In looking at prophetic words, the words that we speak into the lives of individuals or groups, we need to align with the truth of scripture.
6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. Galatians 5:6 (NKJV)
Paul told that Galatians that faith works through love, that is, faith is made effective or functional through love. This is consistent with what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians. He concluded the love chapter with the verse below.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NKJV)
So my question is what is the role of love and faith in releasing prophetic words? Also, we are often told of the need to ‘stand in the gap.’ What does it mean to ‘stand in the gap?’ It is an oft quoted phrase but is it a well understood phrase? The context is below.
27 Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy people, and to get dishonest gain. 28 Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ when the LORD had not spoken. 29 The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger. 30 So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. 31 Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord GOD. Ezekiel 22:27-31 (NKJV)
The context is impending judgement due to the behaviour of the governmental leaders, the prophets and the people and no one standing in the gap between the way things were and the way they should be. While this particular gap was one created by ungodly leadership, false prophets and immoral behaviour, all gaps are places of possibility, opportunities for a change of direction or purpose, the space between what is and what will be if nothing changes. There is an old expression, ‘If you don’t change direction you will end up where you are headed.’
While the ‘gap’ referenced in Ezekiel was a national one, these gaps can be individual and very importantly can be positive or negative. I have seen many lives take a change of direction when someone has stepped into the gap to release hope and purpose, which is the primary function of New Testament prophetic ministry. If we see the gaps between where people are and where Jesus wants them to be we can speak to the possibility we see in them and encourage a change of direction or a reaffirmation of lost hope or purpose.
So, how do we stand in the gap for others? As noted above, faith works through love? First we need to have love for others. Second we need to discern what the Holy Spirit wants to speak into their lives as He generally speaks through people, people just like us! We also need to sort out our own desires and tendencies as they act as filters for what the Holy Spirit is speaking to and through us. Remember the process, Revelation, Interpretation, Application. Most importantly, when we share with someone else a wise approach is to present what we receive as a question or option. This is very practical. Say something like, ‘I think the Holy Spirit wants you to know…” or “Does this make sense to you?’
A good example for me was a friend sharing a dream with me in recent years. They had the revelation but were looking to me for the interpretation and they could then make the application. When they shared the dream with me my response needed to be weighed in the context of our relationship. This is someone I respect and admire so I had a desire and motivation to be helpful and encouraging, which is a natural tendency I have and need to pay attention to. However, in this instance I had to set that aside. Why was that? Quite simply, while I wanted to help and bless her I had no one idea what the dream meant! Based on my knowledge of scripture and knowing her as an individual I could have come up with an interpretation. However I responded by saying something like, “I could make something up but I have no idea what the dream means.”
How encouraging is a response like that and doesn’t it make me look wise! Yet that was the truth. I didn’t know and needed to supress my natural desire to be helpful. My friend had the wisdom to accept this and leave things there. The next morning when I got up to pray I reflected on the dream and suddenly the meaning was very clear to me. It was as if I were trying to look through a window with the curtains closed and someone suddenly opened the curtains. I emailed my friend with my interpretation and understanding and she affirmed it made great sense to her and she was able to apply it.
So, in the spirit of application, how does this apply to gaps? There was a gap, place of possibility for my friend, and the Holy Spirit gave her an encouraging revelation to take advantage of this place of possibility. Yet because we as Christians are corporately a body she needed another part of the body to take advantage of the revelation. The Holy Spirit used something He shared with both of us to bridge the gap and release encouragement into her life.
All of us are called to look for ways to encourage others and help them move in the direction the Holy Spirit is pointing but we also need to practice filtering our own desires out of the interpretation and application. A main point of the Ezekiel passage above is that there was no lack of encouraging prophetic words. In this case, and many others in the Old Testament, leaders and the nation were receiving encouraging prophetic words that were not from Yahweh and were making them comfortable in their sin. That was what brought destruction to the land. We need to learn to do as Paul said, ‘speak the truth in love.’ Generally New Testament prophetic words are encouraging and supportive but sometimes they encourage us use to bridge the gap between our direction and His purpose by addressing the sin in our lives, a wise decision as we pursue His presence and purpose.