Prophesying in Walmart
I was sitting on a bench near the front of Walmart waiting for the rest of my party to get finished. Some lady was sitting next to me. I didn’t know her. We were both minding our own business.
God spoke to me to prophecy to her. I had all sorts of fear and resistance to this idea, but went ahead and jumped in.
After all, “faith” is spelled R-I-S-K.
I said hello, and “This might sound weird but I feel like God wants me to tell you…” and then I prophesied to her. (I use “I feel like” language to make it seem less strange to have a complete stranger come up to her and speak to her like he had read her mail).
She looked at me, stone faced, for a moment. Then she said, “I receive that.” She added, “I want you to give a word to my son.” She jumped up and headed into the store, leaving me there. Eventually, she brought her teenaged son up. He was pushing a shopping cart.
These two were a different race from my own. They were dressed way differently than I was. And I was in a different town. I didn’t have anything in common with them, except the Holy Spirit was prompting me to prophecy to them.
“Listen,” she told her son, “He has a word for you.”
Talk about being put on the spot. I had a word for her, but not for the son. So I waited for a moment, waiting for the Holy Spirit to speak to me a message for the son.
Then God did, and I prophesied to the son.
He beamed, and said something like, “That’s word for word what my pastor said to me this morning!” His mind was blown. Hers was also. (For that matter, so was mine!) Their faith strengthened, they thanked me and went on their way.
They were built up. The secrets of their heart were laid bare and they left worshiping God and declaring God was there with them in Walmart. Do they need that? Who am I to say: but life is way more fun when God is present and encouraging us even at Walmart.
And that is the point of prophecy.
Years of Training
I’ve been a Christian since 1988, but only began to understand prophecy about 6 or 7 years ago, and I only began (knowingly) moving in this gift in the last 3 or 4 years. Before then, I assumed “prophecy” meant “end times predictions.” It doesn’t. Get that definition out of your head before reading on.
Prophecy means communicating the message that God is speaking for someone or something. And God is quite a talker, let me tell you.
After years of study and practice in the prophetic gift, I attended and graduated from the School of Kingdom Ministry, which transformed my understanding of my identity in Christ and empowered a fresh walk with Jesus. I also experienced a quantum leap in my moving with the prophetic gift.
After attending the School, those I trained in prophecy have moved much more quickly in developing this gift than I did. I had -and still have – a grace on my life to teach how to move in prophecy.
In fact, I’ve personally trained many dozens of people in using the prophetic gift, including how to discern if its the Holy Spirit talking instead of a different spirit (either their own or an unclean spirit), and how to communicate the words God has for someone.
“The Bible is Enough! You Don’t Need Prophecy! God’s No longer Speaking! Hebrews 1:1-2!!”
I’ve read books, articles, and arguments for and against this and other spiritual gifts. Personally, I have no interest in arguing with people who don’t want to understand it or who say it somehow ceased when the Bible was written.
In fact, many Christians assert that not only is God not doing anything supernatural these days, anything supernatural must be either demonic or have naturalistic causes. I find this reasoning shockingly ignorant of history and biblical reality, and its frankly absurd to people who freely move in spiritual gifts.
The notion that spiritual gifts have ceased is called “cessationism.” It’s the idea that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, including tongues, miracles, healing, and prophecy, ceased with the death of the apostles and thus are no longer available today. As scholar and philosopher J.P. Moreland writes in Kingdom Triangle,
Fewer and fewer Christian scholars hold to cessationism and it may fairly be called an increasingly marginalized viewpoint. This shift in scholarly opinion has been partly responsible for the renewal of miraculous ministry in the Western church (non-Western Christians are almost never cessationist in orientation).
If you are a cessationsist, please do not misunderstand my point… cessationists have tirelessly and faithfully called the church back to the Bible as the final authority for ministry and practice. The church owes their cessationist brothers and sisters an incredible debt for this… 1
And yet, cessationists should rethink their positions. A growing number of Christians who move in spiritual gifts have come from cessationist camps.
Thankfully, even cessationist scholars are rethinking the role of the Holy Spirit these days, which tends to be a reaction against the excesses of certain charismatic and Pentecostal Christians. As a cursory glance through history reveals, excesses and abuses can apply to the use of the Bible also. No one is suggesting we should toss the Bible out, and so it doesn’t follow that excesses in moving with the Spirit should lead to cessationism. What Christians should strive for applying the gifts as they were intended under the New Covenant: To reveal the Kingdom of God.
The Gift of Prophecy is Available to All Christians
The Old Testament prophets Moses, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Amos were very clear. God wants his people to prophecy. The New Testament writers Peter and Paul were equally clear, but they had further revelation: in the New Covenant, the gift of prophecy is not just available to all Christians but they actually encouraged all Christians to prophecy.
I’ve thought long and hard about doing a series of articles or podcast episodes teaching how to step into this gift but there are other more excellent schools and training systems already popping up around the country. And besides, God has me in a season of rest from ministry and wants me writing instead.
“Prophecy is just reading the Bible outloud. If you prophecy, you must want to add to the Bible!”
This is a laughable claim made by those who don’t understand what prophecy is and what it’s for. I grew up in a Pentecostal church that explained Prophecy was merely reading the Bible outloud. I’ve seen this statement made by cessationists as well.
Yeah. It doesn’t really hold water, does it? It sounded absurd to my teenaged ears then and it sounds more absurd to my trained ears now.
It suggests that, for people who couldn’t read and didn’t have access to the Bible (i.e., most Christians in the last 2000 years), God was silent. Sure he was. (Eye roll).
And prophecy has nothing to do with adding or taking away from the canon. Such an idea laughably ignores so much scriptural testimony, it hardly bares mentioning.
Prophesying at a New Age Convention
Christians in America have traditionally denied God does supernatural things today and been so over-the-top judgmental and xenophobic regarding opposing beliefs, that nonbelievers and marginal believers have stopped turning to Christian churches for supernatural guidance or guidance regarding the supernatural.
Since people are having supernatural experiences all the time, and people know in their heart that something beyond the material universe exists, they are turning to anyone who can offer a supernatural explanation.
Perhaps this explains the phenomenal turnout at a psychic fair in my small midwestern town recently. The people who came to see the psychics and gypsies and ghost hunters were seeking answers. Many of these people didn’t look like they’d be welcome in Christian churches, but then again, others were well-dressed educated men and women seeking answers to their experiences, (and to be fair, in our town, lots of churches welcome those who don’t fit in at traditional churches and who don’t have, for instance, nice clothes).
Only one church had a booth at this fair, and for a while I sat with the Christians in this booth. They had three signs up: Dream Interpretation, Kingdom Healing, and Spiritual Readings. Hey… when in Rome, use Rome’s words. Spiritual Readings, of course, was “Prophesy.”
People came up, looking to have their dreams interpreted (for which we rely on God’s revelation), to receive physical or emotional healing, and to hear from God. Almost everyone who came up was touched by the love of the Father through the team of Christians there.
While I was there, some lady came to me. I looked at her, waited a moment, and began to prophecy about God’s call and mission in her life. She said she had chills and her heart resonated with those words. I added a special word of knowledge regarding something in the spirit realm (God had assigned 2 angels to help in her mission and they were both right there), and she beamed and said, “That’s exactly what (one of your team) said last year!” I gave her some further encouragement and prayed for her. I even nodded to the angels, whom I couldn’t actually see, but sensed their presence. She, like so many others, were touched by God.
There was so much supernatural Kingdom of God activity, it was amazing.
So, Just What is Prophecy?
The gift of prophecy is just one tool in God’s toolbox of spiritual gifts that he gives Christ followers to build up Christ’s body on the earth. God uses prophecy and other spiritual gifts to bring the Kingdom to earth.
Prophecy reveals the Kingdom.
Prophecy enforces the New Covenant.
Prophecy communicates the heartbeat of God towards someone or something, always conforming to the operating covenant. This is why prophecy in the New Covenant looks far different than prophecy in the Old Covenant.
Prophecy connects people to the heart of God.
Prophecy plugs people into who they are in Jesus or who God wants them to be right now.
Prophecy gives instruction for what is coming in the future.
Prophecy can be for now, can confirm or reassure the path you are on, can be about the future, or shifts coming.
Prophecy can forthtell: bring into being that which is in God’s mind but isn’t set in the future yet.
Prophecy is the intention of God, not the guarantee. Jonah prophesied God’s intention to destroy Ninevah, but Ninevah wasn’t destroyed. This didn’t make the prediction a false prophecy nor Jonah a false prophet. Jonah heard from God but God’s intention changed.
Prophecy can be given through both words or signs, actions or dreams. God gave Old Testament prophets prophetic messages by looking at a tree and a boiling pot or laying around naked or through visions or through words. God gave Old Testament prophets like Hosea and Solomon strong emotions to convey a prophetic message. What makes us think means of New Testament prophecy would look so different?
Not everyone who says they are hearing from God actually hears from God, and it’s useful when hearing something new to wait for confirmation and to measure carefully every word you receive. As Paul indicated, prophetic words should be measured by those who actually move in prophecy.
Not everyone who hears from God actual interprets correctly what they are hearing. Measure what you hear carefully: again it’s great to have others who move in prophecy to help.
Prophecy today will never violate scripture, or the New Covenant. A prophecy for one person probably isn’t for you.
Record the words you receive. Hang onto them when the opposite seems to happen, because those words from God have life and will see you through the trials. Joseph received an amazing word regarding his future, but spent the next decades living the exact opposite of what was promised. He clung to the prophetic word, trusting God would be faithful, and God was.
For a great teaching about that, I recommend this from one of the most powerful speakers on prophecy in our time.
Ask and you shall receive.
If you want to move in this gift, ask the Father, and you’ll receive. If you want to learn more, then seek, because you’ll find. Start with reading Paul’s essay on prophecy and spiritual gifts, 1 Corinthians Chapters 12 through 14.
John Wimber’s teaching on the gift of prophecy from the 80s remains masterful. Wimber was formerly a cessationist.
In addition, I recommend these resources:
Attend the School of Kingdom Ministry. In the meantime, check out these books.
- The Gospel of the Kingdom, George Ladd
- Prophetic Wisdom, Graham Cooke
- Power Evangelism, by John Wimber and Kevin Springer
- Do What Jesus Did, Robby Dawkins
- A Practical Guide to Evangelism – Supernaturally – Chris Overstreet
- J.P. Moreland, Kingdom Triangle: Recover the Christian Mind, Renovate the Soul, Restore the Spirit’s Power (Grand Rapids Michigan, Zondervan, 2007), 176-177. ↩