A Dialogue On Prophecy And Intimacy With God

Our friend Charlie Forrest* began a conversation in the comments section of my last blog post on ‘The Heart of A Discerner.’ His thought-provoking observations are so good that I have decided to put the discernment series on hold in order to share the discussion with you.

Here are Charlie’s comments, in blue italics (I’ve added the emphasis in bold), followed by my own responses.

Would you like to add your own thoughts to this conversation? Feel free to join us in the comments section of this post. (If the comments box is not visible, click on this link and scroll down).

Charlie: ‘Thanks for the reply Helen, just a couple of extra points. I believe the need of intimacy with the Father is vital for the prophetic to function as it should. A prophet has absolutely nothing to say if he does not hear what the Lord is saying.’

Charlie, you are so right—the whole point of prophecy (and other revelationary gifts such as word of knowledge and discernment) is to speak forth the heart, mind and will of the Father. Intimacy is vital if we are to accurately represent Him.

How tragic to catch the revelation of God’s purposes—His mind and will—but to miss His heartbeat!

I believe it is the apprehension of His heart that will enable us to frame a prophecy in such a way that His love—and redeeming purpose—shines through (1 Cor 13:1-2). Without this, a prophecy is empty and incomplete.

Charlie: If he does speak and does not hear from the Lord the source of what he is saying is coming from either the flesh or worse, demonic. This will cause much hurt in the body.

Personally, I do not believe that all prophecy sourced in the flesh (out of our natural heart and mind) is damaging, although it can be, especially if it is misleading or employs soulish manipulation. A prophecy (or ‘word of encouragement,’ as it may better be termed), spoken out of our own heart, may fall short of being God’s best; but if it is encouraging, simple, Biblical, and spoken in faith—with love—I believe God can still use it.

If we allowed ourselves to fear speaking ‘in the flesh’ (out of our natural heart and mind), many of us, myself included, would never speak a prophecy at all!

I believe this potential for us to fall short in prophetic ministry, and for damage to be caused, is the reason Paul exhorted the Corinthian church to ‘weigh carefully’ prophetic words (1 Cor 14:29). And as he said in 1 Thess 5:20-21:

‘Do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good.’ Unsaid, but inherent in the text is, ‘Reject what is not good.’

These guidelines were given by the Holy Spirit to the church to help purify prophetic ministry.

It continually amazes me that Jesus entrusts us, His church, with gifts that are—not in terms of source, but in our expression of them—imperfect and incomplete (see also 1 Cor 13:9-10). His higher plan is for us to be interdependent upon each other in the use of our gifts.

Check out an earlier post I wrote on this subject:

‘Not Word Perfect: Understanding How Prophetic Ministry Works In The Church Today.’

The other point that flows from this of course is, ‘What do we do about damaging prophecy?’ I started to explore this in the comments section of the following post:

‘How Do I Know A Personal Prophecy Or Dream Interpretation Is From God?’

This topic is much broader than what we can cover here.

Charlie: Secondly from being in the Fathers presence we learn His heart and are then able to discern what is from Him and what is not.

So true. And I do agree with your implication that the ability to discern is not limited to those with a gift of discernment.

This leads us to your question about spiritual gifts, which we will dialogue on in next week’s post.

Charlie: I have heard a lot of prophetic words lately and I feel much is wishful thinking and the flesh. I long for the day when there will be men and women released in the body who know the Father and will speak his word in power and humility.

Charlie I know this is also the cry of my heart and many who read this blog will agree.

Deep down we know there is more. We live in the tension between our current experience and what we know is available.

I feel as though I am paddling in shallows, but longing for deep waters.

However, I am also mindful of the scriptural injunction to not despise the day of small things (Zech 4:10).

The greatest thrill I have in prophetic training is to watch people who have never received a prophetic word before receive and share a simple revelation from the heart of God.

It is not perfect, but it is a little baby step. And I know that just as a parent delights in a child’s first steps, our Heavenly Father takes joy in these moments too.

The thing is not to stop at that place, but to keep moving closer in intimacy with the Father, growing in character and in skill in the use of our gift.

I love your heart, Charlie, and your hunger.

Let the hunger spread.

* *Charlie Forrest pastors New Hope Fellowship in Auckland, New Zealand. Charlie has many years leadership involvement in missions with Asian Outreach and is also a Bible College lecturer. Charlie and his wife Brenda are responsible for launching The Hunk and I into missions ministry around 23 years ago.

**Next week I will continue the dialogue with Charlie Forrest on the topic of spiritual gifts. Charlie has raised some provocative questions, for which I don’t have all the answers. But we can certainly explore them together.


Related Posts:

A Dialogue On Spiritual Gifts
‘The Heart of A Discerner.’
‘Not Word Perfect: Understanding How Prophetic Ministry Works In The Church Today.’
‘How Do I Know A Personal Prophecy Or Dream Interpretation Is From God?’

© 2010  Helen Calder   Enliven Publishing

Now on team with David McCracken Ministries

11 thoughts on “A Dialogue On Prophecy And Intimacy With God”

  1. Good morning Helen and Charlie

    Thanks for taking the time to chat about something that is so dear to the heart of God; that is not so much the gift of prophecy (as He is the giver of it) but the purpose of prophecy; the revealing of God’s heart to people. This is something I am passionate about and have given my life to.

    I feel to encourage you both, as well as others who may be reading, to know that God is speaking clearly through many today. I just feel we could easily be discouraged by the apparant lack of true prophetic in the Church today. It is true there are some excesses and even misuses of this powerful gift given to strengthen, encourage and comfort the Church BUT there are also many people correctly handling this precious gift. While we actively wait for more, we need to celebrate that which is already happening.

    To be DIScouraged means to have our courage removed (this thought thanks to David McCracken). This is what the enemy would love to do to many who are called to STEP OUT in revealing God’s heart. If we live with the primary thought of “What if this is just me, what if this is the flesh or what if I am wrong?” then we will rob the Body of Christ through our lack of courage.

    My confidence does not come from my ability. My confidence comes from knowing God wants to bless people through me MORE than I do (and I want to a lot!). Therefore, from a sincere heart that is living in intimacy with God, I confidently step out with my defalut being “I am delighting in God and He is placing His desires in my heart”. It’s a wonderful security and it’s a joy to be a blessing to others!

    I pray God’s best on you both and on all who are desiring to know God better and reveal God more.


    1. Love it! Thanks Steve for your wise words and for bringing balance to our conversation. How right you are that we should focus on the good and ensure that we celebrate that which is already happening. I hope that many of our readers take time to read the comments section and catch your ENcouragement!

  2. In regard to the point your raised re speaking in the flesh. If true that prophecy is speaking a word from the Lord, in whatever form that it takes, then if someone speaks a word in the flesh can it really be called a prophetic word?

    1. Hmm, I have been debating as to whether to respond to this one 😉
      I don’t see that the Apostle Paul made the distinction you speak of (in 1 Cor 14:29 he uses the word prophecy as an umbrella description that includes prophecy subject to being weighed up and potentially set aside).

      Technically you may be correct, but the danger for those of us who are teachers (or intellectually wired) is to trip over a technicality and miss an encounter with God.

      I believe that our God of grace, who turned water into wine, can take a well-intentioned word of encouragement–that may be aimed as a prophecy but in reality be a very human ‘good idea’–and use it to bless, inspire or move someone towards Himself. Perhaps it is a ‘logos’ *(scriptural encouragement) rather than a ‘rhema’ word from God, but who is to say that God can’t breathe life into that word and use it for His purposes?

  3. Hi again Helen, I do think it is good to discuss these things and i do agree with your statement “I believe that our God of grace, who turned water into wine, can take a well-intentioned word of encouragement–that may be aimed as a prophecy but in reality be a very human ‘good idea’–and use it to bless, inspire or move someone towards Himself.”

    However the verse you quoted in 1 Cor14:29 is about judging the prophecy to see if it is really from God, the need to do that is to check if it is really from the Lord, a real prophetic word or not.

    Yes we must be careful about not discouraging younger Christians from stepping out in faith and learning how to minister, but it is this very correction and feed back that helps them to learn the difference between the flesh and what is real. We just must be sensitive and gracious on how we give the feed back.

    The Lord can take any “word” and use it for encouragement and blessing but that is not necessarily prophetic. It is the work of the Spirit in the hearer that makes the difference in that situation.

    Finally one verse that really looks at all the gifts that I have been thinking about: 1 Cor 12:7 “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

    The gifts (Lit graces), including prophecy, are in fact a manifestation of the Holy Spirit Himself in and through the person speaking and acting. So it is the surrender, filling and openness to the Holy Spirit that is the key in all things, not experience or the training of the gifts. However we do grow in understanding and fellowship with the Holy Spirit and recognizing His leading. The key then is knowing the Holy Spirit, comes back to intimacy again. agree? disagree? appreciate your thoughts on these points.

    also thanks Steve for your word and comments

  4. Thanks Charlie, I do agree about feedback. I’ve found that the best way to train those who are new in prophetic ministry is through demonstration and coaching, rather than dissecting and judging their first attempts to prophesy. Obviously if something is ‘off’ then it can be addressed from the outset and a coaching environment is great for that.

    As you can tell from my blog and ministry, I am a great believer in equipping Christians in the area of prophecy, this includes providing training.

    However I preface all of my training with an emphasis on intimacy with God being the most important thing–no intimacy, no revelation. You will see a number of posts in my blog with this focus. Also the first two sessions of my online prophetic training are focused on personal relationship before we even move to other topics.
    So I definitely agree with you on intimacy being the key, the main thing, the source of our gift.

    Knowing that intimacy is vital and that surrender to the Spirit is where our gifts are sourced does not negate the benefits of training.

    I’m sure you will agree that someone with a teaching gift benefits from training and study, in Biblical interpretation, communication, etc. why should prophecy be different? Or do you put revelationary gifts in a league of their own? (1 Cor 12:27-30)

  5. Yes i do agree with training and systematic study of the word. That’s why i teach at the Bible College and systemically at our church. However when it actually comes to teaching and preaching of the word i do not rely on the notes but seek to rely on the Holy Spirit. By that I mean, throughout the week i read, research, study, write etc, prepare my heart and understanding, i don’t prepare a message but prepare my heart and understanding. When it comes to the actual time to preach and teach i put my notes aside and speak from the Holy Spirit. The message is written on the heart and the Holy Spirit takes it and makes it alive and it flows out.

    For example in India because the message is on the heart, by the Holy Spirit i have been able to teach for days without any notes when needed.

    I emphasis to my students the danger of teaching based purely upon the skill or human effort and research. CT Studd said, “don’t go into your study to prepare a sermon, but go into your study to get your heart so on fire that you can’t contain it” I read this as a young man and it had a big impact on me.

    However revelationary gifts go one step further, by their very nature they are a message from the Father to His people. Can the message be learnt or is it received? can the delivery be learnt?

    Or is the main thing to be able to learn the ability to hear the Lord? I have seen new Christians and children speak a powerful prophetic word when they simply heard and spoke.

    i fully agree with you about the danger of judging harshly when someone is first learning, that is wrong, we never want to crush someone stepping out in faith for the first time. we need to be very gracious and encouraging and creating an environment where people have the freedom to learn and make mistakes.

    I appreciate discussing this with your Helen and i hope you don’t mind me challenging and discussing things this way. If i come on too strong just tell me to back off 🙂

  6. Hee hee….back off Charlie (no just kidding!)
    Loving the discussions, will get back to you on this one in the next couple of days 🙂

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