1 ~ Introducing the Prophetic Ministry
and listen to all that the Lord our God says . . .
Be careful to do what the Lord your God has
do not turn aside to the right or to the left.
Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has
so that you may live and prosper
and prolong your days in the land that you will
Have you ever had the
privilege of meeting a prophet? I am not speaking of someone
who brings an occasional word of prophecy but someone who
lives in the presence of God, and brings His insights to
bear. We have received various words that have brought vital
steering touches, reassuring us that the Lord not only knows
our path but is actually directing it. Like the time we
spent with Alex Buchanan shortly after we were married. He
foresaw the times of intense testing and trials that we
would be called to go through for the Lord. Thanks Alex! But
there has always been the underlying assurance, that this
really is the word of the Lord. May we be as much and do as
much for others!
What did the Lord intend Israel to be? A demonstration to
the nations of the world of what a righteous society living
under the rule of God could be like. In His plan the
prophets had a vital role to play. ‘The Lord used a prophet
to bring Israel up from Egypt: by a prophet He cared for
him.’ Let’s not be afraid to use the word: God appoints
them, we need them and every church and organisation needs
them. And even though we may not be full-blown ‘prophets’
ourselves, we should undoubtedly be seeking to become more
‘prophetic’ in all we do.
Prophets are the ‘eyes’ of the church. The trouble is, the
way we see things tends to be so different from God that He
has to take us through a whole series of upheavals to help
us see things His way, and to apply the word of the Lord
The good news: the Lord promised that He will do nothing
without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets .
Whenever He needed to warn or to restore Israel, He raised
up prophets to do the job. In times of crisis, it was the
Word of the Lord through the prophet that, again and again,
saved the nation from its enemies . The prophets had a
vital role to play in God’s plan for Israel after He brought
them out of Egypt .
More good news: the testimony of Jesus is (still) the spirit
of prophecy , and He invites, instructs even, His people
to be eager to prophesy. But just as that Moses’ ministry
reached maturity in the wilderness, rather than when he was
a pampered prince in Pharaoh’s palace, so the Lord will need
to take us through some form of rigorous training programme.
That’s good news too. But it may not feel like it at the
time. We’ll look at the process in more detail later. For
the time being, let’s take a step backward to consider the
1.1 The prophetic ministry today
||It was the end of the meeting. A group of people gathered
round a man from the church who was paralysed and suffering
from MS. Everyone except the visiting preacher, Heidi Baker,
knew that he had had a dream six years before that he would
one day walk again. But how many believed it would be in
this life? After all, he had been prayed for more than six
hundred times with no apparent effect. The group continued
to pray for a full half hour. Something was happening.
Feeling was coming back, now to the left foot, now the
other. Suddenly it happened. With the aid of others, he
stood to his feet, and soon was walking. Within days he was
pushing other MS sufferers around in their wheelchairs.
Within two weeks he was playing football! An incredible
miracle had happened. And the speaker declared: ‘This is a
sign of God’s desire to bless the paralysed church in the
United Kingdom. The power of God is at hand!’
In this section we are going to look at various aspects of
the prophetic ministry. Our purpose is both to be more open
to be used by the Lord ourselves, but also so that we can
welcome the input of those to whom God has given a special
ability to listen.
God loves to prophesy! He does not speak lightly or
aimlessly but sends His Word in order that His plans should
come to pass. He always has a deliberate objective in mind.
The spirit of prophecy is much in evidence from the very
beginning of the Bible records. ‘Let there be light . . .
Let there be a firmament’ . God could have just thought
the world into being; He chose to speak it. In C.S. Lewis’
The Magician’s Nephew there is a magnificent account of the
creation of the imaginary world, Narnia, in which Aslan (who
stands for the Lord) sings creation into being. It is a
God not only loves to speak, He loves to have His
people both listen and prophesy.
Jesus is prophet, priest and king. He will share His glory
with no other – yet when He speaks through fallible
human beings, something of His own power and authority are
released. When the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among
us, Jesus declared that the words He spoke were spirit and
life . The whole of His ministry demonstrated this: by a
word the blind were healed, the paralytic walked, the dead
restored to life and evil spirits cast out. By the word of
Paul’s mouth a spirit of divination was cast out of a slave
girl, and the eyes of a sorcerer were temporarily blinded . By the words of the apostles lame men walked, the sick
were healed and the dead were restored to life .
1.2 All ministries are to be ‘prophetic’
||When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into
He will not speak on His own;
He will speak only
what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come.
will bring glory to Me by taking from what is Mine and
making it known to you.
All that belongs to the Father is
That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is
Mine and make it known to you.
Wouldn’t it be tragic if God gave up speaking? Isaiah,
Jeremiah, Ezekiel . . . what giants these Old Covenant
prophets were: giants with well-tuned spirits! In Jesus’
day, however, the prophetic voice had long been silent until
John the Baptist ‘emerged.’ There was a widespread
expectation, however, that there would be a revival of the
prophetic flow before the day of the Lord. On the Day of
Pentecost, the promised Holy Spirit was poured out on the
Church, and His blessing became a gift that all believers
Although God sets aside certain people for the office of the
prophet, the Lord wants all of us to wait on Him concerning
the things that we undertake. The sensitive pastor will be
concerned to bring an inspired word to his congregation,
just as the teacher will wait on the Lord to discover
exactly which passage of Scripture the Lord wishes him to
To teach doctrine ‘x’ when God is emphasising aspect ‘y’ of
His kingdom is still to be technically true to the Word of
God, but in reality to miss the heart of what God was
wanting to communicate or direct His people to. To be
prophetic is to walk in step with what God is doing now. To
bring a teaching with a prophetic edge is to be breath-takingly
up to the minute and full of power because it means we are
in in line with what God is doing in the hearts of His
It is so much more satisfying, as well as relevant, when we
are in tune with the things that are on God’s heart.
Although God sets aside certain people for the
‘office’ of the prophet, the Lord wants all of us to
wait on Him concerning the things that we undertake.
Living prophetically involves far more than just speaking
words from God. From first reading of the biblical prophets,
it is easy to assume that they were receiving words from God
day in and day out, but in reality their oracles were
probably more like scoring a goal in the edited highlights
of ‘Match of the Day’ rather than a minute by minute
experience. When Mother Teresa recognised God’s heart for
the people of India and gave her life for them, surely she
was being every bit as prophetic (and in all probability far
more fruitful) than people who bring ‘words’ from God at
In His great task of restoring His Bride, and bringing in
His Kingdom, God is raising up a people to make Him known in
our land; a New Testament equivalent of a prophetic nation .Wise is the church that recognises and nurtures those who
have particular gifts and burdens, whether they be creative
gifts for the body of Christ, for their professions, or for
the wider community. I believe that God appoints watchmen
who have a special burden for their professions as well as
for their churches or their geographical regions. For more
than twenty years I worked with outstanding musicians who
allow the Lord to express and reflect His heart through
their music and in the process bring the presence of the
Lord close to His people.
If you are in leadership, what provision are you
making to train and nurture those who have prophetic
1.3 Nurturing the prophetic Calling
||The real prophets of our day, are those who can perceive
what is happening in modern society, see where it will lead
us, and give a value judgement upon it . . . We should not
just absorb facts, but think about their significance.
(Richard Foster, The Freedom of Simplicity, SPCK)
So significant is the ministry of a prophet, that the actual
moment of commissioning of many of the biblical prophets is
recorded for us . Such men were love-gifts from God. Even
when the message they brought was a hard one, it was out of
God's mercy and kindness that He showed people how things
The Church in Antioch included prophets as well as teachers
in the ministry team, so why shouldn't we? Our nation has
long nurtured a relative abundance of Bible teachers. Now is
the time to welcome those the Lord is raising up with a
prophetic insights for the Church, for specific issues or
professions, to help us grow in the beauty as well as the
knowledge of God.
1.4 Prophets are the ‘eyes’ of the Church . . .
||Now Moses said to Hobab son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’
father-in-law, ‘We are setting out for the place about which
the Lord said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us and we
will treat you well, for the Lord has promised good things
to Israel.’ But Moses said, ‘Please do not leave us. You
know where we should camp in the desert, and you can be our
eyes. If you come with us, we will share with you whatever
good things the Lord gives us.’
Once, when we had been going through an exceptionally
turbulent time, with shocks and difficulties coming at us
from every angle, I arranged to meet with a couple of
prophets who have often been used in the past to speak the
word of the Lord to me. These men work best by knowing
least. We turned to prayer and immediately sensed the Spirit
of the Lord moving through the garden we were meeting in.
The Lord recognised the pummelling we had been through and
spoke profoundly of His love and of imparting a new level of
authority. It was the intimacy that these men have in God
that makes it easy for them to pass on such profound
The prophet’s relationship with the Lord is itself an asset
for the body of Christ. Their insights and experience will
likewise be invaluable in leading the people of God into
seeking the mind of the Lord over specific issues, as well
as for leading congregational prayer and intercession.
Is there an example from the past that God would use
to encourage you in the challenges that you are
Or is there someone He would have you go and
encourage with a hope-filled perspective?
Prophets see with the eyes of faith and hope – and therefore
can believe for things which humanly speaking appear
completely impossible. One way to communicate this prophetic
perspective is to stoke people’s memories with the
recollection of what God has done in the past. God
specifically tells people to remember great deliverances
that He has done (Psalm 105:5, Josh 4:4-7, cf Neh 9:17,
Psalm 78:42). By drawing attention to God’s character
through these (without in any way becoming nostalgic) people
can use them as a springboard for faith in the future.
1.5 Prophecy is not divination
||Prophecy does not consist exclusively, or even chiefly, of
predictions concerning future events.
The future is the
Lord’s concern, and He will show us the way when He feels
that it is right to do so.
It is obvious that Satan has some insight into the future
(as well as a detailed record of our past), all of which he
is quite prepared to share with anyone who will compromise
their soul through involvement with things that are contrary
to God’s word. Psychics and those hosting familiar spirits
are able to reveal details of family history and suchlike
with great accuracy. But horoscopes, palmistry, tarot cards,
ouija boards and so on are nothing but devilish
counterfeits: nothing compared to the peace and security
that we as believers can find in our relationship with God.
An important part of our prophetic task is to turn people
away from such things and to the water that truly satisfies.
We are to exercise the gift of discernment, and steer
ourselves and others well clear of all such practices and to
pray deliverance for those who have had past involvement
Fortune tellers, new age prophets and a host of others
involved in cults and the occult declare insights that,
strictly speaking, may be true but they are not helpful. The
evil spirits recognised who Jesus was before the disciples
did, but the Lord silenced their testimony.
1:6 The matter of timing
things cause more confusion or need more careful
handling than the matter of timing.
The many biblical
prophecies have multi-layered fulfilments, referring to
specific events in the near future and then to far more
distant ones - we were never meant to chart how all the
details will work out. They are usually pointers, whose
meaning becomes clear afterwards. Who, for instance, could
have predicted the events of the Nativity from the
references to Bethlehem in Micah 5? There is a warning here
for those who try to predict the exact details of the
end-time prophecies in the Bible. A fresh set of
circumstances may have to develop before a prophecy can be
1.7 Levels of inspiration
||True prophecy is usually inspired proclamation concerning
the character and majesty of God and the principles by which
He works. Only occasionally does it take the form of
specific commands or directives. Prophecy that is
essentially God-sanctioned personal encouragement is
entirely different from warnings, which if ignored can cause
us to seriously miss the mark or even totally shipwreck.
This calls for care and accountability. Whereas a word of
encouragement can never do any harm, a wrongly given word of
correction or so-called direction most certainly can. Much
wisdom is required here.
Ponder words that you have received
(either directly from the Lord or through others).
‘level of inspiration’ would you say they belonged to?
Pastors are enormously aware that a word, once spoken, has
enormous power for good or ill. If something is said which
does not prove to be correct, people may have considerable
difficulty shrugging off the effects of this false word and
may, as a result, be less willing to heed genuine prophecies
in the future.
If we are sharing a prophetic word with someone, the manner
in which we deliver it and the language we use can make all
the difference to people accepting or rejecting it. David du
Plessis' advice is to submit (rather than impose) a word of
prophecy to someone for testing – and preferably in the
presence of someone who knows them well. That way, if
anything is shared which does not ring true, it is easier
for them to shrug it off. They will also be more confident
to accept an authentic word from God. This simple advice has
helped to avoid much hole-in-the-corner foolishness.
The way in which we
deliver words from the Lord can have enormous
Graham Cooke and others speak of the need to test ‘heavier’
words with the pastorate before speaking them out over a
wider fellowship. This has the advantage of avoiding certain
things being exposed in public at the wrong time or in the
wrong way. It is the equivalent of an early warning system
that saves people the heartache of having to cope with an
invalid prophecy. On the down side, this approach removes
the Body from the loop, and leaves all testing in the hands
of those who are, hopefully, experienced in this field.
1.8 So where does the Bible say that then?
It is obviously important to stress that prophecies should
be scriptural, but since many are of a personal, local or
specific nature, they may not always have clear-cut
precedents or parallels for them in the Bible.
can say is that no true prophecy will ever
It is significant that some
of the world’s most powerful religions - Islam and Mormonism
for example - had their origin in prophecies which purported
to be from heaven, but which fail to pass the test of
biblical standards. Above all, these religions deny the
uniqueness and the divinity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus
It is always wise to beware the grandiose! Suppose someone
had come to Billy Graham when he was a few weeks old in the
Lord and told him he would one day be leading countless
thousands to Christ. The word would certainly have been
correct, but would it have helped the young convert to focus
on developing his walk with the Lord? Beware endless words
that have lots of noughts on the end. All to often there is
a high admixture of presumption and wishful thinking!
Here is a simple guiding principle. Be especially wary of
anything that makes you out to be too special, especially if
it also slags off other Christians. The scene is then set
for seeds of division and disunity!
1.9 Praying prophetic visions into being
||The message they heard was of no value to them because those
who heard did not combine it with faith. (Hebrews 4:2)
All too many Christians and churches through the centuries
have shared the fate of the ancient Israelites. They had too
much head knowledge of Christ but too little desire or
ability to apply that knowledge by faith. As ‘partners’ with
Him in the vision, it is important to sort out what only He
can do, and what we should be doing. Prophecies of blessing
need to be prayed through to fulfilment, just as warnings
should be heeded in order to avoid judgement.
The clearer we are in recognising what the Lord is
asking us to do, the more passionately we should
The word enthusiasm comes from the Greek ‘en theos’
– literally ‘in God’.
Most prophecies are best
considered as being conditional rather than deterministic
(automatically bound to happen). What are they conditional
on? Our faithfulness, our obedience and sometimes our
repentance. Jonah's doomsday words against Nineveh appeared
to present the city with an inescapable ultimatum. But when
the people repented, disaster was averted.
Realistically, many visions are never fulfilled because
people sit on words that need to be prayed into being. If we
accept that a word is from God, we must be prepared to pay
the price to pray what God desired into being. We are not
called to sit and wait to see what happens, like Jonah
sitting under his broom tree hoping against hope that God
would zap Nineveh.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about trying to fulfil
prophetic visions by our own efforts. Too many of us have
tried that and come unstuck as a result. Ever seen a cat
spring to catch a bird and miss? They put on a ‘I wasn’t
really trying’ sort of expression and do their best to
restore their composure! God’s promises can never be
realised by our own efforts alone. But if we refuse to move
in the direction that God is pointing us to, we can most
certainly prevent His promises from being fulfilled. There
is nothing worse than being an armchair critic who misses
genuine opportunities that the Lord was quite prepared to
grant had we only had the faith to step out as He was urging
us to do.
2 ~ The Prophetic Imagination
2.1 The Imagination: God’s gift to us
Are you one of those people who pop back to the house as you
set off on holiday to check if you really did turn the
cooker off? If that’s you, then you may take a bit of
convincing that the imagination really can be considered a
blessing! Let me convince you by quoting what Hannah Hurnard
has to say about the imagination – it may change your whole
approach to it.
||Personally, I believe that far and away the best and most
glorious and most blessed function of the imagination is to
make it possible for the invisible and eternal things to
become real to us . . . If we would but picture Him as
vividly and as clearly as possible as He is revealed to us
in the Gospels, and if we spoke to Him as we would if we
actually saw Him, we would find all the unreality vanish
away. Some people are honestly terrified of using their
imaginations in connections with their faith in the Saviour
‘But it is a very dangerous thing to imagine things [they
say]. Imaginary things are not real, we make them up
But of course when we pray we do nothing of the kind. For
nothing is more sure and more attested to in the Scriptures
than the fact that our Lord is actually present with us in
some lovely and mysterious way, and therefore, we are meant
to behave and to speak exactly as we would if we could see
Him. We do not try to make Him present and real when we use
our imagination, because He really is there, and when we
happily and thankfully use this God-given faculty it simply
makes the wonderful truth more real. Half the time those
people who complain that spiritual things are so unreal to
them, and that they cannot realize the Lord’s Presence, do
not understand that is simply because they are afraid to
accept and believe the glorious truth, that the Lord really
is present with His people.
Nobody can pray drearily or despairingly to their Saviour,
or think of Him as unreal, if they saw Him close beside Him.
Through the eyes of our imagination, we may see Him, vividly
and gloriously present. An imagination used as God means it
to be used, in order to visualize true things described to
us in the Scriptures, does indeed make us a soul ‘full of
eyes, within and without.’ (Winged Life, pp 53-54)
||Harnessing the imagination is all about practising the
presence of God. By living and acting ‘as if’ He were close
to us, we can be assured of His real presence with us,
however we may be feeling (cf. Heb 13:5).
2.2 The prophetic draws out and releases new giftings
||‘Greater is He that is in us than he who is in the world’ – and greater are God’s purposes than most of us we have
yet perceived. Years ago, at university, I used to look at
fellow students who had received certain spiritual gifts and
wonder how it was possible for anyone to do all the things
they were doing. The next stage of spiritual growth always
seems impossible – but once God equips us it becomes a
normal part of our walk with Him. Right from the start I
made it my aim that I would do my best to listen to Him,
even if I made a lot of mistakes in the process.
I have seen people receive words promising them some new
gift, and then watched as it began to operate immediately.
The Lord told a friend of ours, who works in the media, that
she was going to meet people who would develop an
international dimension to her work. A few hours later she
felt the Lord prompting her to tell someone she met on a
train about her television work. The person turned out to
work for Sky News and to have the precise skills she needed.
2.3 First steps in allowing ourselves to imagine
If you are one of those people, like so many sincere
evangelicals, for whom the mere mention of the word
‘imagination’ is enough to make you wince you probably have
excellent reasons for being wary. After all, so many of the
imaginations of our hearts are a mixture of the self-deluded
and the hopelessly impractical. Were God to grant our wilder
requests, we would be the first to be dismayed a short time
Were God to grant our
wilder requests, we would be the first to be
||God spoke in Noah’s day of all the imaginations of people’s
hearts being evil , and He reminds us through Jeremiah
that the heart is deceitful above everything else . Flick
a switch, give an inch and there most of us are – only too
willing to indulge fancies and fantasies that place us
firmly centre-stage. We may dress up our ambitions in
spiritual clothing, of course, but that only makes them all
the more insidious.
But to suppose that all the thoughts of our imagination are
so bad that God cannot speak to us is far too gloomy a
picture. We must never allow the awareness of our sinfulness
to loom larger in our thinking than the grace of God, and
the delight it is to Him to lead His children.
If we are instinctively afraid of rocking the boat, or have
had unfortunate experiences in the past, we may find
ourselves inadvertently resisting the call of the Lord. When
a person suggests a new or different way of doing something,
all too many churches, organisations and institutions react
with a backward defensive stonewalling. People look askance;
fearing ‘what people would think,’ they change the subject
and put the person who first brought the challenge firmly in
their place. They are dismissed as being presumptuous or
Alternatively, people may use the excuse that the idea is a
good one but the timing is wrong – or that it worked
elsewhere but would not be suitable here. Even genuinely
worthwhile ideas are dismissed out of hand, instead of being
weighed, ‘customised’ and enthusiastically embraced.
The chances are that we will at some time face something
like this. If Moses had heeded the ‘wisdom’ of his time, he
would never have set out on his mission. After all, he was
way beyond the conventional retirement age! And how
about Abraham’s call to father a son? Family Planning for
the over Ninety’s?
How do you fare in this respect? When God gives you a new
commission, are you inclined to take an initial step
backwards into the supposed safety of the tried and tested?
Or are you open to act on what God is showing you? In the
Shetland Isles, where we live, people are researching
alternative forms of energy by harnessing wind, wave and
tidal power. Let’s make it our aim that the Lord will
harness our imagination powerfully and effectively to
discern gifts in people that are not yet outwardly visible,
opportunities where doors are not yet open and wisdom where
situations are currently deadlocked.
2.4 Enlarge the Place of your Tent (Isaiah 54:2)
||And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying,
‘Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory,
that Your hand would be with me,
and that you would keep me from evil, that I may not cause
So God granted him what he requested.
(1 Chronicles 4:10 NKJ)
Almost overnight, millions of Christians have begun praying
what has become known as the ‘Prayer of Jabez’ after Bruce
Wilkinson published his hugely successful book on the
hitherto somewhat overlooked passage tucked away in the
genealogies of 1 Chronicles. It has almost reached the point
where we could say, if you are not praying the prayer, then
why not?! To pray to make a real impact and to have an
increasing influence for the kingdom is an entirely worthy
aim – and so very much richer than seeking our own
self-aggrandisement! Praying Jabez’s prayer can help us to
live prophetically by opening our hearts to God’s
perspective – even if following His leading takes us into
entirely uncharted territory.
I might make a Jabez prayer for this book along the lines
of: Lord, I pray that these writings will stir peoples’
spirits – not just to grasp the salient points, but to
experience real intimacy with You as You lead and direct
their paths. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Try ‘crafting’ your own ‘Prayer of Jabez’ to match your
particular situation. It will make an excellent platform
from which to face each day.
utterly imaginative You are Lord!
Who but You would have chosen to act in the ways You
and through the people you have chosen?
Thank You that You are always at work –
always guarding, guiding, opening and closing doors.
Forgive our mistrust,
baptise our imaginations,
and grant us grace to follow Your leading.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
3 ~ Prophetic Wisdom
Some Bibles highlight the words the Lord Jesus spoke in red.
No wonder. His words are the most important God has ever
said to mankind. But don’t forget all the other Scriptures
in which God speaks in the first person.
An in-depth study of the writings of the prophets will go a
long way towards helping us see how we too can develop a
truly prophetic outlook on life. Resist the temptation to
skip over these prophetic oracles in search of more familiar
pastures. They can bring us an immense awareness concerning
God’s sovereign working and the response He is looking for
from us. Even a lightning overview of some of the prophetic
books will show us something of the Lord’s heart and ways
and that is what this chapter is about. We are in for a
3.1 Seeing and perceiving: The Sovereignty of God
The finest truths of Scripture are not placed together in
convenient charts and graphs. They are more like pieces of
buried treasure waiting to be discovered and put together.
The prophets urge us to look beyond purely economic or
military considerations and open our eyes to the God of
in-depth study of the writings of the prophets will
go a long way towards helping us see how we can
develop a truly prophetic outlook on life.
It is supremely Isaiah who shows us the God of first causes,
and who declares, ‘I am (this or that) and I will (do this
or that)’. It is He, not economic or military might, who
raises men up or who casts them down . Though Isaiah, in a
sense, leads the charge in this respect, all prophets have a
living understanding of the sovereignty of God. It was the
Lord who brought Israel up from Egypt, the Philistines from
Crete and the Syrians from Kir – just as it is He who
delivered Israel from the tyranny of the Baals – and us from
our own many scrapes!
The more we immerse ourselves in the real world the prophets
operated in, the easier we will find it to trust the God of
the prophets in our own lives – whether concerning
apparently irresolvable problems that we are facing, or in
search of biblical parallels to contemporary situations that
we are going through as a church or nation.
Before you read on, why not ask the Lord to deepen your
understanding of the prophetic writings? It will help you to
be on the same wavelength as ‘giants’ such as Isaiah,
Jeremiah and Amos. Don’t worry if your knowledge feels a bit
patchy or threadbare – it is about to be extended!
3.2 The prophetic brings to life
All over the world, the Lord is drawing people into His
presence and giving them visions of eternal realities and of
the kingdom of God impacting the world today. And God uses
those with special prophetic gifting to get us looking in
the direction He would have us focus on.
The task that every prophet faces today, as Isaiah, Jeremiah
and all the prophets faced, is how to set about convincing
people to address issues that God is concerned about, but to
which they are blind and deaf. Because these people have
stood in the counsel of the Lord, they are well placed to
understand the link between cause and effect and to explain
We have already looked at how prominently Isaiah viewed the
sovereignty of God. Everywhere in his utterances we see that
the Lord Himself is the underlying bulwark of all history
(which, of course, is His story). It is here that we see
God’s lordship over life and creation spelt out most
clearly, in language that reaches sublime spiritual and
poetic heights. If you read chapters 40 onward in the light
of this thought, it can hardly fail to expand your
perception of the sovereignty of God.
Or take the prophet Amos. How could he get the people of
this day to see the danger their ways had brought them to?
First things first, he had to get his hearers ‘on side’. The
skilful (and no doubt popular) stratagem he used was to
denounce the sins of the neighbouring nations. It would be
rather like an Englishman pointing out the shortcomings of
the French! But then the prophet pays out some rope and
begins to address the sins of Judah. We are dealing now with
the equivalent of Scotland or Wales – and his hearers are no
longer certain whether to jeer or to start getting afraid!
3.3 The Blessings of Bad News
Even God’s judgement is a mercy.
Finally, Amos does what he was wise enough not to have done
at the outset. He tightens the noose and springs the trap.
Israel (or ‘England’ in our analogy) you are no better! You
stand under judgement too! The people had no leg left to
stand on. Amos’ skilful tactics had sowed necessary doubts
into the hearts of his complacent hearers, and now he could
proceed with his message. God has no ‘favourites’. His
judgement affects us in proportion to the light we have
received. Have we have responded to the opportunities – and
the warnings – that have come our way? Then we have little
to fear. But if we have dodged issues and cut corners, we
will find God saying to us what He said to ancient Israel.
Those who minister healing to the soul must do so with a
pure heart; so too must those who bring challenges from the
Most High. Amos, like his great successor Jeremiah, is
living proof that we have no right to denounce the sins of
others unless they are also prepared to weep and pray for
them. In chapter 7 we find Amos pleading for his people. His
prayer mitigates the severity of the judgement, but it
cannot prevent it altogether. The sins of the people have
reached too high a pitch. Judgement, in the form of a
terrible earthquake, would still visit the nation. But in
His mercy, God gave a glimpse of blessing beyond the
shaking. Even when individuals, churches and nations are
‘levelled’ by God’s chastisement, they can rise again and
serve Him with greater holiness and humility.
What can we learn from Amos’ seemingly roundabout approach
to tackling really thorny issues? Prophets often prefer to
hint at issues and to leave it to people’s conscience and
intelligence to decide what to do next rather than spelling
everything out in detail. At other times, hints are not
enough and matters need to be spelt out plainly. Ask God to
give you wisdom to know what God is saying in a particular
situation and how to speak words of life into the challenge
3.4 ‘Why aren’t You doing something, Lord?’ (Habakkuk)
Just as Amos’ intercession was unable to prevent the
earthquake, from time to the Lord may warn us that certain
outcomes are going to be immensely distressing. Let’s drop
in on the prophet Habakkuk, who was working late at the
office one night, pouring out his heart in complaint to the
Lord about the violence that was so marring society (sound
familiar?). The answer he received to his complaint was so
surprising, and so disturbing that God had to go into
overdrive to convince His prophet that the message he had
received was genuine. The conversation went something like
‘Lord, things are in a terrible state. You’ve got to do
something about it.’
‘I am, Habakkuk. But if I were to show you what I am about
to do next, you wouldn’t believe it.’
‘Want to bet on it, Lord? Try me for size.’
‘All right then. I’m raising up the Babylonians to be the
scourge of My people.’
‘What??? You wouldn’t do that, Lord. You’re far too holy to
use evil people like that to fulfil Your purposes.’
‘I did warn you that you wouldn’t believe Me. But you need
to take the message on board because that is what’s going to
What adjustments Habakkuk had to make! To his credit, he did
get over his initial shock, and eventually worked his way
through to a profound place of trust and acceptance, despite
the horrors that were going to assail his nation.
Have you known times when the word of the Lord is as
unwelcome to you as it was to Habakkuk? It happens from time
to time. The quicker we accept what He says, and refuse to
tinker and compromise, the wiser we will be – and the safer
too! May we respond as well as Habakkuk did and continue to
seek and praise the Lord even when there are no proverbial
figs on our trees or cattle in our barns.
3.5 ‘The Weeping Prophet’ (Jeremiah)
||Hear and pay attention, do not be arrogant, for the Lord has
spoken. Give glory to the Lord your God before He brings the
darkness, before your feet stumble on the darkening hills.
But if you do not listen, I will weep in secret because of
your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with
tears, because the Lord's flock will be taken captive.
(Jeremiah 7:28; 13:15-17)
The book of Jeremiah portrays
a sad epoch in the history of Judah. It also draws us
intimately closer to the life and struggles of this heroic
man than we get to any other of the other prophets. There
was nothing easy about his calling. The Lord warned him from
the outset that he would face opposition and even informed
him that the people would not listen to him. He said much
the same thing to Isaiah and Ezekiel.
Measured by our ideas of what constitutes success, which
would presumably be the turning of the nation to the point
where God could bless it rather than judge it, none of these
prophets had any greater measure of success than their
predecessors had done. But God does not judge by such
standards. He calls us to wholeheartedly embrace the tasks
He gives us to do, and to leave their outcome to Him. Is a
saint who dies young on the mission field less of a success
than the one who completes his three score years and ten in
In the meantime, we must find ways to cope when people prove
reluctant to hear the word that God has given. Jeremiah,
Ezekiel and Isaiah all had to set their faces like flint to
fulfil their calling, they guarded their hearts, for the
most part, against bitterness and remained grief-stricken
but compassionate towards the people’s stubbornness. They
could see all too clearly that the people’s attitudes would
lead the nation to suffering and captivity. It is not so
3.6 ‘I am with you’ (Haggai)
Prophets stand in the
courts of the Lord, and are given insight into why
things are happening as they are.
By the time we reach the book of Haggai, we are into an
entirely different scenario. This is a generation that has
experienced judgement and exile - a nation who knows just
how terrible it is when God calls time on sin. Any prophet
speaking in these circumstances at least had the advantage
that people believed that God could judge them. The trouble
was, the pendulum had swung so far the other way: they had
come to believe so much in God’s discipline that they no
longer had much expectation left that they would ever know
what it was to live again in the light of God’s pleasure.
God may have miraculously moved to bring the first of the
exiles back to Israel but their mindset was dominated by all
the difficulties they set their eyes on: a ruined land, a
crumbling infrastructure and a Temple that was just a pile
But God, who had specifically taken His people into exile on
account of their sins, wanted them to rebuild the nation. He
didn’t want them to absorb the compromised spirit that
prevailed amongst the people who still dwelt in the land.
But the people were so discouraged and self-centred… How
would God start to reach their hearts? Study the two short
chapters of Haggai and you will be much the wiser.
Prophets stand in the courts of the Lord, and understand why
certain things happen. They then have to find a way to
communicate what they have learnt. They have to help people
address the real reasons why things are as they are.
Haggai’s questions are pithy and pertinent; they push
through people’s weary self-centredness and force them to
consider why their resources are drying up and why even
their best intentions to rebuild the house of the Lord are
proving so spectacularly unsuccessful.
The answer is simple. In their discouragement, the people
had ended up looking after ‘number one’ rather than
attempting the seemingly impossible and trying to redeem the
nation for the Lord. It was time to reverse the pattern. If
they would only put the Lord’s work first then their own
needs would be met!
No sooner had the sorry truth begun to dawn on the people
than the Lord hastened to reassure them that He would be
with them in the days to come. To be sure, the task looked
impossible, but if they were prepared to put their hand to
the plough, His presence would be with them. That was it:
the simplest of reassurances – but it was all it took to get
the people trusting, hoping and working again. Almost
overnight things turned round. Within an astonishingly short
space of time the house of the Lord was rebuilt – and all
because a prophet asked people the right questions and
motivated them to start working again.
We will often come face to face with people who feel
disheartened and discouraged. To kick-start faith’s engines
back into action is a fine achievement! Ask the Lord to help
you ask the right questions in the right way at the right
time. Above all, it is His presence that rekindles hopes and
releases His power. There is little more important than
drawing these discouraged ones back into the Lord’s direct
3.7 ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the
God is into teams! When He raises up one, He often calls
another to provide friendship and support. Two are better
than one, and prophets work best when they are not obliged
to ‘go it’ on their own. The succinctness of Haggai is
matched by his better-known contemporary, Zechariah. His
prophecies are a delight, revealing not just God’s hatred of
sin so much as His heart for His people.
Zechariah encouraged the returning exiles that God was a
‘wall of fire’ about His people, and that He would do for
them what they could not do for themselves. Countless times,
as we face situations that are beyond our immediate
resources, we will lift up our hearts and repeat the Lord’s
promise to Zechariah: ‘not by might, not by power, but by My
Spirit,’ says the Lord.
Zechariah’s experience is more overtly ‘charismatic’ than
Haggai. He talks with angels, receives numerous visions and
ends with the finest overview of the end times in the Old
Testament. Chapters such as Zechariah twelve to fourteen are
key pointers to what God is doing in unfolding His purposes
3.8 ‘I’ll ask the questions and you can answer them!’
For our final example from the Minor Prophets, we will move
on to consider Malachi. Here is another example of the
message being more important than the man, about whom we
know precisely nothing. But he, like his predecessors, had
to find a way to communicate a fundamentally unpopular
message to a people who would not want to hear it. The
strategy this messenger of God hit upon was brilliantly
imaginative. He envisaged an imaginary dialogue between the
people, who thought they were all right as they were, and
God, who thought otherwise.
With high drama, wisdom and insight, Malachi’s rhetorical
questions stressed not only how much God loved His people,
but revealed the extent to which the people had become smug
and lukewarm. How easily this happens when we no longer face
any immediate threat to drive us back to God!
In much the same way, the Lord Jesus asked questions of His
hearers. With consummate skill He turned back on His
interlocutors the issues with which they were using to try
to trick Him. He pierced their delusions and drew them on
beyond their prejudices to reveal eternal truths.
It is not only children who ask questions. It can only be
right to ask the Lord for prophetic wisdom to know how to
proceed when you are faced with challenging issues.
3. 9 Understanding God’s heart for Israel
Zechariah presents us with a stark overview of what will
happen to Israel at the end of this age. To understand this,
however, we need to understand how Scripture ‘works’. There
are many today who claim that the Church has inherited all
the promises God made for Israel. When they do this,
however, they are highly selective in which promises they
adopt. It is as though they claim that all the ‘good’
promises belong to the Church – but the ones that spell out
warnings and judgements are left in Israel’s court! This is
poor exegesis, to say the least. It makes me want to say:
‘Don’t play dodge ball with the Scriptures!’
Being ‘chosen’ involves
special responsibilities. To whom much is given,
much is also expected.
The fact is that there
are more than seventy references to Israel in the
New Testament. In all but one of these, it is
unequivocally clear that Israel stands for the
actual nation of Israel. To start substituting the
one for the other has causes much needless error and
confusion. People schooled in today’s even-handed
approach may not like it very much, but God selected
the Jews for much the same reason that He chose us:
to be a demonstration to the world of what He can do
through a small, stubborn and insignificant people.
Israel is His first-born son; we, by grace, are
‘grafted in’ and have full citizens’ right in the
kingdom of heaven because of what the Lord Jesus did
on the cross. But that does not necessarily mean
that God has forgotten His first-born son.
Understanding God’s heart for Israel opens up a whole new
vista for our understanding of the world. What it must not
let us do is become bigoted in any way. The Lord loves
Palestinians as well as Jews – and Israel is every bit as
susceptible to judgement as any other nation. Special
‘chosen-ness’ always implies special responsibilities in the
Scripture: to whom much is given, much is expected.
The history of Israel in both Biblical and more recent times
is a microcosm of God’s dealings with mankind. No wonder
Paul tells us to consider both the mercy and severity of God
. Zechariah shows us that the spirit of supplication that
will be poured out on Israel comes at a time of intense
national distress. At long last the nation will come to
believe and open their hearts to the one who came to save
them, not to be an elite nation but from their sins.
3.10 Understanding the Second Coming
A major part of the prophetic thrust in Scripture is to
prepare people for the return of our Lord Jesus in glory.
For every prophecy in the Old Testament that points to the
coming of the Lord Jesus there are far more that speak of
His return. If every a would-be prophet needs to be a
student of the prophets, then every Christian needs to
devote time and energy to the subject of the second coming.
After all, this is what the whole of history is leading up
Don’t worry - I’m not going to go into huge detail chasing
the weird and wonderful doctrines and ‘time lines’ that so
many have put forward concerning the sequence of events in
the end times! Studying the doctrines of a-millennialism,
pre-millennialism raptures and post-millennial tribulation
is useful up to a point but can distract us from daily
It led David Pawson to declare himself a pan-millennialist –
it will all pan out in the end! What will help our
understanding of the prophetic ministry, however, is to look
at Mark 13:4, where Jesus speaks about the end of the world.
At first glance, the time-scale appears as confusing here as
it does everywhere else. No wonder Peter warns that there
sometimes millennia rather than minutes between a word and
prophetic utterances, time is often ‘telescoped’.
The key is to realise that Jesus was actually looking at two
events. When we understand that, everything else begins to
make sense. Within this one chapter, Jesus foresaw the
destruction of the Temple in AD 70, and the end of the world
and His return in glory to Planet Earth. Verses 18 and 29,
for example, refer to AD 70, whereas verses 24 and 26 refer
to the time of the end.
Not surprisingly, Jesus’ disciples found it hard to
differentiate and sort out the two events. Why did Jesus
speak in this way? Is it simply because, as so often with
prophetic utterances, time is ‘telescoped?’ It is as though
you look through a telescope and see the mountain peaks that
stand up highest, but pass over the valleys in between. Thus
AD70 was a critical event, the regathering of Israel as a
nation was another such moment as, of course, will be Jesus’
final return to Earth. Jim Graham draws a helpful
distinction when he speaks of the general future and the
specific future. The general future refers to the fact that
many people will be led astray in the last days – not just
because they are taken up with pleasure-seeking but because
they fall prey to perverse cults and deceptions. Minds will
fall prey to delusions of all shapes and sizes even as
hearts are thrown into turmoil and confusion by the
world-shaking events that characterise the last days (vs.
The gospel must be preached to all nations but this will
happen against a backdrop of intense opposition. And let us
bear in mind here that three languages out of four in the
world today currently have no Scriptures available.
Verses 9-13 speak of a great persecution that will stem from
both religious and political sources. It is heart-breaking
when evil rulers hold sway over a nation. It is even worse
when religious leaders oppose the work of the Spirit. The
Pharisees, of all people, should have welcomed the Lord
Jesus. Instead they resisted Him implacably. We find the
same thing throughout church history. Those who are on the
cutting edge of God’s Spirit come up amongst those who are
unwilling to alter the established order of things. Even
those who have been greatly used of God can prove hostile
when God moves in new ways. How we need to keep our hearts
humble and sour spirits attentive to what He is doing, so
that we can stay on track with what the Lord is doing.
Hard though all this is to bear, verse 12 highlights the
betrayal that comes from family members and those we thought
were our friends and colleagues. This is the worst pressure
of all. No wonder Jesus tells us emphatically to: ‘Stand
firm to the end’ – a refrain that is taken up again
throughout the book of Revelation.
Verses 14-23 take us back to a specific historical event:
the dreadful destruction of Herod’s Temple, which occurred
in AD 70. Jesus mentioned a specific sign that His followers
were to watch for, so that they would leave the city before
it was put to the sword. And this is precisely what happened
nearly forty years after His prediction. When Jerusalem was
besieged, the Roman troops retreated at one point to go in
search of more supplies. Instead of being caught up in the
general euphoria, the Christians used the interlude to leave
the city. It is thought that there were no Christians left
in Jerusalem when the Roman general Titus returned to the
city and put it to the sword in a blaze of violence.
Jesus then went on to give simple pointers describing the
general state of affairs in the world before His return. He
also made it clear that His return will be highly visible.
Nobody will be left in any doubt as to whether or not it has
happened – a safeguard against the lunatic claims of so many
cults that Jesus had already mentioned. In the phrase ‘If
the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would have
survived’ we see the kindness of the Lord in saving us from
truly intolerable suffering.
This is a splendid example of what is sometimes referred to
as the ‘prophetic past tense’ – something we find from time
to time in Scripture when an event is so certain to happen
that it is described as if it had already happened. Although
the date remains known only to the Father, this is not a
conditional prophecy. It will undoubtedly happen, and it is
right for us to live in such a way as to be always ready for
His coming – and to echo in our hearts the longing of
Christians through the ages by crying ‘Maranatha, Come,
4 ~ Hidden Training
4.1 The training of a prophet is rigorous
||I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. He cuts
off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every
branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be
even more fruitful . . . If anyone does not remain in Me, he
is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such
branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If
you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever
you wish, and it will be given you. This is to My Father's
glory, that you bear much fruit. (John 15:1-2, 6-8)
I am always interested in how God prepared His servants for
their prophetic ministry. How many years, for example, from
the moment Samuel informed David that he was going to be
king for it to come to pass? More or less two decades! There
is nothing in the least bit unusual in that. Receiving the
call is only the starting point; it is the equivalent of
kneeling down on the starter’s blocks in readiness for the
race to begin.
God saw the potential in David, just as he does in us,
affirmed it clearly by giving precious promises – and then
began a spiritual training programme, the rigour of which
matches that of the SAS. The strange thing about this
training is that much of it appears to take us right away
from the direction the Lord had called us to. The more we
humble ourselves and yield to God, the sooner we will come
through this process.
Look at Jacob, who was called and blessed but exiled and
made to suffer for fourteen years at the hands of Laban, the
harshest of masters. Or Joseph. How could this youngest son
be elevated above his brothers? There simply was no way in a
hierarchical society for Joseph to usurp the hereditary
succession. God had a plan for doing so, but so convoluted
and painful that one would scarcely have dared to script it
for a film. It involved being betrayed by his brothers and
being imprisoned for a prolonged period of time for a sin he
had resisted rather than committed.
If the young Joseph strikes us as being on the brash side
who exalted perhaps a little too much in the ‘great things’
that God had promised him, we find maturity in him later -
when it really mattered. And we can trace the reasons for
this maturity precisely to the things that he had suffered.
Suffering either causes us to give up – or to grow bitter –
or it develops the necessary steel in our character that
will enable us to prosper in the ways of God.
If the reversal of Joseph’s future is a dramatic
foreshadowing of the greatest miracle of all – the
resurrection of Jesus from the Cross – then we should note
that Jesus taught so much on the need for perseverance,
precisely because what God asks of us is always bound to
seem impossible at first sight. Giving birth to a vision
requires great stamina!
If listening to the Lord were a natural part of our lives,
the Church would do all it could to welcome the watchmen and
gatekeepers the Lord raises up. Unfortunately, ‘because our
sins are so many, and our hostility so great, the prophet is
considered a fool, the inspired man a maniac. The prophet,
along with my God, is the watchman over Israel, yet snares
await him on all his paths, and hostility in the house of
If Paul was made to suffer for his discernment, when he
expelled the familiar spirit from the slave girl in Acts 16,
we can take it for granted that we will suffer too when we
challenge vested interests or error, whether in the Church
or society. The opposition can be intense. Satan’s hordes
are strong and tenacious – but they are as nothing compared
with the host of heaven.
What visions are you in the midst of birthing? The Lord give
you grace to persevere through the ‘pain gap’ until what He
has promised comes to birth – and wisdom and discernment to
know which battles are ours to fight.
4.2 God is careful in what He allows to come our way
||Bob Gass once made the profound and thought-provoking
comment that ‘Jesus needed Judas as well as the beloved
disciple John in order to fulfil His destiny!’
If you have had a problem with a particular person or
situation, have you noticed how God seems to send a similar
person or situation into your life at a later date? It
doesn’t mean that God has given up on us, merely that He is
testing us to see if we are able to handle them in a godly
way – and so He sends us a rerun. He would not have allowed
these things to come our way if they had been too difficult.
In God’s heart, there is grace for our failures but a
realistic expectation of our success.
But hearing can be a delicate matter, and specific words
that people say to us can cramp and block our spirits. A
respected leader challenged a friend of mine: ‘How do you
know the Lord speaks to you?’ The challenge may or may not
have been well-intentioned, but the effects were
devastating. Although the Lord continued to speak to her in
the course of the day she found doubts creeping in, to the
point where she lost the desire to sit with the Lord and ask
Him what He was doing.
The Lord spoke to me about this. He showed me that it was a
specific ‘mid-spectrum’ blockage in her ability to hear the
Lord. It turned out to be part of a recurrent pattern. When
she had been a teenager she had begun to minister in
healing, but had stopped doing so after her best friend
urged her to lay off ‘because it was so embarrassing.’ The
Lord prompted me to ask about her birth. It turned out to
have been traumatic and life-threatening. The ‘squeeze’
mirrored the spiritual clamping that had occurred and gave
us a key to pray for renewed freedom in the Spirit.
God is careful in what He allows to come our way – but it
will often take the eye of faith to see our circumstances in
the light of God’s sovereignty when we are going though the
mill. The Body of Christ is full of wounded healers,
exhausted burden bearers and those whose confidence to
listen has been severely dented by all manner of
discouragements. Make no mistake about it: this is a central
4.3 Testing for idolatry
||Dear children, keep yourselves from idols (1John 5:1)
It is as well to be aware that the enemy is adept not only
at using our weaknesses against us, but also turning our
strengths against us. This is such an important issue that I
feel the need to return to it. The enemy does not
necessarily have to concoct new sins for us to fall into; he
simply pushes buttons that expose and attack existing
weaknesses in us. The devil’s aim is to get us to think, say
or preferably do things that will get us into trouble – even
to the point where God has to exercise a measure of
judgement against us Himself.
The moment we begin to put anything, even the needs of
others or our ministry, ahead of our relationship with the
Lord we begin to lose our cutting edge. The trouble is, we
have taught ourselves so effectively to say ‘the Lord comes
first’ that we rarely recognise this process happening.
Judgement begins when
discipline is ignored.
||Try this simple test for where your heart loyalty lies.
Given that the thing that most dominates our mind
effectively runs the risk of taking God’s place, how would
you feel if God were to ask for it (or that special person)
back again? If you find that the thought provokes fear or
anger, could it be that there is a potential idol in your
Because the Lord is a jealous God, He may need to take
painful action, drastic even, in order to get us to refocus
on what matters most to Him – the undivided devotion of our
hearts. The more we yield willingly, the less painful we
will find it. After all, it proceeds from His heart of love
and is designed to refine and sharpen us, not so much to
knock us out. Painful as it may be, it is born of the same
passionate love for us that inspired Jesus to the cross and,
as with the cross, it is for us, not against us.
4.4 Time Out: Sin Bins and Desert Zones
||If we do not respond to the discipline God sends our way, He
has to send a larger dose of it. Isn’t this the way any
parent disciplines a child?
God sometimes has to pull us
up short and sharp, because He sees that we are going to go
badly off course if He does not. We cannot afford to be
naïve or sentimental about this. If we are ever tempted to
think that we are in some way so special to God that He
would never have to discipline us then we are as foolishly
deluded as the people in Micah’s day who thought that God
would never deal with them that way.
Judgement only begins when discipline is ignored. God is
extra stringent with those who speak in His name and move in
His authority. How can we minister if we are inwardly hungry
for forbidden things? Or minister to brokenness, sorrow or
of the pain of being rejected if we have known nothing of
these things in our own lives?
If it takes serious humblings and major setbacks to bring us
to a place of greater anointing, God is not squeamish. He
will do all that it takes to make us men and women after His
heart. The process is our qualification – not our note of
Think how close Nineveh came to being judged. All because a
certain prophet took exception to God’s clear command and
ran away from his mission. God had more difficulty getting
his reluctant prophet Jonah to go there in the first place
than He did in convincing the citizens of that most
hard-hearted of cities to repent before Him. But many of us
argue and fight against His calling in just such ways.
Nebuchadnezzar spoke from first hand experience when he
declared: ‘Those who walk in pride He is able to humble.’ How is God shaping and humbling you? Has He ever had to do
to you something as drastic in its own way as what He did to
Nebuchadnezzar? Only once? May we be flexible tools in His
4.5 Prophets without Honour
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everybody appreciated the
efforts we make on their behalf and the words and ideas that
we bring? Trouble is, it doesn’t always work quite like
that! Because we will often be called to challenge the
status quo – to uproot and tear down as well as to build and
to plant we are sure to face misunderstanding and
opposition. When this is through our insufficiently thought
out plan or presentation, we deserve what comes our way. But
the cost of bringing the ways of the Lord remains high.
Prophets see new ways of doing things, and make suggestions
that threaten the way people have always done things. Which
is easier, to embrace the new or to make life uncomfortable
for the would-be prophet? When we have done all we can to
minimise misunderstanding, and to explain most carefully
what we believe God is saying, certain people may still
prove unwilling to respond along the lines that God is
ordaining. That is not our responsibility! We are answerable
to God and must go on saying what God is saying, without
fear or favour.
When a prophet is deified, his message is lost. The
prophet is only useful so long as he is stoned as a
public nuisance, calling us to repentance,
disturbing our comfortable routines, breaking our
respectable idols and shattering our sacred
– A.G Gardener
4.6 The Matter of our Vindication
We have made it abundantly clear by now that prophets in
training are in for a white-knuckle ride. A substantial
percentage of us will experience nervous breakdowns at some
point in the carrying out of our tasks and even end up being
rejected by our church or organisation. What will enable us
to continue when the going gets tough?
|| A strong confidence in God’s call.
A dogged refusal to allow a foothold to bitterness or
cynicism in our hearts.
A spirit of praise.
A sense of humour.
A least one sound friend who believes in us!
We must face a simple fact: people’s expectations of
prophets and the prophetic ministry are often impossibly
high. One departure from the high standard expected of us
and people can be down on us like a ton of bricks. One
reason for this is that people – not least pastors – are
often subconsciously jealous of anyone who appears to have a
closer walk with the Lord than they do and are quick to
chastise any apparent inconsistency.
Nothing can stop people from saying the strangest things
about us behind our backs. But if our attitude is gracious
and forgiving, there is every possibility that many of them
will eventually relent. Some may even become friends! In the
meantime, we must pray for the Lord to make our hearts
sharper rather than harder through the things that we
Many times I have known in my spirit that I am being spoken
against. Sometimes the Lord has shown me who is doing this
and has given me the grace to go and talk to the person or
people concerned, which has sometimes served to clear the
air. At other times there seems to be no alternative but to
trust the Lord to be our ultimate vindication. Who said it
would be easy?
Since the Lord often seems to lead us in ways that appear
strange to the outsider (as well as to us!) we are wise if
we leave the matter of our reputation firmly in the Lord's
hands – especially if we are leaders! The Lord alone
vindicates our words and our calling. In the meantime, how
do you guard your heart against feelings of self-pity when
misunderstood or misrepresented?
||Be careful not to build
such strong walls around you to protect yourself that you
inadvertently end up keeping both the Lord and His people at
4.7 The way up is often the way down
I used to think it a tragedy that Watchman Nee, after years
of fruitful sacrificial ministry, was thrown into a
communist jail for nearly a quarter of a century and made to
study Maoist doctrine. He was finally released only in order
to go home and die. What a waste of twenty-five precious
years. Or was it? All the time he was imprisoned, his
writings were influencing countless Christians and sowing
seeds from which there has been glorious ongoing revival.
God has designed it that we can only reach the place where
we bring abundant life to others by going through some sort
of a death experience ourselves first. ‘What you sow does
not come to life unless it dies,’ Paul wrote, graphically
illustrating Jesus’ teaching that it is only when the
original seed dies that the real harvest comes.
If Joseph found that the way up often appears the way down,
then so will we! It will feel at times as though God has
forgotten all about His promises to us. But He has forgotten
nothing. His eye is still on us. He will find ways to
demonstrate His love and commitment, and to bring about the
utterly impossible. Meantime, as we pass through our own
‘dungeon’ experiences, God trains us in spiritual warfare
and teaches us new skills. We are not only not our own: we
are bought at a price and we are being led by the Lord.
I believe that many of us have not progressed as far as we
could with the Lord because we hold back at some point from
yielding to His purposes. We are inclined to make bargains
with Him. ‘If You will do this, then I will do that . . .’
We cannot afford any ‘no go’ areas in our life. It is poor
discipleship that says, ‘I am willing to do anything and to
go anywhere except ...’ Wisdom lies in letting the Lord have
His way - unreservedly. He knows exactly what He is planning
Lord, the process of making such a complete
surrender appears daunting, but what could be more
foolish than to hold back on You when you have our
very best interests at heart? You never take
anything from our lives without putting something
richer back in its place. May we be stripped of our
inclination to doubt and to grumble whenever You
call time on something that has meant a lot to us in
the past. Thank you that you are always thinking of
us, and always leading us on. Please complete the
training programme that you have in mind and bring
real breakthroughs as a result. In Jesus’ name,
5 ~ Thus saith the Lord
||Everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their
strengthening, encouragement and comfort.
Here, in one short sentence, Paul summarises how the heart
of God can be communicated to the people of God. Paul said,
‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your
heart, that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming’
Prophecy is all about putting courage into people.
5.1 A Burning Fire in our Hearts
||Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the
one who has My word speak it faithfully . . .
Is not My word
like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks
a rock in pieces?
The word of God was burning so strongly in Jeremiah that he
could not hold in, even though it would bring him repeated
pain and rejection. At a less intense level, have you never
felt your heart beating faster when the Lord is alerting you
that He wants you to speak out? Fearful though you probably
were, it was usually easier, and certainly far more
satisfying, to give the word than to keep it in.
Father, help me not to
be so impatient or over-excited that I miss the
details of what you are saying about a situation.
Give me grace to remain in Your presence, and not to
go beyond what You are sharing.
Sometimes the leader of a meeting declares, ‘I sense God
wants to speak’. How can they be so sure? Why are they
spelling it out instead of just letting it happen? To
impress people by how sensitive they are? Hopefully not.
Rather they are declaring what God wants to do as a stimulus
to encourage people who are ‘sitting’ on a word to speak it
We may be given just a short sentence, or a very simple
picture, but that may be exactly what somebody needs to
hear. It often happens that the Lord reveals to us just the
gist of a message. It is sometimes best to ‘hold on’ to it
for a few minutes to see if the details become clearer and
stronger. At other times we have to speak out in faith, not
knowing exactly what we are going to say. We need to be
especially careful then that we are indeed being led by the
Spirit of God, rather than carried along by the excitement
of the moment.
Don’t be in too much of a rush to pull away from the Lord’s
presence to share what He’s been saying with others. He may
have something more to say to you! Here’s a way to picture
it. It’s a bit like getting an e-mail from God, complete
with title. ‘Great!’ you say, and promptly rush to tell
people you’ve had an e-mail from God. But if you had waited
a bit longer you could have read the main part of the e-mail
that the Lord was wanting to share with you! Sharing too
hastily might be rather like receiving the title of an
e-mail and forwarding it on instead of waiting for the body
of the text to arrive.
Pluck up courage and act on God’s promptings. As your words
are accepted, so you will gradually come to have more
confidence that God can and does indeed speak through you.
5.2 Drawing others in: Prophetic Etiquette and Courtesy
Being prophetic means getting away from the structured
safety of having one man, or one team, in charge, with all
slots, activities and spaces neatly accounted for and
pre-programmed. For leaders to hand over to the Holy Spirit
means trusting the people in their charge. The reality is
that it may well not always work out well. The prophetic
craft can be as messy as any other apprenticeship. Resist
the temptation to retrench when things go wrong.
The prophetic craft can
be as messy as any other apprenticeship. Resist the
temptation to retrench when things go wrong.
Wise are the leaders who learn to sense when God is asking
them to involve others and to stand aside. For example, you
sense the Lord’s anointing on someone to contribute. Make a
platform for them to share. If you are not entirely
confident in their abilities, invite them to share a
contribution rather than handing over the rest of the
meeting to them!
Pray for opportunities to share words of blessing into
people’s life, but in such a way that it will help them to
grasp the positive and to deal with the negative without
straying into flattery, condemnation or delusion. Encourage
people to carefully test what you share. Likewise, take hold
of words that have been given to you: weigh them first then
weave them into the way you approach life. What’s the use of
the Lord speaking if we do not take them on board and commit
ourselves to what He has said? May all the Lord has spoken
over you come to pass!
5.3 When people don’t want to hear
||These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children
unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction. They say to
the seers, "See no more visions!" and to the prophets, Give
us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant
things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this
path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!
(Isaiah 30:9-11; cf Jeremiah 7:28)
Isaiah’s listeners were prepared to listen to him – but only
if the content of his message was trimmed to suit their own
desires. Jeremiah’s hearers were more inclined to scoff. But
prophets have to keep speaking God’s message faithfully.
True, we may sometimes be able to shape what God has shown
us (to find the best way to present it), but we can never
afford to dilute it. Let’s face it: God wouldn’t be God if
He didn’t show us home truths we are reluctant (or
incapable) of seeing. What matters is how we respond.
Wisdom is knowing how
best to package the message. It only becomes devious
when people try to manipulate facts or emotions.
Wisdom is knowing what to do with the message God has given
us. Deviousness is to try to manipulate crucial facts. Paul
became all things to all men in order to win them for Christ but he didn’t present another Christ in the process. His
approach to the Athenians (who had no knowledge of the God
of Israel) was very different to when he met the Bereans who
were made up of orthodox Jews. Paul deployed all his
God-given wisdom to reach his hearers. Isn’t that precisely
how the prophets sought to reach their audience?
We can lose our audience entirely by presenting matters one
way, when another approach would have won their hearts. For
example, much that we receive from the Lord can be
introduced into prayer or conversation without necessarily
being prefaced by a ‘Thus says the Lord’. But there are
limits. To find God’s angle for sharing a message is sheer
wisdom; to ‘doctor’ or dilute it in order to make the
message – or the messenger - more acceptable ends up
compromising the non-negotiable and misrepresenting the Lord
Neither are we wise to adopt a style that is simply ‘not us’
unless God clearly tells us to do so. When Billy Graham
first went to Cambridge he switched from his normal style
and tried to adopt an academic approach to present the Good
News. When he met with little success, he reverted to his
normal style of preaching - and far more students were won
for the Kingdom!
There is nothing wrong with giving considerable thought to
the matter of presentation and to study literary styles and
other forms of communication. Many of these will become
familiar and intuitive for us once we have grasped the
principles that lie behind them. You may find my
publication, ‘The Art of Creative Writing’ helpful in this
5.4 Listening for Others: Crafted Prayer and Prophecy
Graham Cooke has recently published a series of short books
including an excellent one on Crafted Prayer (Sovereign
World). The concept of crafting a prayer about situations
that we face, or for people who we care for, is an excellent
one. I have adopted the model he used in a workshop in which
he divides people into pairs (often with people who have
never met before) to wait on the Lord for that person. As
the Lord begins to speak, carefully record these insights
and thought associations, but without saying anything to the
other person. After a few minutes, work these ideas into a
‘crafted’ prayer for the person as if writing a letter back
to God, asking Him to do the things that He has already told
you He wants to do. Before you share this with them,
however, go one stage further and turn it into a word as if
it was coming directly from the Lord. That is, take time to
share with the person both the prayer and the ‘prophecy’.
It may sound a somewhat mechanical and calculating approach
– presumptuous even – but I have found this a most valuable
way to help develop the word of the Lord. Certainly the
first time I did this exercise, the Lord spoke to me clearly
through the person praying for me. It has proved a
consistently worthwhile tool to work with.
We can apply the concept of crafted prayer to complex
subjects and topics as well as to individuals. Why not chose
such a subject or a person and have a go?
5.5 The prophetic draws out and releases new giftings
||‘Imagination is the greatest of all the gifts which God has
given us. It makes us full of eyes, without and within.’
‘One in the eye is worth two in the ear!’ (Boxing Manual)
People often assume that the prophetic ministry is primarily
concerned with addressing people’s faults and failings. It
would be nearer the mark to claim that it is even more about
seeing the best in each other and finding ways to draw out
these qualities in them. It is a wonderful gift to be able
to see beyond a person’s sins and shortcomings to see their
deep heart longing to be different and better. True prophecy
strengthens and treasures what people can become in Christ
rather than just what they are.
God sees over the horizon. He wants us to be able to
discern giftings and callings that are not yet
visible to the naked eye.
When the Lord called Gideon a ‘mighty warrior’, it hardly
sounded like an objective comment, least of all to Gideon
himself. But God saw what Gideon could become and spoke
it into being. The Lord sees potential where we see only
weaknesses – the oak tree that the little acorn will become.
The prophetic addresses the treasure that God has placed
within people, things that they themselves may be entirely
unaware of. His words release us into an entirely new level
of confidence and sphere of anointing to do things that
would previously have been completely beyond us.
What a privilege to be, as it were, embarked on a glorious
treasure hunt to identify and help release God’s gifts and
blessings into people’s lives.
The Lord is always looking for people to raise up and
promote. Just before our first wider prayer conference, our
pianist fell ill. Everybody we invited to replace him was
unavailable. I was really upset! Walking in town the day
before the conference was due to begin, I bumped into
someone who had been part of a group I had led. When I asked
him why he had come a day early, he replied that he had felt
prompted to come and offer his services as a pianist. I had
no idea he even played the piano! As we watched him leading
worship the following evening, someone had clear discernment
that this marked the beginning of a wider ministry for him.
The whole conference was greatly enriched because the
pianist had waited on the Lord and received instructions to
come early. Sure enough, his ministry has long since gone
from strength to strength.
Elijah's final commission was a truly prophetic action: to
appoint a young farmer called Elisha as his own successor.
Whereas Saul had hounded David, his potential successor, at
the point of his spear, Elijah would do everything he could
to develop the ministry of his young apprentice. The
contrast between Elijah's nurturing spirit and King Saul's
insane jealousy could hardly be greater. Any church or
organisation that is failing to plan ahead to raise up its
successors is lacking in its vision. The Lord is always
thinking of the next generation. Who are you reaching out to
mentor or be mentored by?
5:6 The prophetic enables us to discern strongholds
Just as we are to see potential in people, so the Lord also
wants us to uncover the roots of historical and spiritual
blockages. In the wings of the political and social stage
today lurk many dangers and wrong practices the Lord would
want to alert some of us to
When there was prolonged famine in Israel, David sought the
Lord. It was revealed to him that it was due to the
Israelites’ violation of their promise to spare the
Gibeonites. Not until this had been atoned for did God again
answer prayer on behalf of the land. Coverdale
delightfully translates this last verse ‘God was again at
one with the land’ – the true meaning of at-one-ment.
It is important to realise that ‘ordinary’ prayer would not
have been sufficient in this instance to end the famine.
Why? Because there was an underlying cause which needed to
be brought to light and attended to. Prophetic insight
should therefore be a natural part of our prayer. So many of
our prayer meetings concentrate on what has already
happened. We rush to prayer action-stations in response to
some trouble or need, rather like a fire-brigade racing off
to put out a fire. Prevention is better than cure!
When God judged Judah through Nebuchadnezzar after nearly
forty years of warning from the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord
declared that it was primarily for the sins Manasseh had let
loose in the nation that the nation was being judged. But
Manasseh had lived nearly a hundred years before! What’s
more, the sins of Manasseh’s day, had, to some extent, been
reformed under King Josiah. In the Lord’s eyes, the
repentance had clearly been insufficient. Jerusalem fell,
and the people went into exile.
Before we translate this scenario into a contemporary
setting, and complain that it wouldn’t be fair for us to be
judged today for something that was done at the turn of the
last century, it is important to grasp that it is not for
isolated misdemeanours but for accumulated sins that nations
are judged – ‘for three sins, even for four’, as Amos puts
it. Our own society may have long since left behind the
worst excesses of the appalling working conditions that
prevailed in the mines and factories of the Victorian era,
but has it really repented of the grasping, exploiting
attitudes that lay behind these outward social ills? The
evidence is clearly against it. And the Bible tells us that
we reap what we sow.
The good news is that nothing here is fatalistic. As a
nation Britain sowed the wind through the unspeakable
atrocities of the slave trade. Many years ago the Lord led
intercessors to pray for the cities which had been at the
heart of the slave trade and which, at the time, were
showing signs of acute racial unrest: Bristol, London and
Liverpool. We believe the Lord has answered prayer and is
bringing new life to these cities despite the guilty past.
God is in the business of redeeming. Prophets like Martin
Scott and many others are working hard on praying for bad
roots to be removed and the power of God to visit our
physically affluent but spiritually needy communities.
Lord, grant us Your
discernment concerning the events of our times, to
recognise real dangers and to respond as You call us
to pray. May we play our part in the spiritual war
to save our nations. Continue Your work of training
those with prophetic giftings in secret places in
preparation for the day when the Church will again
be ready to receive Your clear directives. May Your
voice be heard, Your insights be received, Your
people be willing to turn from their own interests
and comforts to pray for Your will to be done – and
Your ways be followed. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
6 ~ And all the people replied . . .
||Do not quench [put out] the Spirit's fire;
do not treat
prophecies with contempt.
Hold on to the
Avoid every kind of evil.
(1 Thessalonians 5:19-22)
So you’re pretty sure you’ve heard God say something to you?
That’s great! The next stage of the process is to know what
to do with what you’ve heard.
6.1 What next?
Knowing what to do with what we hear is a separate
art from receiving it in the first place
Some churches are so
unfamiliar with the whole dimension of prophecy that they do
not know how to respond. In all too many other cases God’s
words are not taken seriously enough for a rather different
reason: they come so thick and fast that there is no
mechanism for pondering them. We hear and accept His words
and yet would be hard pushed to remember them only a few
hours or a few days later. We are not unlike the people of
Ezekiel’s day who heard the prophet’s words, approved of
them wholeheartedly, but did nothing to change their way of
The flesh may scream that we should share some word that we
have just received now (after all, it gives us a certain
kudos to be able to present such a powerful word!) but the
wiser course of action is often to wait. Many of the words
the Lord gives us can be written down, tested and presented
later when we have had time to see what else the Lord wanted
to say about the matter in hand.
All this points to a huge need to record prophecy carefully
and to weigh it properly. God wants us to take the key
promises and messages that He sends us seriously. These will
come in different forms – Bible passages, specific
prophecies, or illustrations that we hear which we recognise
as having a specific relevance for us. We need to meditate
on what God gives us, and let its message reach right down
into the depths of our hearts. And then, having pondered its
relevance for us as individuals or as a wider grouping, we
must look to see it outworked – without falling into the
trap of trying to bring the vision to pass by our own
efforts. God will bring it about in His way and in His time,
but it is right that we pray and work towards it.
Sometimes God says things just because He wants to! Not
everything needs to be spoken out or even prayed about. Some
things, it seems, are just God sharing His heart because He
6.2 The Fitting Forum
Lord, help us to remember to ask You to show us the
right forum in which to share the words You give us.
Sometimes the Lord uses a particular meeting as a window of
opportunity in which to release a word in our hearts but
that does not automatically make it the right forum in which
to share the word. If it is always right for our first
question to be what are You saying, Lord, our second should
be when and how do You want us to pass this word on to
others? Should I speak it now? Does something else need to
Christine Larkin shared how the Lord gave her a word one
January about something bad that was going to happen in the
autumn. She did not say anything at the time because it
might have induced fear. After the bad thing had happened,
however, she was able to share it – not as a prophetic word
about what would happen in the future but, as God had
intended all along that it should be a message of comfort in
a difficult time.
Have you known times when God has shown you something that
is best kept in prayer between yourself and God? That is
something we should increasingly expect as the ‘overflow’ of
our intimacy with the Lord. At other times our best course
of action is to take what we have been shown to our leaders
rather than to share the matter immediately with all and
sundry. To share certain warnings in public might excite
fear or gossip. If the prophetic and pastoral are working
together in tandem, we can leave it to the discretion of the
leaders how they respond to what God has said.
It is always worth remembering that what we are given are
only ever partial words or understandings about people and
situations. They may not even make any sense to us, but if
we pass them on with as much accuracy, love and wisdom as
possible (resisting the temptation to elaborate or
exaggerate what God has said) we will often delight to
discover that these insights give a great deal of strength
6.3 Let no word fall to the ground
Prophecy comes to the whole church. The responsibility for
recognising that the Spirit of the Lord is speaking, and for
acting on the word given, lies with the leaders of the
meeting, who are acting on behalf of the whole Church. Some
churches delegate this initial testing to those who have
shown themselves to be particularly gifted in this realm: a
prophetic team in other words. This is an excellent idea –
so long as this prophetic team does not ‘stifle’
contributions from other people by approving each other’s
words and frowning on anything that comes from a different
If we fail to test prophecies, we are actually failing to do
what the Lord has charged us to do. I have seen churches
warned through prophecy of dangers which they have refused
to face up to, just as Saul did not heed Samuel’s rebuke and
was ultimately rejected by God as king over Israel. ‘If
you will not listen I will weep in secret because of your
pride,’ the prophet says. There are always serious
consequences when societies, professions, cultures and
individuals do not heed God’s wisdom.
Taking the word of God seriously means finding ways to
ponder it, distribute it and then to pray it into being.
Would the Lord show you some way of improving this vital
aspect of the prophetic ministry? How do you and your
fellowship test words, personally and corporately?
Father, may we run with the specific promises and
directives You have given us, and not be swayed by
that which is best left to one side. Help us to tell
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
6:4 Hold fast to that which is good
Leaders must be free to do as they think right with a
prophecy. If they are happy with it, they can release it to
the wider body. If they do not feel comfortable with it, the
kindest, as well as the wisest, thing to do is to spend time
with the person who gave the word, explaining why they do
not feel able to release it wider. After all, the person
concerned probably required considerable courage to share it
in the first place. Loving feedback will help them grow and
develop in their gift. It is nonsense to think we can learn
to prophesy accurately overnight. But prophetic skills can
be refined and, to a considerable extent, taught.
We saw earlier that prophets are the eyes of the Church.
Blessed are the pastors and leaders who make room for that
gift – and who stand by people who sometimes ‘run out of
words’, or who ‘continue beyond their anointing,’ and make
inevitable mistakes as they develop their ministry. At the
same time, leaders must be on hand to reassure the
fellowship by preventing false words from being acted on.
If Paul tells us specifically to hold fast to that which is
good , the implication is that there will be other parts
that are not worth holding on to. There have been times when
people have ‘dumped’ on us words that owe more to their
particular outlook on life (or to wishful thinking) than to
the authentic word of the Lord. If we can identify these
‘words’ for being what they are – something much less than a
full-blown word of the Lord - they will not do much harm.
But that is a big ‘if’. It requires considerable courage to
affirm that they are not right. We are right to be cautious
of rejecting a genuine word of God, even whilst needing to
guard against the spurious.
Sometimes it is even more complicated. For example, the
spirit behind the word may be sound, even if certain aspects
of the prophecy stray beyond the anointing. If so, we are
wise to separate out the over optimistic without dismissing
the whole thing.
6.5 Grace to step out
In change management theory, certain types of people are
seen as facilitators whilst others are resistors. So much
will never come to pass as long as people resist the
Spirit’s leading and refuse to step out.
Jackie Pullinger highlights our fear and our reluctance in
the whole realm of listening to God by pointing out that
when a tongue is given in a meeting, almost everybody
immediately begins to pray for somebody else to be given the
interpretation! Many of us have held back in such ways and
as a result have not developed the gift that the Lord has
At the end of the day, you can take a horse to water but you
can’t make him drink. Not everyone will embrace the leading
of the Lord. May the Lord show us how to create a nurturing
environment that will enable as many people as possible to
respond to what He is saying. May the Lord grant us courage
first to listen, and then to act on what He is showing us.
6.6 The spirit of the prophet is subject to the control of
In the final analysis, the way a word is given is less
important than its anointing and content. After all, we have
less than no idea of the immediate context in which many of
the Biblical prophecies were given. Nevertheless, there is
no excuse for being unnecessarily wacky. Years ago I heard a
tongue being spoken (shouted would be a more accurate
description) in a Pentecostal church in London. On and on it
went, becoming increasingly intense and urgent. I waited
with baited breath for the interpretation, feeling sure that
at the very least the Lord was warning us that the building
was on fire, or that Doomsday had come. The interpretation,
no less enthusiastically declaimed, assured us that the Lord
loved us, and that it was a good thing to read our Bibles!
Why did she need to shout?
It is God who has given
us our unique character and personality,. He
delights to express something of His own heart
A cursory glance at prophecy in the Old Testament might make
us think that it is normal for the Lord to speak in a
didactic, authoritative manner. If so, the temptation will
be for us to assume that we are likewise merely to become
‘voice channels’ for the word of the Lord when we prophesy.
I prefer to think that most prophecy is an overflowing of
the wisdom and compassion of our Heavenly Father than a
command to do this or to do that. Neither are we ‘taken
over’ by the voice of God, as mediums are in seances. It is
God who gives us our unique character and personality, and
He delights to express something of His own heart through
One important principle to bear in mind is that God does not
force Himself on people. True prophecy never takes away a
person’s free will. But there is an enormous risk of
manipulation and control when prophecy takes a directive
I always feel uneasy when I hear directive prayer or
prophecy – that is people telling for x to do y. As leaders,
we should not permit such prayers or prophecies to go
unchecked. There are enough insecure and unscrupulous power
and position-seeking believers who are willing to use and
abuse the prophetic ministry in order to manipulate and
control people for their own ends. All this borders on
witchcraft. Why? Because it imposes someone else’s agenda
onto others and brings them effectively into the orbit of
the person who had the word.
Father, may our words and our service draw people closer to
the Lord Jesus, rather than into our own orbit. Soften our
hearts so that You can reveal more and more of Your heart to
people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
6.7 Shadow Boxing
The Lord loves to give specific gifts and ministries to His
people. Unfortunately, as we hinted above, the prophetic
ministry by its very nature attracts a certain percentage of
insecure people who are looking for a niche and a platform
to make them feel wanted and special. Fluent in prayer and
prophecy, such people often appear to have a ready answer
for everything – but their words and attitudes are less
convincing. Discerning people suspect that there is a ‘gap’
between the words and the person’s own lifestyle – and that,
in turn, makes them question the words.
‘Superspiritual’ men and women, by contrast, are caricatured
by their words and promises. They endlessly concoct theories
and shape verses from the Bible to support their fascinating
if misguided prophecies – but where is the fruit in their
ministries? Such people’s fervent exhortations to ‘trust the
Lord!’ are undergirded by much exhortation but little
identification with where other people are really at. They
do not easily weep with those who are weeping, because they
feel that faith does away with the need to weep!
The name of Jesus is no open sesame into the
Insincere or immature prophets were clearly a problem in the
early Church. Jesus warned His disciples frequently about
false prophets. He said that they are wolves in sheep’s
clothing. Wolves have a ferocious and a potentially
dangerous appetite - and so do Christians who are out to
make a name for themselves. We have spoken already about
words that ‘tie’ people to themselves. Characteristically,
immature or ‘soulish’ prophets display a profound
self-centredness in all they say and do. If such people are
unwilling for their words to be tested, it may be better for
them not to prophesy at all.
There have always been those prepared to use the name of
Jesus as a cover for pursuing their magical arts. Even in
the hey-day of the Celtic church many inadequately converted
druids became priests because they saw in the priesthood
their best way to retain their hold over people who were
shrugging off the old pagan ways. No wonder the Lord hates
all such ‘religious’ ways – but loves those who seek Him
with all their hearts.
When the sons of Sceva attempted to ‘use’ the name of Jesus
in their exorcisms, they found themselves in real danger.
The demon they were trying to exorcise turned and attacked
them violently, forcing them to make a highly undignified
exit from the house – stark naked and severely wounded. The
name of Jesus is no open sesame into the supernatural world!
The sons of Sceva would not be blessed to know that they
have become an object lesson in how not to do it! Their
‘playing around’ with spiritual forces they did not
understand did not prevent the Lord from working in power.
Many made a clean break with their pagan past, and publicly
burned their magical scrolls and regalia in order to
demonstrate that they were severing all ties with their
occult past and were now following the Lord Jesus Christ.
Lord, we ask that You will show us where we are being held
back by any of these tendencies. Set us free in Jesus’ name
to minister in the power of Your name, Amen.
6.8 Renounce all occult links
The Lord warned the Israelites: ‘I will set my face
against the person who turns to mediums and
spiritists to prostitute himself by following them,
and I will cut him off from his people.’
Some people appear to assume that ‘discernment of spirits’
refers primarily (even exclusively) to spotting what the
enemy is up to. This is far too narrow and negative an
approach. Leanne Payne reminds us that we are not called to
be demon spotters (like grown up train spotters!) – we are
called to be God seekers.
Nevertheless, the spirit world needs careful handling. I
have known times when a person has brought words, which, on
the face of it, seem to be uncannily accurate. On
reflection, we have realised that their ‘discernment’ was
mixed actually with divination – the ability to know or to
predict things by means other than the Spirit of God.
If you have dabbled in any such activity as reading tarot
cards, playing with ouija boards, consulting palms, tea
leaves, attending séances, taking horoscopes seriously,
ancestor worship and many such things, you will find
spiritual confusion dogging your steps until you are cut off
through repentance and prayer. (This is something that is
best done in the company of people who know what they are
doing). It is the same for people who have been involved in
such things as Freemasonry, yoga, transcendental meditation,
the Bahai faith and many other cults and -isms.
||There are many ways we can test the direction of a person’s
heart and hence the words that they bring. Before we turn to
examine a few of these, let’s do some ‘spring-cleaning’ in
our own hearts. Can we discern any tendency towards
controlling others? Any ‘superspiritual’ attitudes? How
about any involvement with the occult, either in your own
life or in your family line?
6.9 The Shepherd leads but the butcher drives
When we sense an urgent prompting in our spirit, we must
discern between God’s leading and the enemy’s compulsive
urges and distracting tactics. A helpful principle to bear
in mind is that ‘The shepherd leads but the butcher drives’.
It is only practice that enables us to distinguish the still
small voice of the Spirit from the flurry of signals that
assail our mind. As always, it is important to check what
you think you have heard with other Christians.
6:10 In Tandem or in Tension? Pastors and Prophets
Prophets are invaluable in helping the Church to find the
best way forward. Their words stir people into action, break
up the unploughed ground and shatter complacent attitudes.
Blessed is the church which knows how to harness and
encourage the talents that already exist in its midst. But
prophets work best in teams! Haggai and Zechariah, for
example, were doubly effective because they brought the same
message to their generation in different ways, almost, as it
were, in stereo. The apostle Paul, likewise, was no lone
ranger. Have you noticed that he starts his letters with
vigorous endorsements of his co-workers: Silas, Barnabas,
Titus and others?
How does this work out with the rest of the Church? Kenny
Borthwick once gave a talk entitled 'Can prophets and
pastors be friends?' They most certainly should be, yet
times without number, the prophetic ministry finds itself in
tension rather than in tandem with the pastoral team. This
is so common an experience that it needs unpacking.
Prophets and pastors are clearly designated in Scripture as
being separate roles, but when they work in tandem it is so
much more creative. Human nature being what it is, such
diversity is not infrequently perceived more as a threat
than as an asset. The pastor, by his very nature, is
concerned to protect his flock. Prophets, on the other hand,
are eager to bring to the Church whatever challenge,
correction or encouragement they have heard in the Father's
Almost by definition, pastoral leadership can incline
towards playing safe. The blockage comes when efforts to
keep everybody in step together inadvertently keep the lid
on the things that God is longing to release! Where the
Spirit is directing our attention towards some particular
need, or towards some new emphasis, "the planned agenda,"
can make it extremely difficult for His voice to be heard
and acted on. It is as though the Holy Spirit advances,
knocks and waits, but then is obliged to tip-toe away -
How wonderful it is when leadership is open and
sensitive enough to discern where the Lord is
leading, and to make room for the people and
strategies that God has in mind. If that means
occasionally foregoing the preaching or some other
part of the service because the Lord is leading so
clearly in another direction, then so be it.
Prophets see over the horizon
and in that sense are 'ahead' of other peoples'
understanding. Pastors have then to implement what has been
seen in the heavenly places 'at ground level'. Churches led
only by pastors tend to be on the slow side, whereas
churches led by prophets tend to race away without
necessarily paying enough attention to foundational issues.
The Scriptures do not say 'God appointed in the church first
pastors, then pastors, with a handful of elders and deacons
thrown in for good measure!' No, it says that God has
appointed in the Church first apostles, second prophets and
third teachers. It is this mixture of the prophetic and the
pastoral that achieves something far more interesting, and
which makes room for evangelists, those with healing gifts,
workers of miracles and other callings to find their feet
and spread their wings.
There is often an overlap between the roles of course. By
virtue of their intimacy with the Lord, prophets often play
a useful role in the pastoral life of the Church, often
being looked on as mother and father figures to whom people
can turn in times of trouble. The fact remains, however,
that there is a necessary tension between the two callings.
Pastors have to be aware that their desire to safeguard the
flock may tempt them to brush aside the prophet's call for
When prophets end up isolated and mistrusted, it causes
enormous grief and frustration to the prophet as well as
loss to the Body of Christ. When the 'eyes' of the Church
show us the best way forward and we refuse to alter course
we can get into considerable trouble (as individuals or as
churches. When we are finally convinced that we need to do
something about it, there is almost always tension between
those who want to adopt the new approach (which will often
involve going back to the fork in the road where we failed
to take the new turning) and those who insist on ploughing
on in the same direction, hoping that things will turn out
all right in the end.
Great wisdom is needed at this point. If we give in to the
objections of those who want to go at the pace of the
slowest (and so maintain the status quo), we will never
reach the place God had in mind for us.
Most prophets are, and need to be, first and foremost
intercessors. They need solitude to wait on the Lord and to
pray through the implications of their calling. But
recognising this need to be apart with God is in no way a
licence for individualism. John and Paula Sandford
illustrate this helpfully in their perceptive book The
Elijah Task (Logos). They show that often when the
Church has reached a point of celebration, the prophets are
already crying out for it to move on in new and deeper ways.
Conversely, when it is bemoaning its powerlessness (and
being led into times of deep repentance) they will be
rejoicing at such an obvious sign of grace. But even though
the nature of their calling may sometimes cause them to
remain somewhat detached from it, prophets must be submitted
within the Church or organisation because they are only
fully effective when they are working in close co-operation
with the other ministries of the Church.
Prophets see visions and stir up the troops. Pastors
(and other leaders) are ultimately the ones who have
to implement the prophetic vision. Which category do
you instinctively lean toward? If it is a mixture of
the two, in what ways does this express itself?
6.11 Handling directive words
We are on safe ground if we say that prophecy serves to
confirm us in some course of action rather than to direct us
to something entirely new. But would it have occurred to
Noah to build an ark, or for Elijah to go and confront Ahab
in Naboth's garden? David, likewise, would never have left
his stronghold and gone into the land of Judah, had not the
word of the Lord summoned him to do so through the prophet
Gad. Neither would the believers in Antioch have sent
special gifts to their brothers in Judea had they not been
warned through prophecy of a forthcoming time of scarcity. To say that prophecy must always be of a confirmatory
nature, however, is to be less than faithful to the biblical
There have been documented occasions when God has spoken
through prophecy to individuals and even to nations.
Armenian Christians, for instance, were warned at the turn
of this century through a prophecy to flee to America. Those
who did were singularly blessed; those who did not were
brutally murdered during the Turkish massacre of 1913. Demos
Shakarian, who founded the Full Gospel Businessman’s
Fellowship, was one of those survivors – and how much fruit
his vision has borne!
We ourselves have benefited from such directive words of
God. While we were living as newly-weds in a flat, a friend
told us that the Lord had impressed on him that we should go
and buy ourselves a house. Largely because we were living by
faith, I had supposed that we would never be able to obtain
a mortgage. Spurred on by this word, we not only found a
suitable house, but were led to one specific building
society. The manager turned out to be an 'on-fire'
Christian, who had read one of my books, and who was only
too willing to help us secure a house. A few weeks after we
left, the landlord of the flat we had been renting died,
which might have led to all manner of complications. We can
never thank God enough for getting us into the housing
market in the way that he did.
It cannot be overstated how careful we must be, however, in
handling ‘directive’ words. Suppose that someone comes to
us, claiming that the Lord has told them that we are to
follow some specific course of action that had not
previously crossed our mind. We should be very wary of
accepting their advice and basing our decisions solely on
this one piece of 'guidance', unless the Lord was already
pointing us in this direction – in which case He will
undoubtedly confirm it in a variety of ways.
||May we share with you how, seventeen years after buying our
first house, the Lord brought us another ‘directive’ word? A
couple we had never met before, but whose spirit was
manifestly in tune with the Lord’s, brought us this
course-directing word a few years ago: ‘Your life has been
proceeding in one direction, but it is now about to take a
complete 90 degree turn.’
How were we to handle such a challenging (but imprecise)
word? To be told that we were about to embark on a
completely new direction but with no indication whatsoever
of what that change might involve sounds, on the face of it
just the sort of vagueness the enemy thrives on. But this
was a word from God! We shared it with our fellow trustees
as a matter of accountability but then left it with the Lord
to see if other indications emerged that would point in some
They did! A few months later, the opportunities opened up
totally unexpectedly to explore the possibility of moving to
Shetland. The word had served to ‘break up the unploughed
ground,’ so that our hearts were prepared. But there was an
additional word: the instruction that we would have to ‘set
our faces like flint’ was a warning that it wasn’t going to
be easy to uproot ourselves from the heart of family, church
I am so glad the Lord warned us ahead of time. The emotional
upheaval involved in departing was very high, and words such
as this made all the difference as we catapulted into a
complete lifestyle change. To stress the point again, the
word was valuable precisely because it proved to be one of
several strands of confirmation. In other words, we did not
base everything we did on it.
In both cases, the Lord spoke so clearly to us because He
was leading us to attempt something of such magnitude that
we would, in all probability, not have felt able even to
contemplate it without such clear guidance. We needed the
help of such directive words for our faith to reach take-off
7~ It makes sense to test!
||Who can ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in His
holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart (Psalm
How are we to evaluate prophetic utterances? Our lives, as
well as our words, must testify that God is with us. If we
are putting anything else in the place of God (our
pleasures, desires, relationships or money) we should
beware: the fire of God will ultimately consume these
things. The more deeply we have surrendered them to
Christ and are living in the spirit of repentance, the less
likely our words are to be tinged with personal bias or
tainted by our fears and desires.
7.1 Words have power when there is a holy person behind them
Why is it that some ‘godly’ folks inspire us while others
turn us off? Suppose you are having a specific difficulty
and go to someone for help. You start by saying, ‘I’m really
having difficulty trusting the Lord over this issue.’ They
look at you pityingly and reply, ‘Just trust the Lord,
brother!’ It makes you feel as though you have been rapped
on the knuckles and kicked in the shins!
Then you go to a kinder and wiser person and tell them the
same thing, that you are really having difficulty trusting
the Lord over some issue. To your surprise they give you
precisely the same answer. ‘Hmm. Just trust the Lord,
brother.’ The effect, however, is completely different.
Whereas the first person made you feel half a metre small,
the second brings a deep reassurance and makes you feel
secure that God is in control.
In the moment between you sharing and their replying you
sensed that they were hearing from God as well as from you.
They had taken the matter to the Lord, and He had reassured
them so that they could reassure us. Your spirit began to
kindle and your faith to rise. It was the character of the
person that made the difference: their love, their
brokenness, their integrity and their closeness to God.
||To illustrate how important this dimension of our character
is, close your eyes and think back to your earliest teachers
at school. Bless their memory as they come to mind.
Of all the thousands of words these people must have spoken
in your hearing every day, how many can you remember now? In
all probability, very few. But the impression of how the
person was is quite possibly engraved in the deepest memory
vaults of your mind. For better or for worse these people
helped to shape your life.
Now do the same with certain Christians who have helped or
hindered you at key moments of your pilgrimage. Again, you
will be able to see how these people’s words had the power
that they did because of the character that lay behind them.
Father, please work in us in such a way that we bring Your
presence close to other people. May it be that when people
rub up against us that they hear an authentic rather than a
hollow sound. May our heart be at one with the Lord’s rather
than at war with ourselves or with anyone else. Do whatever
it takes to make us truly infectious for You. In Jesus’
7:2 Consider carefully how you listen (Luke 8:18)
||How affirming it is when we meet people who really ‘listen’
to us! It makes us feel special – that we are needed and
The old version of the verse quoted above tells us to: ‘Take
care how you heed.’ This emphasis on ‘heeding’ perfectly
balances the idea of consulting the Lord and watching
carefully what we do. It reminds me of to ‘hearken’ - which
is an old world for listening. ‘Hearkening’ contains the
concept of obedience as well as listening. To heed and to
hearken – is that not the culmination of the principle we
stated earlier: ‘Consult before acting?’
God does not specifically promise in Scripture to speak to
us about every issue that we face. He does promise to warn
us when we are in danger of going off course, however. You
can probably think of times when the Lord most emphatically
did speak to you – shout even. That is when His promise cuts
in: ‘Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears
will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way: walk
Over the years, I must have met a dozen women who have told
me that in the moment of walking down the aisle they knew
that they were about to marry the wrong person. I do not for
one moment believe that the Lord waited until that most
vulnerable of moments to give them that unwelcome
revelation! When pushed a little harder, the women concerned
acknowledge that they had driven through various sets of red
lights much further back before reaching that point of no
||If we are doing our best to ‘heed and to hearken’, the Lord
will always find a way to communicate His warnings to us. He
is completely committed to leading the sheep of His pasture.
But we, for our part, must heed His warnings. He would not
have given them unless He had meant them.
7:3 Guarding Thoughts and Desires
||‘Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your
It is easy to indulge strong longings which, were God to
grant them, would prove entirely harmful for us. These
longings are by no means as well concealed as we might like
to imagine them to be. Sooner or later, those who are prone
to delusions and spiteful sentiments betray themselves to
others. From only too much experience, we know what happens
when we allow our minds to dwell on our fears and fantasies.
By constantly rehearsing them, they become strongholds in
the mind. Before long they become more real than reality
itself, and end up influencing all our thinking and
planning. This is where people become lopsided.
We are wise if we understand the danger of this. Strong
emotions can wreak havoc! If we are desperately keen for
something to happen, or not to happen for that matter, our
longing can prejudice our hearing. Listen to this sobering
warning in Ezekiel 14:4:
||Every Israelite who has given his heart to idols and lets
them lead him into sin and who then comes to consult a
prophet, will get an answer from Me – the answer that his
many idols deserve!
In other words, idolatry causes the Lord to answer people
according to their delusion! There could be no more urgent
incentive to yield our wants and desires to the Lord, lest
we end up getting what we thought would be a blessing, but
which in reality would be a catastrophe.
7.4 Words that damage and confuse
We have been badly hurt over the years by things that have
been said about or over us. In extreme cases, these have had
a ‘curse’ effect that has taken the wind out of our sails.
This has dulled our spirits and made us less receptive to
the living words of God. Sadly, this has not always been a
one-way process. Although I have always made it my goal to
go a long way out of my way to bring words of encouragement
to the people of God, there have been times, to my intense
chagrin, when it is my words that have brought pain and
Many Christians have been seriously wounded because of words
that have been spoken over them. ‘Those who love to talk
will experience the consequences, for the tongue can kill or
nourish life.’ (Pvbs.18:21, NLT) It is absolutely vital that
we forgive the people who caused us such heartache, whether
they spoke these words out of jealousy, anger, or simply
misdirected zeal. If we fail to extend that forgiveness, we
will remain spiritually stymied. And when we have been the
perpetrators, we must repent, and go the extra mile to put
matters right. But then we must also forgive ourselves. The
Lord does not want us to wallow in a permanent trough of
Bound up in this process is the need to separate ourselves
spiritually from any false concepts and to be set free from
the wrong expectations that they have engendered. Otherwise
we may find the roots that caused the problem in the first
place resurfacing later on in another shape or form.
Have you hurt – or been hurt by – other people? Perhaps by
family, friends, ministers, colleagues or neighbours? Ask
the Lord to show you – and then to give you a genuine spirit
of forgiveness towards them. If at all possible, try to do
something for these people. Identify something simple that
they would be blessed by and that you could supply. Why not
turn this vital subject into prayer before moving on to the
7:5 Psychological influences that sway our Hearing
In Transactional Analysis, two voices are said to dominate
our mind process. First there is what is known as the
‘child’ voice, which clamours for what it wants now. The
'parent' voice meanwhile imposes its own demands and
expectations. Both of these have a way of weaving themselves
into the fabric of our beings so that in time they become a
subtle counterfeit for true hearing. Worlds apart though
their source is, it can be difficult to separate out these
voices for what they really are. To differentiate between
the voice of the flesh, shaped and filtered as it is through
our specific upbringing and experiences, and the authentic
still small voice that counsels, leads and reassures, is a
vital prerequisite for accurate listening.
The situation becomes more complicated when we have been the
victims of subtle controlling tendencies. People with scant
regard for weaker consciences soon find ways (subtly or
overtly) to project their needs, distress and expectations
onto others in ways that can confuse their hearts’ inner
course. This in turn adversely affects listening. For
example, if the Lord shows us that we need to take a certain
course of action we tend to ‘check’ and ‘reference’ it back
to the person who is ‘controlling’ us. Yet these are the
least likely people on earth to agree with the Lord’s course
of action if it in any way reduces their hold on us!
This is a serious matter that affects more people than one
might expect. It therefore merits closer attention.
When the situation calls for it, in their estimation,
‘covert aggressives’ (to give such people a title), will not
hesitate to tell direct lies or to misrepresent situations,
seemingly without the slightest embarrassment. Their whole
stance is based on subterfuge. Those of us with more
scrupulous consciences find it almost impossible to imagine
that anyone could do this, and therefore tend to give them
the benefit of the doubt – almost endlessly.
Covert aggressives and manipulators are adept at using
‘strategic withdrawal’ to make their victims behave in
certain ways. Normally, this means jumping to do what they
want us to do in order to avoid experiencing the full force
of the person’s disapproval. What is this except abuse by
any other name? The fact that these people can also be
charming only makes matters the more complicated. Meeting Dr
Jekkyl on a good day makes one forget that Dr Hyde is
lurking behind – until enough evidence emerges to make us
face the issue.
Covert aggressives use furious bursts of temper (‘overt’
aggression) not just because they have short fuses, but
because anger is a carefully chosen tool of their trade. Do
remember that their compelling need is to maintain their
hold over a person (church or institution). When something
happens to challenge their control, they will use anything
(including flattery, remorse and false tears) in order to
regain their position of control. The important thing to
understand is that, from their point of view, they feel that
this is their rightful position..
The reason I have shared the barest of outlines of what is
actually a very serious subject in its own right is
because these tendencies can infringe our spiritual freedom
to the point where it greatly affects certain areas of our
spirit. Most commonly, we tend to want to appease people
who, in reality, will take and take but never be satisfied. The manipulative tendencies of people who are hungry for
power cause untold bondage and misery in many churches, as
well as in families and individuals
||If we have been the victims of these, or similar,
‘mind-manipulating tendencies’, it is quite possible that we
may have ended up mistaking the will of God for the
exceedingly strong pressures that are brought to bear on us
by these people, who may be our spouse, boss, teacher,
parent, children or whoever.
John Paul Jackson takes the matter a stage further by
showing how the demonic feeds off the landing strips of
character weaknesses in his runaway bestseller ‘Unmasking
the Jezebel Spirit’ (Kingsway).
The more we consider the matter of manipulation, the more we
will see either that we ourselves need to be set free from
the influences that have been brought to bear on us, or that
we ourselves have been guilty of hurting people by
distorting truth and imposing unfair expectations on them.
In either instance, the chances are that it will have
seriously affected both our ability and theirs to be open to
the still small voice of God. We must seek the Lord’s
cleansing and forgiveness. The Body of Christ cannot afford
to be gullible. Pray that we recognise genuine ‘covert
aggressives’ and ‘Jezebel spirits’ for what they are –
without tarring anybody falsely with that brush.
7.6 Error, Heresy and radical Repentance
All of us realise how the enemy delights to play on our
weaknesses – but have we also realised how he tries to twist
our strengths as well? Plain old-fashioned error is what it
sounds like. When we have got something wrong we need to
admit it, take appropriate action and then dismiss it out of
hand. But heresy can be more subtle. It often stems from
taking a truth (rather than an error) and then pushing it
too far. A truth pushed too far becomes a heresy – which in
turn becomes outright error, unless it is nipped in the bud.
What about those heart-rending times when we realise that we
ourselves have been spiritually deceived over some matter?
Depending on the scale and consequences of the deception, we
can experience a severe reaction as the shock sinks in. Our
repentance may need to reach very deep – and we must not
allow fear, pride or self-pity to cause us to foreshorten
Pride feels bad because we have been shown to be fallible.
Fear fills our hearts at the thought that people may reject
us as a result of the mistakes that we have made and that
God Himself might not entrust us with any further
responsibilities. But unless we do face these issues fairly
and squarely, we will end up going further and further
astray, and become of less and less use to the Body of
Christ. Setting off from London Airport just one degree off
course will cause us to miss our destination by hundreds of
miles by the time we have crossed the Atlantic.
Much repentance may be called for, but at the same time we
need to be gentle with ourselves. Fresh air and healthy
involvement in normal activities, in fellowship with God’s
people, are a safer antidote than trying too hard to ‘hear’
another word from the Lord to compensate for the ones that
first led us astray!
||We can take some comfort from the thought that the Lord has
already taken these detours into account – even if they do
mean that we drift away for a time into a wilderness of our
own making. What a blessing that He knows us well enough to
start in plenty of time!
We are much less likely to be ‘spiritually disqualified’ (as
opposed to seriously pruned) as a result of these mistakes
if we are prepared to humble ourselves and to learn
necessary lessons from them.
The most reassuring thought is that the Lord can always pick
us up one more time than we can fall or fail! Provided we
are not so full of inverted pride that we continue to act as
though our badness is greater than His capacity to extend
mercy to us, He can reweave the strands of our life, refine
and then relaunch us, even if in a rather different context.
What we cannot always avoid, unfortunately, is hurting other
people in the process of learning how to get things right!
That is why repentance is so necessary.
7.7 Spiritual Auditing: Study your track record
It would be in order to repeat an earlier warning here. Just
because we have faced up to mistakes we have made in the
past does not automatically make us proof against committing
them again in the future. They may be less the one-off
aberration we may be inclined to dismiss them as, so much as
a serious 'structural' weakness. Bearing in mind that it
often takes many years for these tendencies to manifest
themselves, and still more time to deal with them, it is as
well to be aware that we are actually very likely to make
the same mistake again, unless we remain watchful and
vigilant. If character defects continue unchecked, people
who are in many other ways ‘good’ can inadvertently become
wolves in sheep’s clothing.
In more and more spheres of life it is normal to complete
follow-up audits to assess how well some person or project
is faring. We are wise if we put some equivalent into place
in the whole realm of listening to the Lord. At the very
least we can follow up on specific words that we have had to
see how helpful and accurate they are proving to be –
especially if they contained any predictive element. Such an
‘audit’ may cause us to discover that we are regularly
hearing well in some areas of but are decidedly less
reliable in others.
Bearing in mind the disturbing episode in Acts 16:16f, where
the slave girl with the spirit of divination spoke
accurately but not helpfully, there are times when even
accuracy is not the only test of whether a word is of God.
The effect our words have must also be considered. Do they
take us, or others, away from God’s central purpose for our
lives, or from biblical morality? Do they induce in us a
sense of being ‘special’ and therefore ‘different’ from
other Christians? Real prophecy will always increase our
love and reverence for God, and leave us concerned only to
do such things as will actively promote His glory.
||Since discernment is the key, how can we recognise the false
prophet we so rightly fear? Sometimes the Lord makes this
easy. At one meeting, where the visiting speaker was clearly
way out of order, I prayed the Lord would make it easy for
people to see through him. He promptly proceeded to share
that he had got beyond the need to pray because ‘the Lord
always worked in such power through his ministry.’ He then
proceeded to give the date of Christ’s return! Even with
such manifest signs to indicate how far astray he had
drifted, many were still impressed by his ministry because
he wielded such considerable power. This was power divorced
from love – a frightening spectacle.
Discernment is by no means always so straightforward. Even
the disciples failed to realise what was going on in Judas
Iscariot's heart until the very end. Look for the direction
of the person’s heart. Stubborn attitudes and proud hearts
are major stumbling blocks to a genuine prophetic flow; by
contrast a profound longing for God makes one more than
willing to forgive the fact that the person sometimes strays
on beyond his anointing when giving a prophecy, or is
inclined to go somewhat overboard on a particular issue.
A false sense of loyalty to somebody (or our instinctive
dislike of them for that matter) can also make it harder for
us to perceive when a person is in genuine error. It is wise
to heed ‘checks’ in our spirit, especially if other mature
Christians feel the same way.
The best of us make mistakes – many of them if we are honest
- but this does not automatically put us into the category
of false prophets. We learn from our mistakes. False
prophets, by contrast, refuse to heed warnings, and
continually dream up new excuses for prolonging their
delusion. Typically, these people are lone-rangers who brook
no correction, unwisely supposing themselves to be superior
to those who could help to set them straight. This is the
work of superheated flesh and subtle demons – and it leads
many godly souls astray.
Typically, the problem revolves around the person’s sense of
infallibility. False prophets are nearly always
presumptuous. Presumption is wishful thinking pushed too
far. There is only a fine line between faith and presumption
– but all the difference in the world in the outworking.
Presumption is to attribute to God words that bring bondage
and confusion rather than release. It often suggests that
the person who gave the word is out to gain control and
power. For the sake of the Body, we need to recognise such
pride and pray for it to be broken so that any gift that is
genuinely there may emerge, for they are out to make a name
How close soul, flesh and spirit run! God loves to encourage
us through prophecy, but it only takes a small injection of
the flesh to turn encouragement into flattery – in which
case the result will be false expectations and soul-tie
bondage rather than Holy Spirit freedom. Such ‘prophecy’
risks becoming a poison-tipped bait that draws the person to
the prophet rather than releasing the person into a greater
measure of freedom with God. (It is worth pointing out that
the more spiritual a person is, the more ingeniously the
devil will work in order to try to deceive them).
There are other ways in which, intentionally or more usually
unintentionally, prophecy can be misused. An inordinate
desire to get some truth across, to create a good or a
profound impression – these are among the character flaws
that can lie behind an otherwise genuine inspiration and
give it a potentially dangerous kink.
Another temptation is to assume that words that have been
addressed to you are automatically applicable for others. If
the Lord reminds us of such a word as a starting point, that
is fine, but we should be cautious of pushing the comparison
||What are the biggest mistakes you have made in the realm of
listening to God? Can you discern any underlying pattern? If
so, how are you doing in learning the lessons these things
are pointing to? Don’t despair! If you decide to hold back
on trying to listen because you have made a pig’s dinner of
things in the past, you are no wiser than the person who
vows never to get into a car again after being involved in a
7.8 Wild and woolly
Ask any pastor and they will doubtless tell you that they
have had to fend off numerous suggestions that people had
heard the Lord telling them to do the dottiest things. Some
of these are just plain daft, but others will turn out to be
When someone comes to one with a ‘strange’ leading, my first
inclination is sometimes to try to prick the bubble. If a
word or vision is genuinely of God, it can withstand serious
testing and close inspection. If it can be popped, then the
sooner the pin is applied and the air let out the better for
all concerned! At the same time, we must be gentle with the
person concerned. The fact that they have been prepared to
share their story with others is a sign of their willingness
to seek out accountability – even if this only happens when
it dawns on them that they have progressed a long way down a
false route and are now beginning to get worried.
Certain times of depression and psychosis fold people in on
themselves so effectively that it blocks out any interest in
anything outside their own condition completely that they
are unlikely to bring any words or vision to others. Other
types, however, reproduce many of the symptoms of drug or
chemical imbalance. Things stand out to such people with
great clarity and insistence – sometimes with great
perception even. We should be especially careful when there
is a ‘manic’ dimension in a person’s life. It is quite
possible that they are compensating against some sense of
loneliness or inferiority, and ‘using’ a prophetic gift as a
subconscious means of seeking attention and approval. More
than ever we need to heed the wisdom of checking everything
against other yardsticks.
Lord, we are such a complex mixture of the
emotional, the chemical and the spiritual.
Purify our hearts so that more and more of our words
And when we do get something wrong,
help us to be willing to back track in order to get
it sorted and straightened out.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
7.9 Accountability helps us develop our prophetic gift
||Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. Into
the community you were called – the call was not meant for
you alone; in the community of the called you bear your
cross, you struggle, you pray. You are not alone even in
death, and on the Last Day you will be only one of the great
congregation of Jesus Christ. If you scorn the fellowship of
the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ. (Dietrich
Bonhoeffer, Life Together)
From all this it is clear that we need to be accountable in
the way we develop our prophetic gifting. Like every other
aspect of our walk with the Lord, listening is a corporate
task as well as a personal gift. It belittles the whole
prophetic ministry if we do not weigh contributions
carefully, and work seriously to develop the character and
ministry of those who have a specific anointing in this
Accountability helps us to fulfil our potential. In CS
Lewis’s The Horse and his Boy, Bree, the talking horse,
thinks he is riding hard. He had forgotten what it was like
to have a rider digging his spurs into him! We too can
easily convince ourselves that we are giving our all when in
fact we are still well short of our potential.
If we are not willing to check what we hear with others, we
need to be honest about why this is so. If it is because we
are so sure that we have heard is right, and that we do not
need anyone else to check it (or that nobody else is mature
enough to judge our words) then we can almost take it for
granted that we are on the way to being deluded!
Most of us who are venturing out into prophetic waters are
aware of our need to be covered, and actively seek such
covering out – though if we have had bad experiences in the
past we may need particular encouragement to do so again. It
is for lack of such covering that many leaders get,
effectively, stranded at the top of a tree. This is not an
optional extra: we all need peer-group support that keeps us
In the forensic spirit realm the devil operates in, when he
simply cannot find anything with which to accuse Christians
of to bring their ministries down, he is reduced to lading
the person with false accusations and to stirring up people
against them. But when he has a foothold in someone’s life,
for example through lust, covetousness, or some controlling
obsession, he can greatly reduce their effectiveness in the
Body of Christ. The enemy finds it much harder to penetrate
the spiritual defences of people who are properly covered.
Battle ships and aircraft carriers are not positioned on the
edge of a fleet; they are placed in the centre, surrounded
by their escort vessels. The more accountable a person is,
the more lines of defensive protection there are between
them and the devil’s attacks.
Accountability is not a matter of ruling over one another,
but of helping each other to become the very best we can be
for Jesus. Iron sharpens iron, and we will be the richer for
it. It is only the sinful, the stubborn and the selfish who
rail against such things – and then wonder why they have
stumbled into prolonged wildernesses they need never have
In the army, there are clear chains of command. In one
sense, it should be the same with us. With whom do you check
out your hearing? Don’t just go to people who will be wowed
by your hearing: make sure that they are mature enough to
check it objectively and to input wisely into our lives.
No one is pretending that this is an easy calling or that we
will always get it right. On the last night of the first
national conference I ever led, a man made his way to the
front, claiming he had words of knowledge for people to be
healed. Because the Spirit was leading the meeting in a
different way, I did not release these words. Predictably,
he accused me afterwards of quenching the Spirit. I went to
the Lord the next day in considerable agony. Had I got it
all wrong? I found His answer both illuminating and
reassuring. He did not specifically say whether I had been
right or wrong, He simply said, 'I appointed you to be the
leader of this conference and I supported your decision.'
What a responsibility!
If we consult only our heart, the chances are that we will
probably come up with endless rationalisings and self
justifications to avoid making any serious changes. That is
why it is so important to ask the Holy Spirit to be the
search lamp who makes these things clear to us. Have you got
the courage to ask someone who loves you if they can spot
any such elements in your life?
One additional warning would be in order here. (It is as
well to be forewarned!) Not everyone will light up even if
we have heard correctly. Their upbringing or experience may
make it all but impossible for them to track with us in that
7.10 When our hearing gets stuck, try asking loaded
||In Latin, the speaker used to preface his question with the
words ‘Nonne’ or ‘Num’. The one anticipated the answer ‘yes’
and the other ‘no’. Sometimes, when we are unable to get a
straight answer to a specific question, ‘Should I do such
and such?’ the best way forward is to try ‘loading’ the
question. Choose the sensible solution and say ‘Okay, Lord,
is there any reason why I shouldn’t do this?’
If we are as honest as we can
be, He will show us if we are in serious danger of straying
off course. Remember, the Lord has promised that He will
warn us if we are in danger of straying off course? Whether
you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a
voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’
7.11 Restoring people from Deception
||My brothers, if someone is caught in any kind of wrongdoing,
those of you who are spiritual should set him right; but you
must do it in a gentle way. And keep an eye on yourselves,
so that you will not be tempted, too.
(Gal. 6:1 TEV)
What are we to do when we
realise that there is something seriously amiss with either
a word that a person is bringing, or with the person who is
bringing the word? We are not called to stone the prophet,
but from time to time God may want to use us to challenge or
correct someone. How should we go about this? With great
gentleness, and just as we would want them to proceed with
us - but with sufficient insistence to spell the matter out.
The Word of God often needs to cut to the quick to protect
people from error, and to bring about change, but we don't
need to use a hammer to crack an acorn. To put that another
way: to help someone see where their contributions could
have been sharper may be to do them a great service - but to
pile on condemnation is sure to do a great disservice!
Most of us dislike having to initiate such encounters (I am
trying to avoid using the word 'confrontation!) – especially
if we have been rejected in the past for having said things
a person did not want to hear. Once we challenge the 'apple
of someone's eye,' it is perilously easy for them to reach
for the nearest pile of stones! Participatory and prophetic
and ministry is all restoring God's original purposes. The
Greek verb 'to restore' can be used for the setting of a
bone that has been broken, and for mending a hole in a net.
There are many bones that need resetting, and nets that
require mending in the Body of Christ today. Many have left
the Church altogether because they have seen something that
they considered wrong, but felt powerless to address. All
that might have been needed to resolve the situation was a
loving visit or an honest talk - but where none was
forthcoming much ground is often lost as a result. Many who
were once moving in the power of the Spirit are now going
nowhere. This is truly tragic. How have people corrected you
in the past? With condemnation and dismissal, or with tender
Lord, I pray for sufficient humility to accept
correction when I am in the wrong - and to be able
to restore people from deception to a place of
usefulness in You. Give me the courage to go in and
rescue the prey that Satan has taken captive!
7:12 How do you respond when challenged?
you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured
out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to
When the Lord has a corrective word to bring to His people,
He is specific in what He says. Its effect will be to
convict us of some particular area in which we have failed,
rather than leaving us in a state of uncertainty.
Likewise, God told Elijah specifically where to go and what
to say to Ahab in order to convict him of his sin.
Prophecies which merely cause people to feel uneasy or
condemned are most unlikely to be from God. He will convict
us of some specific area of our lives in which we are
failing, rather than leading us into introspective
confusion. If God has to pull something down, He will
also inspire the faith that He is going to build something
better in its place!
Elijah needed courage to confront men such as Ahab and
Ahaziah – and the Lord would have seen to it that he would
have felt still more uncomfortable had he not spoken out!
Many of us can identify with Jeremiah, who compared the word
in his heart to a burning fire that he could not hold in . Many times when the Spirit of the Lord stirs within, we
will need to win the battle with our fear and embarrassment.
Paul had originally intended to visit the Corinthians on his
way to and from Macedonia. It turned out he had to adjust
his travel plans several times through circumstances beyond
his control. His detractors used this against him, implying
that he was being wilfully capricious. Knowing full well
that this wasn’t true, Paul was deeply hurt and incensed by
this and responded vigorously . Unlike so many of us, who
have also had our motivation misrepresented, however, he did
not allow these unexpected setbacks and accusations to
diminish his trust or his willingness to press forward.
The well-known story of Peter challenging Simon the sorcerer has something to teach us in this respect. In this story
we meet a man who saw the Spirit’s power at first hand and
who wanted it himself - for all the wrong reasons. Peter
ended up rebuking him fiercely. Simon was very much taken
aback by this onslaught and cried out that none of the
terrible things that Peter had spoken of should come his
way. Sure he may have been prompted by fear, but at least he
did the right thing; crying out with considerable alacrity
and even humility.
This extreme episode raises an important issue. How do we
respond when we challenged? After all, there is a ‘gap’
between our perceived walk with the Lord and how we really
are on the inside. We often put as much effort into hiding
this gap as seeking God’s grace to narrow it. Do we respond
in hurt and anger when our insecurities and instabilities
are exposed? Or are we like David who prayed, ‘Let a
righteous man strike me, it is a kindness, my head will not
Here is a simple way to be sure. If this is indeed the case,
then we will undoubtedly find ourselves becoming
increasingly aggressive and defensive. We are very much
wiser if we do what Simon did: admit our mistakes, repent
quickly and ask for prayer.
In all this we are walking a tight rope. Jesus came full of
Grace and Truth . Too much ‘grace’ and we risk letting
anything go, passing over in silence things that really did
need challenging. But if we put the emphasis to heavily on
truth, we risk becoming narrow-minded and legalistic. God’s
words are full of grace as well as truth: it is the enemy
who is compulsive, strident and nit-picking. There is a
balance between the two that is very pleasing to the Holy
Spirit. That is why it is right to take note of both the
heart of the person and the tenor of their message. Anything
that sets a particular person or movement apart as being
‘special’ is most unlikely to be purely of God.
||Father, we long to welcome the free flow of Your Spirit in
the depth of our spirits. Where our perspective is warped or
out of kilter, straighten it out and realign the orientation
of our hearts. We repent of allowing anything or anyone to
take the place that You alone deserve. Do whatever it takes
for You to be the first and last in our thinking. In Jesus’
8 ~ Ever felt misunderstood?
Some of you may be wondering whether I was ever going to
mention something that may be your biggest problem. I’m
referring, of course, to your church being too stifling an
atmosphere to encourage either the ministry of mature
prophets or the emergence of new ones. And you are going
The first thing to bear in mind is that the Church is not
something entirely separate from ourselves. The Church is
people, not an entity or organisation. The Church is us not
‘them’, it is ‘us’. We are the Church. The fact that the
Church has by and large proved too full of fears and
prejudices to allow budding prophets the security and the
freedom they need in order to develop their ministry, is an
indictment on us all.
Why do so many pastors, even though claiming to be open to
the Lord, end up freezing out the truly prophetic? Look
deeper and you will find their concern to ‘stay in control’
comes down to two main things: their insecurity (or power
complex) and their lack of confidence in being able to
handle the unexpected and the spontaneous.
Pastors need to take the time and trouble to learn about the
prophetic ministry. If they are only aware of all the
dangers involved in listening to the Lord rather than the
blessings and possibilities it opens up, there is something
seriously wrong. A mature and precious leadership encourages
people to speak out and prophesy, even whilst being on hand
to help them develop beyond the inevitable mistakes that
they will make. It welcomes and draws in people to operate
in new ways. It brings a sense of adventure to our services.
8.1 When the Church is divided
Those who have a special ability to hear the word of the
Lord are especially useful when there are conflicts amongst
believers. The most crucial thing to bear in mind is that we
are not called to be on anyone’s side but purely to seek the
mind of Christ. We are not called to air our opinions, but
to pass on what God has said to us. One potential danger is
that the better known we become in ministry, the more people
may be inclined to confuse our opinions for what the Lord is
saying about a situation. Paul was careful in his letters to
make the distinction between what the Lord was saying and
what he merely felt about a situation – and we must be
8.2 Keep your contact time with God high
||God calls those He is leading to the prophetic ministry to
spend much time alone with Himself. Much of their most
effective work is in the unseen realms of prayer and
meditation, where they give themselves to God. Any prophet
who is not eager to spend time with his Maker is unlikely to
be of God.
So many of our church activities are about God rather than
directly addressing Him. How much actual contact time do we
spend with Him? Real intimacy does not happen by good
intentions alone: it needs thinking out and working through.
Think how precious it is to Him when He sees a person, a
family, a whole fellowship even, whose chief desire is to be
with Him. What a refreshment that is to Him in the midst of
so much selfishness and blasphemy.
||Let me ask you: what are you – and your fellowship – doing
to promote this intimacy with God? Remembering that it is
our intimacy with the Lord that makes us of most use to Him
(and of most danger to the enemy). No wonder then that he
tries to interrupt that intimacy and to detour our love and
energies into lesser ends!
9 ~ Ushering in the prophetic
When Christine Larkin came to Shetland, she recognised that
there is something about the place that is attracting people
at this time to come in God and ‘make camp’ here. She had a
particular word for us ‘home-farers’ (a much better word
than ‘incomers’!). She felt that we who have paid the price
to come and be part of what God is doing here have been
brought to share in the vision that godly people have had in
the past for Shetland, and that we are to serve in such a
way as to help bring these things to pass. Effectively, we
are giving our lives to inherit the promises that God has
put within this place.
This is particularly true of the ‘Fire from the North’
Conference that we are organising for the Nordic and Celtic
nations of Europe in the first week of August 2005 (see
www.ruachministries.org). This conference owes its origin to
a word the Lord spoke in 1996 at a conference of
Scandinavian intercessors, that it was the Lord’s desire for
a strategic gathering for prayer to be held on Shetland. We
believe it to be profoundly on the Lord’s heart that
believers from the northern nations come together to seek
His face. We are, accordingly, dedicating much time and
resources towards this end.
There may be many ways in which He causes us to adjust our
thinking and the use of our resources. Being prophetic means
continuing to obey God when He leads us outside the ‘box’ of
our previous experience. Christine gave a powerful
illustration from her own church, which has a congregation
of one thousand. Just up the road was a tiny church with
just five old women plus a young leader with a vision but no
army to accomplish it. Someone had received a clear vision
that they should send members from the community church to
go and support its smaller neighbour.
It took several months for this message to be accepted and
acted on. After all, it is no light matter to leave a buzz
church to go and sit with five old ladies! One group of
young people took it on themselves to go and be part of that
church, however, while another went down the road to another
church, which also had a genuine vision but lacked the means
to fulfil it. The results have been splendid. The young
people are doing so well now that they don’t want to come
back to the church that sent them out!
What Christine was advocating was that we should be willing
to ‘tithe’ our congregations as well as our income in order
to bless God’s people. This fits perfectly in line with the
idea of ‘resource’ churches serving wider regions, and of
there being leadership teams for regions rather than just
for denominations. Surely this is an excellent use of
resources. After all, there are simply not enough leadership
positions to go round in the mega churches; how much more
effective to launch more people into their own ministries.
As we give our best resources to the Lord, He will give His
best back to us.
9.1 Listening that directs our giving
||He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who
closes his eyes to them receives many curses. (Proverbs
Given the sheer number of needs we encounter, we will want
to treat the subject of our giving prayerfully and
We so often live as though comfort on earth was a more
important goal than treasure in heaven. It is not that we
are never to permit ourselves treats; it is simply to
realise that we are called to wait on the Lord concerning
the way we handle our worldly wealth. How true Jesus' words
are, that where our treasure is, there too our heart will
be. Like the Macedonian churches, we must give to the point
where we are giving of the substance as well as the overflow
of our lives. If our giving is costing us something, we are
far less likely to do so with a superior or condescending
As the days get darker, I believe that it will be
increasingly important for Christians to be on the alert to
look after one another’s physical as well as spiritual
welfare. Some people may be too proud, and some too shy, to
ask for help, but we must stay alert to people's needs and
take appropriate action.
For example, we may be able to find ways to live below the
level of our income, so that the Lord can use the surplus to
support others. Life being what it is, this may prove an
impossible aim. But is it fair to pray for people to support
Christian initiatives if we ourselves are not prepared to do
anything about them?
Remembering Jesus’’ warning that we cannot serve
both God and Mammon it is good to bear in mind
two key principles::
1. We are called to love people and to use things,
rather than to love things and to use people.
2. If we sow generously we will also reap
||1. David Wilkerson used to pray with his wife at the start
of each month as to where the Lord would have them send
money from a special ‘burden’ fund they set up in addition
to their regular giving.
Ask the Lord to show you if there is any fellowship, person,
cause or organisation that He would have you support more,
or give more to. At the same time, ask Him to check you if
you are spending too much money on yourself or on anything
else that is not in line with His purposes. How can it be
right that so little of our resources are devoted to
spreading the gospel and the fulfilment of the Great
9:2 Listening to Network
||The pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest
Few things are more important than the friends we keep. Do
we choose them because they need us, or because they flatter
us? Or because we are able to take ground together and
achieve things for the Kingdom?
I believe God wants to continue a process that is currently
underway of linking ministries that have hitherto been
operating effectively but almost in isolation from each
other. This requires trust.
We are called to invest in one another’s ministries rather
than to selfishly hoard what we have. We are love and
loyalty bound to use whatever we have received. If we do not
use these things, we risk losing them. Just as Christ is the
hope of glory, so we are to be a source of hope and
encouragement for each other too.
It is easy to feel somewhat disappointed that so few of the
first Christians in Jerusalem showed any desire to embrace
the convert Saul. Given the amount of damage that he had
done, perhaps this is hardly surprising! Mercifully there
was one who had a different spirit. Just as Ananias had
brought about the vital breakthrough when he obeyed the
Lord’s call to go and meet the man, so Barnabas made himself
vulnerable to build a bridge of trust between Saul and the
Jerusalem Church. What would have been lost to the Church if
these men had not obeyed improbable and potentially
dangerous words? Almost everything!
Do you have a heart to ‘link’ God’s people together?
Who would He have you put your friends in touch
Is the Lord calling you to reach out to particular
9.3 The Schools of the Prophets
In the decade that followed the mighty contest on Mount
Carmel, Elijah was rarely in the news. He might have been
happy to spend the rest of his days in quiet devotion, but
it was important to the Lord that he share the lessons he
had learnt with others. He used the time wisely, reviving
the schools of the prophets.
centres, in Bethel, Gilgal and Jericho, exercised a
considerable influence in the land. It had been Samuel who
had first gathered about him the pious and studious young
men who became known as ‘the sons of the prophets’. We are
permitted on several occasions to glimpse the spirit and
faith that were at work in these communities, which clearly
sought the spirit, rather than just the letter, of the law.
These communities were in great contrast to so many
seminaries today, where prospective pastors and leaders are
pushed through academic courses that have no concept of
spiritual warfare (and which therefore leave graduates
inadequately prepared for the opposition they will encounter
in their ministry). The emphasis in these schools would have
been devotional rather than academic, being given over to
the study of Scripture, prophecy and sacred song.
These schools were a sanctuary where the spiritually hungry
could find instruction, comfort and peace. As such, they
provide an early forerunner of the medieval monastic
tradition. It was the goal of these communities to
understand God's heart. It was from their number the Lord
would select certain ones to be His chosen seers and
prophets. (The original word for prophecy meant a 'boiling
or bubbling over,' a 'spilling out' of the things of God
that were on their heart. cf 2 Peter 1:20-21.2)
For us, too, there is a call to train believers in the
spirit and power of Elijah; to teach people how to listen to
the Lord, what to do with the words we receive from Him, and
to understand the dynamics of corporate prayer. In other
words, to transform our meetings into encounters with the
9.4 Music and the Prophetic Ministry
Central to these schools was the dimension of sacred song.
In 1 Samuel 10:5 we find a whole company of such disciples
playing instruments and prophesying. This aspect of
providing instruction through psalmody is of more importance
biblically than most of us realise. Some years later, when
the kings of Israel and Judah embarked on a joint campaign
against Moab, the army ran out of water. When the king
summoned Elisha, his immediate reaction was to send for a
harpist. In the stress of the situation, and hindered as he
was by the presence of an ungodly king, Elisha urgently
needed to quiet his own spirit.
||The gift of music paved the way for a wonderful deliverance
of the Lord. We have much to learn about the ways in
which music can aid intimacy, reinforce intercession,
facilitate healing and pave the way for us to hear a word
from the Lord.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow described music as the universal
language of mankind, while Luther held it to be the art of
the prophets, and the only art that can calm the agitations
of the soul . . . it is one of the most magnificent and
delightful presents God has given us.
There is enormous power when music combines with the Word of
God. If we agree with the man who said, ‘After theology I
give to music the highest place,’ then we should honour this
in our meetings by affording plenty of time for prayer and
worship. Instead of rigidly compartmentalising our services,
let’s make the effort to find ways to help worship, prayer
and preaching to interact and flow from one to the other.
The Lord and His people alike are longing for music that
takes us beyond the happy-clappy into a true reflection of
His longings and desires. Heaven is full of music, and our
worship should express what God is doing, as well as who He
is. As we have seen throughout this book, this will include
an emphasis on mourning and judgement, as well as of
9.5 Ushering in the Prophetic Ministry
There are many today who are being called to devote
themselves to the arts, in order to bring a prophetic edge
back to what was once, but no longer is, very largely the
Church's own domain.
When we are young we find it hard to believe that anything
outside the immediate confines of the school curriculum can
serve any real purpose. (Unless we feel passionately about
something or someone of course – in which case we can
justify any expense and allocate any amount of time to it).
But the leadings of the Lord may be quieter, and it will
take a listening heart to discern the promptings that would
lead us to pursue a certain career, or learn a particular
language, for example: an activity that will require us to
lay aside some other course of action in order to
Philosophically, and psychologically, the western world is
ready to receive the gospel through the creative arts. The
arts, and music in particular, are poised to play a decisive
role in our attempt to re-evangelise Europe in the twenty
first century. Take as our starting point that the Church
must come across as being ‘less churchy’ if a new generation
is to be introduced to the knowledge of the Lord. From there
it is surely but a small step to praying that the performing
arts should be right at the fore in this move of God. Pray
for a posse of prophetic performers, poets and playwrights
to make Christ known.
There is nothing new about this idea. The Church has sensed
the importance of this creative dimension in almost every
generation. What were the miracle plays of the Middle Ages
except the chance to present Bible truths in down-to-earth
ways to the man in the marketplace? As for the world of the
arts, it was several hundred years before artists ceased
looking to religious themes for their inspiration.
What, for that matter, was the inspiration behind so much of
Renaissance art except the desire to portray some aspect of
the gospel in as meaningful a way as possible. This process
of disseminating truth through the creative media was
greatly hindered by the Puritan refusal to permit music in
their services. Music is perhaps the most immediate and
powerful means of all for communicating the power of the
Spirit. Add to this ‘religious reluctance’ the misleading
power of scientific enlightenment and you have in place the
ingredients for a society stunted in its ability to
perceive, let alone to appreciate, true creativity.
For each of us the call will be different. Many of us will
be called to edify the Church, but some will be called to
work primarily in the field of politics, or the arts, while
still others will be called to attend natural disasters,
either in terms of practical relief or through intercession.
God loves to create new openings for the gospel, and to
develop strategies way beyond anything we could have thought
of by our own efforts.
9:6 The wider picture i) God does not force Himself on
||To the oppressed Jesus brings help and comfort; to the
mighty organs of power and government He often has little to
say. Jesus mistrusted Herod, He spoke with urgency and
passion against the Pharisees, had less than no inclination
to parley with Pilate, and rejected ‘expedient’ shortcuts
altogether. From this we can deduce that He does not entrust
the keys of the Kingdom to those who are obsessed with their
own position and authority!
Historically, the Kingdom of God seems to function best when
it is in tension with the kingdom of the world. It has not
fared so well on those occasions when the Church achieves a
‘majority’ position in society. Look at Rome following
Constantine’s conversion; or Spain during the long years
when the Inquisition trammelled the nation’s belief system –
or Geneva, when harsh interpretations of Calvin’s edicts
were rigorously enacted.
In every instance we find examples of coercion rather than
love. The result is that the purity of the gospel was
adversely affected at the very moment when it appeared to
have triumphed. The powerful religious ‘Right’ in America
likewise needs to be careful that it does not become a
political pressure group rather than a truly spiritual
The Kingdom grows primarily through the Church: the
ecclesia, or ‘called-out’ ones. It is not stated in
Scripture that these called-out ones will triumph on earth;
dominion theology is profoundly flawed when it assumes that
we will. It is better to rid ourselves of all the
traditional concepts we associate with a visible, triumphant
kingdom; it causes believers too many false hopes and causes
too much confusion.
The essence of the invisible kingdom of God on earth is that
it never forces its subjects to do the will of its king.
Until the time of Jesus’ return, the Kingdom of God will
remain resistible because it is offered to us with
gentleness and humility.
The only time we see the Lord Jesus using force in the
gospels was when He drove out the moneychangers from the
Temple. Indeed, the kingdom advances in such seemingly small
and insignificant ways that people might suppose its chances
of spreading successfully to be almost nil. Yet the Lord
loves to give visions and to entrust initiatives to the most
unlikely people and churches, which He then prospers against
all the odds. What is this except an example of Jesus’
teaching about the mustard seed becoming a great spreading
tree and that faith can move mountains?
Pray that God raises up prophets who will have the ears of
our leaders: people with specific grace and skills as well
as a clear message. God is doing this, in our own country as
well as in many other nations. Pray for the prophetic word
of the Lord to be heard in corridors of power, and for the
Lord to be guide and protect those He would use in such
9:7 The wider calling: ii) The Call to Intercession
Thousands around the world are praying for a new move of the
Spirit in our midst. The vision by
quoted in a few pages time gives us real confidence that God
is reaching out even to backslidden Europe. The task of
prophetic intercession is to cut through spiritual numbness
– along with the veil of deliberate or unintentional
self-deception. Only then can matters be seen in their true
light, and spiritual truth be presented in a way that people
The Lord is also raising up those who are creatively gifted
to be His front line troops. No wonder totalitarian regimes
fear imaginative people and creative artists. In mediaeval
days, minstrels were often the only people who could get
away with holding up the foibles of rulers to public
ridicule. The prophets, preachers and evangelists who are
their modern day counterparts are likewise challenging the
dominant spirits of our day.
We must not allow ourselves to be limited by the
consumer-induced apathy and spiritual short-sightedness that
surround us. For far too long our country has been like the
myopic Jews of Jeremiah’s day. They parroted ‘The Temple of
the Lord, the Temple of the Lord’ in the misplaced
conviction that because God had given them the Temple, God
would always step in to protect His own no matter what they
believed or how they behaved.
If we as a country have, at least until recently, been
guilty of such complacency, so most emphatically has the
‘It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the
ministry of the imagination, to keep on proposing
alternative futures to the single one the king (or
‘the state’ in our terminology) wants to urge as the
only thinkable one.’
Given the number of key aspects of society that are breaking
down (the family unit is the most obvious example) it is no
wonder that the authorities are desperate to establish
surrogate standards to prevent us straying still further
‘off-track’. Since no government can allow anarchy to
prosper, it was inevitable that some form of ‘citizenship
lessons’ should enter the curriculum sooner or later. But
because relativity has long since replaced absolutism, these
are not based on godly foundations, and the way remains open
for every kind of unbiblical practice to be embraced.
The opposite danger, of course, is when a wrong kind of
absolutism takes hold of a people’s mindset. The example of
Germany during the 1930’s is a constant reminder to remain
vigilant today. Despite countless examples of brutal
behaviour, particularly towards Jews, the spell that Hitler
cast over the nation continued to hold people in its thrall.
In a major address in 1934, Hitler proclaimed Germany’s
‘peaceful’ intentions towards other nations:
Our racial theory regards every war for the subjection and
domination of an alien people as a proceeding which sooner
or later changes and weakens the victor internally, and
eventually brings about his defeat . . . No! National
Socialist Germany wants peace because of its fundamental
convictions. And it wants peace also owing to the realising
of the simple primitive fact that any war would be likely to
alter the distress in Europe. The principal effect of every
war is to destroy the flower of the nation. Germany needs
peace and desires peace.
The vast majority of the German people swallowed this
message whole. Overseas, foreign nations expressed
themselves relieved and delighted. How naive they were!
Hitler deliberately set out to confound the nations by
preaching peace and disarmament, whilst secretly rearming
and keeping a sharp eye out to exploit any weakness in their
attitude towards Germany. But his true nature was
immediately apparent to any who were prepared to see through
the facade. In the course of ruthlessly crushing an imagined
rising against him, Hitler conveniently rid himself of
leaders he preferred not to have around, declaring brazenly,
‘Everyone must know for all future time that if he raises
his hand to strike the State, then certain death is his
The whole point about deception, of course, is that it is
not intended to be seen through. William Shirer, an American
journalist who spent many years in Germany during the
1930's, wrote this about his years of living at close
proximity to the Nazi propaganda machine:
I myself experienced how easily one is taken in by a lying
and censored press and radio in a totalitarian state. Though
unlike most Germans I had daily access to foreign newspapers
. . . and though I listened regularly to the BBC and other
foreign broadcasts. It was surprising to find that
notwithstanding the opportunities I had to learn the facts,
and despite one’s inherent mistrust of what one learnt from
Nazi sources, a steady diet over the years of falsification
and distortions made a certain impression in one’s mind, and
often misled it. No one who has not lived for years in a
totalitarian land can possibly conceive how difficult it is
to escape the dread consequences of a regime’s calculated
and incessant propaganda.
… one realised how useless
it was to even try to make contact with a mind which had
become warped, and for whom the facts of life had become
what Hitler and Goebbels, with their cynical disregard for
truth, said they were.
Pray today for the Christians of North Korea, Vietnam and
China, as well as for those in Muslim countries where there
is intense hostility to the gospel. Pray for the citizens of
all lands who are subject to daily ‘thought control.’ And
pray for the people of our own country to be set free from
the stronghold of humanistic laws and assumptions and to
embrace the ways of God.
Whatever our calling, we cannot accomplish it on our own.
Jesus taught the Kingdom of God, rather than just personal
salvation. We have found that special power is released when
members of a profession or organisation come together to
seek God's blessing. Who can say how much good has been done
by groups of people gathering to pray for their schools,
workplaces and communities? When we look at how the Lord is
networking His people together, and inspiring them to
attempt specific initiatives at His leading, it seems to me
that there are indeed many modern day schools of the
prophets around. Elijah himself would have been proud of
many of them!
||In what ways have you experienced the prophetic ministry in
your life and calling? Is there anything specific the Lord
would have you do – or be involved with – to make Him known
in your profession or special area of concern? Ask God to
show you how to pray.
Lord we pray that You will be glorified by raising
up a Church which moves in prophetic dimensions;
men and women who reveal You as You really are.
May more and more of serve You in such ways within
their chosen fields and professions.
We pray that they will be a modern-day school of
In Jesus' name, Amen.
9.8 ‘Follow Me’
Let us end where Jesus began His mission, with the words
‘Follow me.’ He is giving us the freedom to do the things He
has called us to do. He will remove all obstacles to make it
possible for the work to be done – and He will open up all
manner of unexpected doors for us as we do this.
We need never be hesitant for the truth. There is only one
truth, and if we hold back, it is for the devil. The Lord
knows that we find the evil around us frightening, but the
faith of a Christian remains on top of everything. The Lord
Jesus has shared everything with us, even the riches of His
life with His Father, and we must sacrifice ourselves for
Him. Even if we feel as though we are getting little reward,
we must keep going, and not give up. He will take the little
that we offer Him and make it go an astonishingly long way.
The whole history of the Bible is of God taking hold
of the spiritually hungry and filling them with His
power. May He continue to take hold of us, and to
lead us in the paths of an intimacy with God that is
lived in the constant awareness of eternity.
These words, ‘Follow Me,’ are, for us too, the beginning and
the end of His message to us. He calls us to be in His
company, and to consult Him before we act. Satan is the real
enemy, not those who have been fooled by him. They can be
saved. At God's leading we must be prepared to go out of our
way to help needy ones; to take His word to those who are
deaf and blind to His messages, so that they too can have
The Lord is longing for revival to come to the world, and
for Planet Earth to be a holy place. By every means we must
do all we can to remove the blockages that stop men from
seeing Him. His angels are full of energy. Countless
thousands of people are receiving new life all around the
world every day, even as Satan tears at the world in his
final, but futile attempt to wrest it from the Lord before
His glorious return.
Out of the fires of this battle will emerge the bravest,
purest church the world has ever seen. The whole history of
the Bible is of God taking hold of the spiritually hungry
and filling them with His power. May He continue to take
hold of us, and to lead us in the paths of an intimacy with
God that is lived in the constant awareness of eternity.
Remember Him. The One who was there in the beginning will be
there at the end; He is with and in us always and He will
continue to do many precious things through us as we wait on
Him. As Paul wrote:
||No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love Him. (1 Corinthians
Now that you are coming come to the end of this book, take
time to sit in God’s presence and enjoy a time of communion
‘on the mountain top’ with Him. Remember, the command that
came from heaven is not just to speak to Him but to listen
to Him. For every difficulty we face He has a solution; for
every challenge a way forward. What does He have to say to
9.9 In Quest of Revival: Days of Revival or of Judgement?
There are many in the body of Christ who are prophesying
days of revival ahead. There are equally as many who are
declaring that God's judgements are coming on us. Which of
them is right? Who has stood in the counsel of the Lord to
receive His word?
||I believe both messages are true. God is warning us most
solemnly that a process of increasingly severe judgement is
well advanced in our midst. In His mercy, however, He will
still pour out His Spirit on us in abundance. Perhaps we
could say that God is looking for reasons by which He may
send the grace of revival, rather than the fires of
judgement. This is where the concentrated prayers of God's
people are vital, to pray into being something that is still
to a considerable extent over the horizon.
9.10 ‘Heaven here I come’
In her book Heaven here I come (Lakeland) Jean Darnell
records a vision she was given on three separate occasions
for our nation. We can trace in it three stages. Firstly, a
time of preparation, such as we have been experiencing for
many years, then a release of God’s power in revival (which
is already occurring in many parts of the world) and finally
a period of growth when the influence of the gospel becomes
widespread first in this country and then on the European
||I saw the British Isles glistening like a clump of jade in
the grey seas surrounding them. It was a bird’s eye view.
Looking down I saw Scotland, England, Wales and to the
Northwest, Ireland. The treetops on the hills and the
clustered clouds hid the people. Suddenly small, flickering
lights appeared. They were scattered all over the Isles. I
came closer to the land. The light was firelight. These were
fires burning from the top of Scotland to Land’s End on the
tip of Cornwall. Lightning streaked downward from the sky
above me. I saw it touch down with flashing swiftness,
exploding each of the fires into streams of light. Like
lava, they burned their fiery path downward from the top of
Scotland to Land’s End. The waters did not stop them, but
the fire spread across the seas to Ireland and to Europe.
‘Lord, this is the third time you’ve shown me this vision
during prayer. Could you give me the meaning of it?’ I
asked, deeply moved by the Holy Spirit. He revealed to me
that the small fires all over the land were groups of
earnest, hungry people who were being drawn together by the
Holy Spirit to study their Bibles and to pray for a
visitation of the Holy Spirit.
The words ‘pockets of power’ were impressed upon my mind.
‘I’m empowering them by my Spirit and I’m teaching them by
my Spirit about my gifts. They are being led by my spirit to
repentance, reconciliation and a deeper relationship with
the Body of Christ. These people are meeting in homes and
churches. I’m not leading them out of their relationships in
the home and the church, but into a deeper involvement in
both. They are to bring renewal, new life, in preparation
for what is to come.’
‘What is to come, Lord?’ I asked, wondering why He should
show this to me.
‘I will penetrate the darkness with a visitation of my
power. With lightning swiftness, I will release the power of
my Spirit through a renewed people who have learned how to
be led of the Spirit. They will explode with a witness that
will touch every part of the society of Britain. I am
strategically placing them to touch the farms, villages,
towns and cities. No one will be without a witness whether
they be children in schools, farmers in the fields, workers
in the factories and docks, students in the universities and
colleges, the media, the press, the arts or government. All
will be profoundly moved and those who are changed by My
power will alter the destiny of the nation.’
‘And the streams of fiery light into Europe, Lord?’ My mind
seemed to see an army of all types of people moving into the
continent with a compassionate ministry. This ministry was
not mass meetings, led by powerful personalities, preaching
to spectators, but participating, caring communities
involved with each other at grass roots level, sharing the
love of God everywhere. I saw the empty cradles of Europe,
her churches, holding a new generation of Christian leaders.
Here, indeed, is hope for the nation; assurance from
heaven’s viewpoint that the best is indeed still to come.
God is preparing His people for a visitation of His revival
power, which, Jean Darnell records elsewhere, will be
preceded by groups of men coming together in the early
morning to pray. Already we can see many churches taking
this call to pray seriously. May we be found ready and
cry to you to bring revival to our land. Let Your
power blow away the cobwebs in the Church, and the
veil that hides Your truth from peoples’ hearts. We
ask You to speak to more and more people, to see You
as You really are - and we ask that we ourselves may
hear You more and more clearly as we await the day
of our homecoming and Your return.
Thank You that the power of heaven is at hand to
help in every situation that we face. Thank You that
even though we get so many things wrong, You have
called us to shine in this world, and to share
eternity with you. I ask that we may spend the rest
of our days in Your presence and in Your service,
and end them in Your company. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
All material in this book may be freely used, if attributed.
Robert Weston, Ruach (Breath of Life) Ministries,
23 Upper Chase Road