“It freaked me out”.
Those were the words a friend (I’ll call him John) used to describe a situation he experienced one day in church. As I discovered, his experience served as a really good example of how NOT to prophesy:
A man walked up to John and, completely unprompted, started talking about “seeing” two women sitting on either side of him. At the time, my friend was alone in the row of seats.
The stranger then proceeded to tell John that the two women were his grandmothers, that they were “pleased” with him …and so on.
After a short while, the man moved on. John watched him do similar things with other members of the congregation. Sometimes he purported to know what a dead relative thought about their lives.
Thankfully, the church meeting started shortly thereafter, but the incident left John feeling shaky and confused.
How Not to Prophesy: Break The Golden Rule
When my friend told me about his experience a few days later, my spiritual “antennae” immediately began to twitch.
But it was several hours later that I realised why: this stranger had managed to break all three parts of the Golden Rule in one go! The words “bull in a china shop” immediately spring to mind…
Was it biblical? – No.
Aside from any other content the man shared, the bible says that there is an unbridgeable divide between the living and the dead.
In fact, it specifically denounces attempts to contact or pray for the dead, as a heathen, godless practice.
Was it loving? – No.
There was no attempt from the stranger to ask if it would be ok to share a prophecy (if that’s what he thought it was) with my friend.
He just went ahead, assuming that it would be alright. He didn’t even ask if his words were meaningful to the people he spoke to.
More to the point, John did not feel loved. He ended up feeling “creeped out”.
Was it appropriate? – No!
Just prior to a church meeting may, or may not be, the best time to share prophetic words with people.
But usually, this would be in response to a prayer request, not simply as a pronouncement over their lives.
In John’s case, he had only just entered the building and sat down, so hadn’t even had a chance to gather his thoughts yet.
How Not to Prophesy: 4 Steps Backwards
Coincidentally, I heard my friend’s story just as I was in the middle of preparing the course material for the 4 Steps Prophecy School.
Right now, I’m very excited, because I am running the School at the end of this month. It’s the culmination of years of prayer and I can’t wait to see what the Lord has planned, coming to fruition!
(By the way: I’m planning an online version of the School. If you are interested in taking part, then you can be one of the first to know when it’s ready, by registering your interest here).
However, everything John said made me feel like my head and my heart were screaming inside me: This was so how not to prophesy!
Not only was the Golden Rule broken, but virtually every step in the 4 Steps Prophecy School was bent or twisted too.
How Not To Prophesy: A Response
Sometimes for me, the best way to deal with these kinds of feelings is to laugh at them.
So here’s my somewhat tongue-in-cheek response to this kind of situation: How NOT To Prophesy.
Spoiler alert: it’s basically the 4 Steps you’d learn in the School, but backwards…
How Not to Prophesy 1: Wake up in a bad mood
Get up late and rush off to church without having your breakfast. Make a special point of annoying everyone you meet on the way.
Yes, you know you’re supposed to have some “God time” before you get there, but who has space in their day for that?
How Not to Prophesy 2: Pray from a position of weakness
What is it they say? “God helps those who help themselves”: It’s obvious he wants you to stand on your own two feet.
Don’t bother with worship, that’s for wusses. Just get stuck in to some prayer, so you can get it all over with.
How Not to Prophesy 3: Ignore the Holy Spirit
If you receive a prompt from Holy Spirit, just ignore it. You can rely on your own experience, even if you only started yesterday.
Safe to say, it’s probably just your imagination. Move on quickly, you have God’s work to do!
How Not to Prophesy 5: Rush the interpretation
If you’re ignoring Holy Spirit, then you’ll find it hard to hear God. But don’t let that worry you.
Just let your bible flip open to a random page, then stab your finger at it and share whatever you find. Mumble a few spiritual-sounding words to back it up and cover your tracks.
Better still, pluck a picture out of the air and hand it over straight away. There’s no time for faffing about: you have other people to pray for. They’ll figure it out.
How Not to Prophesy 6: Tell ‘Em How It Is
Remember: it’s all about you!
God has given you a special message to tell the world, and anyone who gets in the way… well, they had it coming, didn’t they?
Make sure to tell the person you’re praying for that you know all their dirty little secrets.
Oh, and don’t forget to be as judgmental as possible. That should make them respect you.
If they think you got your prophecy wrong, correct their foolish ways.
And if they start to get all emotional …well that’s their problem, isn’t it?
How Not to Prophesy: Conclusion
In the end, I didn’t laugh or raise much of a smile, as I wrote this post.
Somehow, experiences like that of my friend, leave a bad taste in my mouth.
Maybe you feel the same way?
The sad thing is, that this isn’t the first time I have heard of such a poor example. I’ve met people who have been really hurt by misheard, misinterpreted, or misunderstood prophecies.
The reality is that while the gift of prophecy can be abused all too easily, it is still a gift from God to the church.
My heart is that we can learn to steward this amazing gift with God’s love and grow in character as we do so.
We, the church, can turn our backs on the mistakes of the past (and those of a few misguided individuals) and move into a new era: one where prophecy forms a “naturally supernatural” part of every believer’s life.
What do you think? (Let me know in the comments area, below.)