In Britain we have a TV program called The Antiques Road Show. It’s been running since I was a kid and I always remember watching it on Sunday afternoons. The gist of it is that the hopeful public can come into some big old venue with their household items and get them examined by a selection of antique experts. The best bit of the show for me was seeing the shocked face of the person who was told that the piece of china that they used as a dogs feeding bowl ‘all these years’ (for example) was actually worth a fortune.
This program would always leave you with the haunting inner question of; ‘Do you have unknown treasures in your house?’
When I think of the prophetic I often think of this TV show. It represents two extreme errors that people can fall into when dealing with prophetic words:
Firstly, there are people who do not discern the words that are given to them. These are people who sometimes end up holding onto words that although are pleasant are not from God but from man. They are like the people in The Antiques Road Show who overvalue an item only to be told be the experts that it isn’t an antique at all.
Secondly, there are people who don’t know the value of a prophetic word. They keep the words but don’t know what to do with them, often resulting in the words being either misused or forgotten. These are like the people in The Antiques Road Show who have no clue of the value until the expert reveals the worth.
I think that one of the greatest challenges for people/churches that desire to move in the prophetic is to learn what to do with a prophetic word. It’s one of the least taught about topics in the prophetic and yet is vital for a maturing Christian or church. This is something that is currently very much on my mind and in my heart. I have a growing concern that powerful words are being given to individuals, churches and nations but instead of fulfilling their purpose they are like antique treasures collecting dust in spiritual attics.
In this article I’m going to share a few things I’ve learned about how to take care of prophetic words so they reach their potential.
Figure out the value
The first step with any prophetic word that you get, is to figure out it’s value. It’s like becoming an expert antique dealer who can tell the real antiques from the general pieces. The reality is that there might well be words given, that at best are from the human spirit. These are words are spoken from the heart with a genuine intention to build up a person. Usually it’s from someone who is mixing up the supernatural gift of encouragement with the supernatural gift of prophecy. These words are not harmful in themselves but they are not the alive, powerful words that come from God that carry purpose and destiny. Making the distinction is a vital step into maturity.
Whenever I give prophetic words, especially to churches, I encourage the leaders to be either hot or cold with it. I believe God’s word never deserves a lukewarm approach. I’d rather church leaders come back to me and say ‘Ruth, thank-you but we don’t think this one is from God’ than pleasantly accept a word but do absolutely nothing with it.
There are many prophetic words that have just not been valued. In my experience churches and individuals are very open to receiving prophetic revelation but are not so ambitious about pursuing its interpretation and application. I know the intention is a good one when people say ‘just hold that prophetic word lightly’ but I actually think this is the wrong advice to give. Its given because people don’t know how to handle, discern or steward prophetic words and they’d rather a low key approach than deal with potential carnage. For me a prophetic word is like having a serious power tool – if you’ve not read the instructions then you’d be right to be nervous about using it. But power tools in the building industry are very useful and if you read the instructions you can avoid danger and get the benefit.
What I want to tell people is ‘Handle words intensely, examine them, look for the markings, weigh them up. If you have to, take them to an expert and figure out whether what you have is just a run of the mill piece of nicety or a treasure that’s worth a fortune from heaven.’ Because it does matter. Because the value you place on something determines how you will treat it. Because God gives us words for a reason. We’ve got to figure out whether we’ve got the real deal and if we have we’ve got to figure out how it gets to fulfill its purpose.
That’s right – prophetic words have a purpose.
The nature and purpose of prophetic words
One of the turning points in my life was when I realized that prophetic words weren’t just flat pretty words to make us feel good about ourselves. Don’t get me wrong there is a big part of prophetic revelation that is about endorsement and encouragement. Usually through ‘words of knowledge’ the Father speaks to us about who we are and its a wonderful thing to receive. But the role of the Father—just like the role of a human Father—is multifaceted. Endorsement is often the first thing He speaks to us about and continues to reaffirm throughout our journey as we embrace the prophetic lifestyle. But as we go on there is much the Father wants to unpack with us and give us through his words; encouragements, predictions and offers are always on the table. His words are also alive in nature and are sent out with a specific purpose to fulfill.
One of the most influential passages of scripture in my life regarding the prophetic is the parable of the sower found in three of the gospels. I know it’s not the typical one used to teach on the prophetic, but in this parable Jesus gives us some incredible truths about the prophetic word of God.
If this parable was made into a movie;
The main character would be the seed (God’s Word – which includes the prophetic word as well as the foundational word)
The main plot would be ‘Does the seed (God’s Word) get to fulfill it’s destiny?’
The action would involve the three villains (different types of soil) that try and stop the seed reaching it’s destiny – which is to grow into maturity.
And the hero would be the good soil that figures out how to help the seed fulfill its purpose.
God’s word is alive
I love that God’s word—prophetic and foundational—is described as a seed in this parable. For me this puts a whole new spin on both reading the bible and receiving prophecy. The main thing about the analogy of a seed is that seeds are alive, full of potential and longing to grow into something.
Not knowing much about the dynamics of seeds I did a bit of research on their nature and found this amazing quote;
Seeds are living. You can do experiments that show that some of the tissues inside of seeds remain active and are going through some basic metabolic steps, such as in cellular respiration. In other words, seeds are using small amounts of stored energy, staying alive and “waiting” for good conditions to begin to grow. Most seeds need things like water and certain temperatures to begin to grow.Some seeds need special conditions, such as a period of coldweather or even being scorched in a forest fire to begin to grow.
Wow! That’s what its like when we get given a prophetic word from God – a word that is packed with life and purpose. When I get a prophetic word given to me that I’ve valued and believe is from God I imagine it like a seed that God has given me to steward. It’s not meant to remain a seed but somehow I’m meant to grow it until it reaches maturity. And that’s the adventure but also the challenge.
What does maturity look like?
When I was doing a study on this passage I remember having a conversation with God on the bus one day. I was asking Him “What does maturity look like?” I was saying to God, “If I’m meant to steward a prophetic word over my life or over a church or even a nation how do I know when I’ve done my job? What does it look like when it works? What does it look like when the word has reached maturity?” I wasn’t expecting an answer but I got one that shot through me like a lightening bolt. God said to me “It’s when the word becomes flesh.”
I was a bit stunned at first but after a few minutes God unpacked with me what He meant. He was showing me that the prophetic word is successful when we become the word. For example, someone who is prophesied over to be a great intercessor: the prophetic word reaches its maturity when they are actually doing that role, not just telling everybody that ‘one day’ they will be a great intercessor. For someone who gets a prophecy about becoming a ‘Joseph’ in the marketplace it’s when they are living out the word and the word becomes part of who they are.
It’s following the example of Jesus, the Word who became flesh. Honestly, this answer from God rocked the socks off me. I suddenly understood the real power and purpose of prophecy; replicating the great wonder and mystery of incarnation of Jesus within the church, Jesus body on earth, the Word becoming flesh. This is a far cry from prophecy being a spiritual pamper session—this was God releasing His people powerfully into their destinies so they can impact the world just like Jesus did.
It’s important we get this. I wonder what the church would look like if we understood that when we get prophesied over we are given a life abundant seed that has the potential to become part of us? I wonder how many of us would be a bit more alert if we realized that not all prophetic words reach full maturity and there needs to be an overt effort on our part to grow the seed? I wonder how different the world would be if we learnt how to grow our prophetic words to the point where they become us?
So I guess the big question is how do we do this?
Growing the Seed
With such a lack of emphasis on the topic you would think that learning to grow a prophetic word would be a complicated mystery. But weirdly it’s communicated quite simply by Jesus. At the end of the parable He leaves no doubt about how to be the hero.
“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. “
There are two striking words for me.
Both are the challenges that are set before us.
Retaining the Seed
The first challenge is to retain the seed or prophetic word long enough for it to take root. The parable talks of three types of conditions that will attempt to take the seed away.
- Path -The devil
- Rock – Testing times
- Thorns – Life’s distractions
We need to be aware that the enemy does not want the word of God to take root in our lives. He cannot do anything to separate us from the love of Christ but he will try his best to make sure we are unfruitful. We need to be aware that when we receive a word of revelation from God around the corner there will be many things that will try to take that seed away.
Think about it.
I’ve thought about it—and when I’ve scanned through my prophetic history in retrospect I can see all three types of conditions rear their ugly head soon after a prophetic revelation. Sometimes it’s been subtle, sometimes it’s been obvious but I agree with Kris Vallotton when he says, “the dogs of doom bark on the doors of destiny.” We have to realize this and be alert (not fearful) that when we receive prophecy that there will more than likely be an effort to steal the seed. It might be that we get spiritually attacked or go though some hard times or simply get distracted. But through all of these times—if we are aware of what’s happening we will have the strength to hang on to the seed—the word of life that has been given to us.
The first challenge then in learning how to grow the prophetic word over your life, is to simply hold on. Do not let go.
The second challenge contains a word that doesn’t fit with my personality. I wish it wasn’t there but it is. Jesus says that we need to persevere with His word to produce a crop (which is when the word becomes flesh). This word is fully loaded, implying proactive effort on our part. This is not putting the word in our spiritual library and waiting until it magically comes about, but instead its about making courageous strides forward in seeing this word take effect and keep going—even in the face of opposition and disappointment.
For me one of the prophetic words that I’ve had spoken over me many times is that I will see supernatural physical healing happen dramatically in my lifetime, including raising the dead. What do you do with that one?
During the first year after that word was given to me I suffered from irrational fear of, yes you guessed it – sickness. Every time I prayed for sick people to be well I would have panic attacks and dreams that I was sick and was going to die. It sounds ridiculous writing it down but that was my year of darkness. All I knew in the middle of it was that I had to hold on to this word and I decided that I would continue to pray for healing regardless. I retained that seed.
Since then I’ve done a number of things that I feel have watered and fed the word: I’ve studied spiritual healing. I’ve found people who have seen amazing breakthrough. I put myself in a community of people who are going for the same thing. I always pray for it when given the opportunity. I regularly read the biblical stories of healing and resurrection. I remember the breakthroughs I’ve seen already and I keep going even when I’ve encountered losses that I wish I’d never seen. Truth is it’s been hard, but I’m further down the line than before. Has this word become flesh? Not yet but I’m heading in the right direction.
If we are going to be people who persevere we have to be people who know the value of a word from God—a precious treasure from heaven which, when becomes part of us, can rock the world.
My prayer is that there is a great maturing in this area. That people will realize that prophetic words are not just for Christmas but are life.