass. More than half the hands in the room often spring up, with hurt and disillusionment in their eyes. How many prophecies over your church, your nation, or the world have simply failed to come to pass? Could it be that too many prophetic ministers and prophetic ministries have responded to the pressure of the people, the need to crank out words that fund the ministry, and even their own need to shine? Could it be that as a result they prophesied from their own hearts without even realizing they were doing so? Could it be that they spoke in the Lord’s name, not because they actually heard from God, but because both they and the people saw them as prophetic. They spoke from their gifting rather than from intimacy with God.
I often feel these same pressures in the course of my own ministry, both in my local congregation and when I travel to minister in other places. Have I mastered the discernment needed to know the difference between prophesying merely because I’m prophetic, versus prophesying because God is truly speaking? No. But I understand the quest, and I want to cultivate the courage and integrity to resist the pressures. If that results in extended seasons when I feel pretty ordinary, so be it. Representing God accurately must take precedence over any form of fame, personal recognition, or sense of personal significance and authority. More importantly, what comes from my mouth must never be a reflection of what people want to hear, but rather of what God wants to say.
Don’t we all owe this both to God and to His people? Shouldn’t we be holding our contemporary prophets accountable for what they present in the name of the Lord? I am deeply concerned that we need to take prophesying much more seriously than we seem to be taking it in many quarters today.