Having grown up in the Pentecostal world and heard all sorts of prophecies, this feels very strange (if not blasphemous) to say. But I just don’t feel comfortable with personal prophecy. It’s not the concept that bothers me… I understand that God can and will use people to intentionally speak something to someone else. It’s what is usually said and how it’s often received that bothers me.
I first started putting the building blocks of this together when I went to Africa. While I was there, I went with a couple women to go to see a “tourist” witch doctor. I joked that he wasn’t a real witch doctor but he plays one on TV. I had no idea what to expect so my reasons for going was curiosity and to video what he said to the two women. His ritual was to take a bunch of bones and put them in a cloth then shake them up and scatter them everywhere. This was hilarious to me… it’s like rolling the dice and then looking up the resulting number in a book and telling you what your fortune is. And at least with dice, you know what number was rolled. These were BONES.
While I listened, I realized how easy it was to get sucked into this because you naturally want to hear about what someone “sees” for your life. I didn’t want him speaking over my life so I resisted him saying anything about me, but peer pressure won out. I recorded the video, but I’ve refused to rewatch it. Even though I don’t think he’s truly a witch doctor, I don’t want him speaking anything into my life.
And the fortune itself was basically the same thing all 3 times… You’ve been blessed with good travels and good health, and you’re very smart and blah blah blah. Then he ended it with a hook to do something like take something and sleep with it under your pillow or whatever or the fortune won’t come true. I realized at that moment that if we did follow through with that, then we were being syncretistic in our religion — mixing Jesus with whatever sounds good that might work out for us (which was the Israelites’ problem throughout the OT).
The one thing about what was said was how much it felt like personal prophecy. Not that it was “reading my mail” or anything like that but that it was just so vague as to be interpretable however you want. And nothing bad was ever said or anything of correction. It was just to make you feel good… nothing more, nothing less.
Compare that to the most common messages of prophecy that I hear:
- Hang in there, and God will carry you through.
- God is going to do “something great” in your life. You are going to be a leader (spoken over probably 80% of youth)
- Your time is coming to do _something_ (rarely specified).
- God has been using you whether you know it or not.
So basically, either what is said is what everyone else hears or it’s what anyone would say when someone looks down (Hang in there), and it’s pretty much always so vague that it can be interpreted however you want. Not only that, but it is entirely you-centric and always to the upside. And if you are REALLY lucky, you’re going to get all 4 of these spoken to you in the same prophecy (the rare quadruple hat trick).
A few years ago in Kansas, a traveling evangelist spoke a personal prophecy to me and recorded it with a tape recorder. When he was done, he handed it to me. I’ve never listened to it again… until now. I decided to make it publicly available so that those of you who don’t go to churches that experience personal prophecy can get a taste for what it’s like.
MP3 of my personal prophecy (You may need to turn your volume up)
Contrast that to some personal prophecy in the Bible:
- “You are the man [who killed the only lamb a man owned]” – Nathan to David in 2 Samuel 12
- “Do you know the Lord will take away your master from you today?” – prophets to Elisha regarding Elijah in II Kings 2
- “You are going to be bound and delivered by the Jews into the hands of the Gentiles [if you go to Jerusalem]” – Agabus to Paul in Acts 21: 10-14
- “You are going to die” … “I have seen your tears and I will add 15 years to your life” – Isaiah to Hezekiah in Isaiah 38
- “Because you have not listened to the voice of the Lord, you will be killed by a lion” – prophet to random guy in 1 Kings 20
- “Josiah shall sacrifice on you the priests of the high places… and the sign will be that the altar is split open and ashes poured out” – prophet to Jereboam’s altar in 1 Kings 13
- “For I have seen your salvation … the light of revelation to the Gentiles” – Anna about Jesus in Luke 2:25-38
I have yet to recall a single personal prophecy that matches up with any of those (and there are dozens if not hundreds more in the Bible just like them). That’s what bothers me most… today’s prophecies sound more like a witch doctor’s fortunes than the Bible’s prophetic utterances. It seems no wonder to me that so many people want to hear God’s word for them… they basically want some sort of knowledge of the future, and having someone pick them out of a crowd makes them feel like God really has his eye on them.
That’s not to say God doesn’t use these “words” to speak to people, and my experience is certainly not indicative of all Christian spirituality. However, I can’t help but wonder… if this is what prophecy is, do I really want it… as a giver or receiver?
I don’t know.