15 May 2023

Yeah, that “word for everybody” is for 𝘺𝘰𝘶.

Back in college we had someone in a prayer group get up and say, “God just laid something on my heart.”

I’ll call her Justine. No, God didn’t literally put something on Justine’s physical heart, or even her spiritual one. All this “my heart” talk is pure Christianese lingo. Basically God told her something. I don’t know whether the “just” means he only a moment ago told her this, or he only told her this; “just” is a Christianese filler word and has lots of meanings. But I’ll stop nitpicking her Christianese now.

God told Justine something. She believed it was something he wanted her to share… and when you share what God told you, that’s prophecy. That’s really all prophecy is; it’s not complicated. We complicate it with a lot of otherworldly, magical ideas, but that’s just cosmetic trickery. It’s only “God told me this, so I’m telling you what he told me.”

“Somebody in this room,” Justine said, “is feeling really depressed. Really downhearted. Broken. Like they don’t know how they’re gonna get through the day.” And she went on like that for a bit. Someone—she didn’t know who—was having a rough time and needed encouragement. Well she wanted to encourage that person. God loves that person. You’re not alone. And other encouraging words. So cheer up, dangit!

Our prayer leader thanked her, so Justine sat down and we went back to praying for stuff.

Once the prayer meeting was over, my roommate and I were talking about this prophecy during dinner.

HE. “Y’know, I’d really like to know which of us was feeling that way. I know Justine probably didn’t want to name names and embarrass anyone, but if God thought it was important enough to bring up to the whole room, you’d think he would’ve said exactly who it was.”
ME.He didn’t have to. It’s Justine.”
HE. “Wait, she was talking about herself?”
ME. “Yep.”
HE. “So this was just her ploy for sympathy?”
ME. “No no; she legitimately thinks it’s somebody else in the room with the problem. But you know everybody in the room. Which of them is having serious trouble in their personal lives?”
HE. [thinks a moment] “…Justine.”
ME. “There you go.”
HE. “So God gave her a word… for herself?
ME. “Yep. It wasn’t for the rest of us. He told her he knows what she’s going through, and he’s here for her. But she’s in denial, so she immediately thought, ‘This has gotta be a message for somebody else,’ and basically told on herself.”
HE. “Whoa.”
ME. “I’ve been in denial myself. It’s really messes with your ability to hear God.”
HE. “So what do we do?”
ME. “Pray. Her roommate was there; she knows what’s going on; she’ll be there for her. Now Justine herself just has to figure out what’s going on.”

And gradually she did, though it took some months. But the reason I recognized this phenomenon is because this wasn’t my first encounter with it.

Codependent prophets.

Here’s a phenomenon you run into all the time in 12-step groups for adult children of addicts and alcoholics. (Which I am, which is why I know this.) Addicts’ family members are often codependent people, meaning we spend all our time managing their problems… and never adequately deal with our own. Or figure, “My issues are nothing compared to theirs”—and yeah, they might be lesser issues, but they’re still issues. Sometimes really big issues. Stuff we can’t afford to be in denial about.

Hence codependent people have a bad habit of diagnosing everybody else’s problems, but when it comes to recognizing our own hangups and bad behaviors, the blinders are on. And they’re not coming off without a struggle. Sometimes a fight.

This situation with prophets who are really speaking about themselves: Same deal. Very same deal. The Holy Spirit is trying to help them. But they can’t accept it yet; they insist their issues are nothing compared to that of other people. The message has gotta be for somebody else. And hey, God’s messages for somebody else: That’s prophecy! They got a prophecy! “Hey everybody, check out the prophecy!”—and they proceed to tell on themselves.

Once you learn to recognize this kind of codependent behavior, you’re gonna quickly notice Christians who lack spiritual maturity doing it all the time. Newbies do it. Kids do it. Christians who never grow up do it. There’s this one lady who used to attend my church, who believed she had a really powerful gift for prophecy, ’cause God tells her so many things! But she kept telling herself they were messages for other people, and prophesied them… and now everybody knew what issues she was currently dealing with.

Thick blinders. She never realized how her prophecies always, always perfectly applied to herself. And once people pointed it out to her, her response was, “Oh that’s an interesting coincidence,” but never noticed it was always the case.

Remember how I said codependent people have a bad habit of trying to diagnose others? Codependent people also have a bad habit of trying to become counselors, therapists… and prophets. ’Cause they think they can help! And admittedly they often can; they’ve seen some stuff. But prophets need to be humble, and realize these messages from God may not necessarily be for others, but ourselves, and ask God whether they’re actually for everyone in the room, or the church. They might not be.

But their prophecies might still minister to others. And themselves.

Years ago I went to at a prophecy conference at a nearby church, ’cause I wanted to see what they meant by “activating prophecy.” (I wrote about that elsewhere.) In the middle of the conference, one of the speakers gave us a thought-provoking exercise.

She told us, “I’m gonna have you write a message from God to someone. But I’m not gonna tell you who the message is for, till it’s time to give it. So ask the Holy Spirit what he wants to share with that person. Then write it down. You’re gonna hand that message to that person.”

Weird, but why not. I asked, got something from the Holy Spirit, and wrote it down. Each of us wrote down what we were pretty sure the Holy Spirit told us.

“Okay,” she said, “now look at your paper. That message is actually for you.”

Big surprised reaction from the audience. Kinda pleased reaction, because it turned out a lot of these messages really were suitable for the people who wrote ’em down.

Mine said, It’s okay to have doubts. Hey, it worked!

But the reason this trick worked for everyone, was ’cause of the very same phenomenon this entire article is about. God tells us stuff—and we regularly think the message is for someone else, and it’s frequently our own issues. When I asked the Spirit to tell me something, and started listening to him really hard, what came up was what was already in my conscience. Stuff the Spirit was already telling me to work on, to do. And because I’m just as human as the next person, a lot of the stuff the Spirit tells us is true for everyone. Which is why it’s so easy for us to densely assume, “Hey, that’s for my neighbor”—same as we do with convicting sermons and bible passages.

This fun little exercise tricked the roomful of wannabe prophets into taking their blinders off, just for a moment. That’s why it worked so well.

But it also made me realize every prophet does this. I’ve yet to find one who doesn’t. Unless the Spirit’s message gets really specific (“You need to change your PIN number because your sister’s been sneaking money out of your bank to pay for her video poker addiction”), his messages are usually nudging us to follow Jesus better—and everybody needs to follow Jesus better. It might be my dirty laundry, but everybody’s got laundry.

And everybody, prophets included, need help cleaning the laundry. Help from God; encouragement from one another. We’re all going through stuff. One of the healthiest things we can do is admit this to one another, and pray for one another. Prophets who stand up and state these things aloud might be telling on themselves, but they’re getting these issues out into the open. Ultimately it’s a good thing. Ultimately it ministers to far more people than just the prophet.

So that’s why I don’t wanna tell immature prophets, “Stop telling on yourselves.” Go right ahead and tell on yourself. But realize your messages might be more for you yourself, than you realize.

Lastly, the skeptics.

Yeah, I realize there are gonna be skeptics who say, “So all these prophets are declaring what their own consciences are bothering them about? That’s not God. That’s them. Your conscience isn’t God. It’s all the stuff you’ve been conditioned by your parents and society to believe are right and wrong. It’s pathology, not prophecy.”

There are even Christians who claim to believe in prophecy, yet say this too. Mostly because they don’t believe God regularly speaks to us through prayer, to our spirits, through our consciences. They think prophecy consists, and only consists, of profound God-appearances like a vision or an audible voice. Like an epiphany which blows your mind, or the Holy Spirit possesses you momentarily like one of those psychics claim their spirits do. Bonkers stuff like that.

To them, God doesn’t speak through anyone’s conscience. ’Cause consciences, they figure, don’t work like that. Their theories about how consciences do work, don’t involve anybody adding new morals and values and guidelines to them. Don’t involve the Spirit’s fruit, or the Spirit constantly working on us—and having a lot to say.

Now yes, since the Spirit’s fixing our defective consciences, sometimes the messages we think are the Spirit, are really just us repeating our own defective, demented beliefs. Hence sock-puppet theology and bad prophecies—and the regular need to double-check prophecy against scripture and fellow Christians, lest we get God wrong. I’ve heard many prophets get up, vent their spleen, and think they’re just sharing what God told ’em, but their fleshly attitudes and statements reveal there’s no God in any of it. Just bile. The Christian’s conscience is a mix of godliness and junk, and we’d better learn the difference before we prophesy!

Hence some of the more pressing things in our consciences are gonna be the issues the Spirit wants us to work on most. And if you’re dabbling in prophecy, it’s inevitable that at some point you’re gonna get up and proclaim that thing which presses on you hardest. You’re gonna tell on yourself.

Relax; ain’t no shame in that. Mature Christians have been there too. Some of us are still there, and need the reminder to fight harder. Humans are alike. Christians are alike. We need to hear these things from time to time. And to pray for one another. So keep right on doing it.

As for the naysayers, I can only hope that one of these days a prophet stands up in their churches and declares something which is precisely what they’re going through. I can only hope they have enough sense to set their pride aside, receive it, repent, come forward, and get ministered to. We’re all struggling. We all need grace. That’s why God’s prophets need to remind us of his grace, and this happens to be one of the ways it comes to their minds. Don’t knock it; it works.