Why prophecy? God has other means to communicate. He can paint a message in the sky, speak through your gerbil, line up pebbles in the road. Why should God use humans to deliver His messages? I mean, humans aren’t the most reliable creatures. We slip and fall, we seek our own ambitions. Why doesn’t God do it Himself?
Several years ago I’m in a worship service in a house. We’re sitting around a circle singing. I look across and see a man I’ve never met before. He’s about 40.
All of a sudden I get the feeling that God wants to speak to me. It’s like the clouds are parting for some brilliant light to shine through. I ready myself. What bit of heaven is He going to reveal?
I close my eyes and what do I see? A beaver. A furry woodland creature with buck teeth, brown matted fur, and a spatula-like tail. He’s chubby. I chuckle and open my eyes. Silly Chris. I refocus and whisper, “God, I’m listening. Let’s try this again.”
I close my eyes and continue to worship the LORD. The sensation returns—warmth of spirit, feeling of home, God near. I feel the familiar urge that God wants to speak. I plant myself there. A picture comes into focus. It’s the beaver again.
But this time I ask God what it means. He shows me more. I ask Him what that means. He shows me more again. It goes on like this until I feel a release, like our business is done, like the water spicket has been turned off. A lot has happened, but only a few minutes have passed.
The songs end and it’s time to greet each other. I walk across the circle and introduce myself to this stranger. I feel embarrassed to tell him what I saw, but I want to be faithful. I remember the stranger who spoke to me and it turned my life around. Maybe this will do the same.
I say, “Sir, my name is Chris. I believe God spoke to me for you.”
He says, “Really? I’d like to hear it.”
I tell him about the beaver and the rest of it. His eyes widen and his mouth curves open. I wonder if he has buck teeth. No, stay on track. I discard that thought and keep talking. Finally I’m done and say, “So what do you think about that?”
He says, “That’s a good word,” and goes on to explain that he’s an architect. He builds things for a living. Beavers build things too, I think. But the beaver is not so much about his job as it is about his family. This man has been spending too much time at work and his family is suffering. He has a wife and six kids, and he’s not the husband and father he wants to be.
“God’s been speaking to me about building more into my family,” he says. “But I haven’t listened.”
Here are ten reasons God uses prophecy today.
1. Prophecy gets our attention.
Breaking the buzz of the fluorescent lights overhead, God’s voice thunders and wakes us from our stupor. Suddenly God has our attention. We didn’t know how to listen. Or we were just plain busy. But God crashes through the humming of our thumbing on the desk. He has much to say. So much in fact, that He can’t wait for us to tune our ears. He reaches out to messengers so we’ll hear.
2. Prophecy builds the Body of Christ.
The Church is a collection of many members, a Body. The Holy Spirit has given different gifts to each member. Only when each member functions in his or her gifts can the Body function as a whole. This is to say, we need each other for the complete set. Prophecy is one of these gifts. So when it’s absent, the Body is malformed. When it’s present, the Body has its part.
3. Prophecy removes the lone cowboy mentality.
The Church is a Body, and there is no room for lone cowboys. No man has every gift of the Spirit and no woman the complete wisdom of God. No man has experienced all God has to offer, no woman has God in her pocket. We’re in this together, fellow sojourners on the dusty road to glory. If we try to stand alone, we shut off means of God’s voice. But prophecy reminds us we don’t have it all and we need each other.
4. Prophecy confirms God’s Word.
A prophetic message should not contradict the Bible. If it does, I doubt the veracity of the prophetic word. Instead, prophecy is meant to confirm God’s word. God has more to say than is contained in the Bible. He might want you to start a petting zoo, but nowhere in the Bible does God tell you to start a petting zoo. So he speaks it extra-biblically, and then you pray. You realize it’s biblical to create a place for kids to enjoy what God has made. You bring in some llamas to start.
5. Prophecy proves God is alive and involved.
Some say God is dead, a fabrication of man to feel better about himself. Others say He exists but stepped away, a clockmaker who wound up his clock and let it tick. But prophecy proves that God is alive and involved, the Four Act Story told throughout time. He spoke the world into existence (creation). He pronounced judgment when it sinned (fall). He sent the divine message into the world, who is Jesus (redemption). He said He makes all things new (restoration). Weaving these four acts together is the God who communicates. He speaks these acts into our days.
6. Prophecy trains us in intercession.
When God shares a word for someone else, the first question is, “What now?” Sometimes the next step is to share it. But sometimes the next step is to pray it. In this way, prophecy trains us in intercession. We begin with no clue what to pray, but then God speaks, and suddenly we’ve been given the will of God. We begin to pray what was revealed, and we find we are praying God’s heart.
7. Prophecy causes us to examine our motives.
The Bible says that love trumps prophecy. Not only is love superior to any spiritual gift, it is also the foundation for moving in spiritual gifts. So is humility. The object is to serve. It’s not to show how spiritual we are or that we’re God’s best friend. Prophecy causes us to examine our motives. Do we manufacture a word from God to gain favor with the recipient? Do we share instead of pray to impress others? Are we trying to prove our usefulness to the Body?
8. Prophecy partners us with God.
God is all-powerful, but He chooses to partner with humanity. This is one of the mind-defying principles of God. God accomplishes His will through the obedience of creation. Problem is, we’re not always obedient. Whether by defiance or ignorance, we prefer our own ways. God knows this, but He partners with us anyway. Prophecy follows the principle of partnership.
9. Prophecy deepens our intimacy with God.
When God speaks, either directly or through someone else, it deepens the relationship. This is another principle of God. He desires a close relationship. When I have been the messenger or the recipient, it reminds me that I’m on God’s mind. He’s not too busy to think about me or his schedule too crowded to make time. I’m on God’s heart and He wants me to know it. And further, He has great plans and is working them out.
10. Prophecy is practicing God’s presence.
Expecting God to speak is part of practicing God’s presence. To practice God’s presence is to walk deliberately with God. It’s to go through our day aware of God. It’s to make choices that honor God. It’s to do our best not to offend Him, lest he flee. Whether in the church lobby or at a churro stand, in private time or the public square, God’s voice comes calling. And when it does, God is near.
No wonder God is so insistent upon using prophecy. It’s a means of relationship. It’s a means of building the Body. It’s a means of accomplishing His plans. Several times in the Bible God says to be eager to prophesy. So let’s be eager.