Listening To Ourselves

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Recently David Fitch wrote a post called “Self Talk: How to Not Pray to Yourself” and it struck a chord with me because I’ve contemplated the state of the prophetic as of late and peoples’ tendencies to prophesy out of their own soul, not out of God’s Spirit.  In the article, Fitch talks about discerning the voice of the Lord and how we get off track when we begin praying only for the things we want without regard for what Jesus wants. This article was helpful, but I still found myself lamenting the lack of an article about prophesy and listening to ourselves instead of the Lord.

The problem, as I see it, is that charismatic prophecy used to be a kind of holy man’s gifting, where the gift was reserved for the truly spiritual and people were only released to prophesy after gaining a significant track record in both their character and their gifting. As the years went on, more and more were ushered into the prophetic and, while we want as many participating in the gifting as we can get, the preparation and forming of prophetic individuals has taken a back seat.

Now, because we want everyone to prophesy, so much of the “track record” that was necessary before is seen as hindering. Many times I see those who are young in the prophetic sharing things they’ve seen in their imaginations, mistaking those things as visions from Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about people stepping out and attempting to hear from the Lord, but I know the danger of people building on what they see in their imaginations, thinking these ‘visions’ are truly from the Lord.

Elementary training in the prophetic teaches that we “hear” from three sources: God, Satan, and ourselves. The trick to dealing with prophecy is knowing where a message comes from. God’s words bring peace, clarity, and freedom to our hearts. They are often accompanied by true confirmation from others who hear from the Lord. Satan speaking to us can be difficult to discern, especially when we’re new. However, usually the voice of the enemy comes with condemnation, shame, and draws our attention away from Jesus and the Bible.

It’s much harder to discern whether what we hear is from ourselves. Many times the things we hear touch areas that are so near and dear to our heart that it’s had to remain objective. I find that the church has a difficult time prophesying politically, for example, because often people are very biased about the topics they are praying and speaking into. Christians know the right answer, the answer that is ultimately right, and I’ve watched as they have prophesied out of “the right answer” instead of what God is truly doing.

The danger in all of this is that we become trumpets for our own hearts and desires and not a vessel for the Lord to speak through.  Instead of hearing and declaring what the Lord is saying, regardless of how much it challenges conventional wisdom, we become mouthpieces for what our minds can dream up. God over and over again in Jeremiah and Ezekiel challenged the prophets who prophesied good out of their made up prophecies. This kind of prophecy doesn’t require any obedience. It promises us what we want without submission to the Lord or His process. Like Peter, we end up telling Jesus He’ll never have to suffer and find out later it was the Father’s will for that to happen.

The fix for this is to learn true listening and obedience to what we hear. We have to begin to spend time in prayer listening first and leaving our agendas either till the very end or out entirely. Periods of time spent in silence or asking God questions instead of intercession and request are the beginnings of relationship with God outside of what we want. When we learn to wait on God, to dialogue with Him rather than supply our own answers, quickly we will learn there is a God who answers that is beyond our definition of right and wrong. He is real and wants to interact with us.  He will speak, we don’t need to supply the right answers.

In order to grow out of listening to our own soul and truly hear God, we also need to learn how to deny ourselves. Most inaccurate prophetic activity I see both in the New Testament and in the current day stems from a failure to see God’s activity through the lens of the cross. Anyone trying to regularly practice hearing the Lord’s voice ought to focus a specific part of their prayer life asking the Lord to help them lay down their agendas. So much of imaginations that get passed on as prophecy stem from the fact that people are emotionally tied to what they want to see happen. Learning to separate ourselves from what we want and submit to what God wants helps us to see beyond our own personal desires.

Lastly community is key to this process. When I share what I believe I’m hearing with other believers, it gives my community the chance to reflect what they see back to me. Remember, even the most prophetic among us only see in part. When I trust my brothers and sisters with what I’m hearing and allow them to help me discern what is from God, I’m actually getting help seeing beyond myself, which is so hard for all of us, not just those of us with prophetic gifts.  Jeremiah was told by God that a key part of his prophetic ministry was to separate the precious from the vile (Jeremiah 15:19) and sharing what we hear with others and letting them weigh our words is a critical part of this process (1 Corinthians 14:29). I don’t know a mature prophetic individual that hasn’t learned this process.

God has an incredible journey ahead for us in hearing His voice. He is not silent and wants you to go on a journey of hearing Him and believing what He is speaking. Critical to that is us learning to separate our own internal voice from the voice of the Spirit that comes and speaks to our hearts.  When we separate the precious (God’s voice) from the worthless (our wants and desires) in what we’re hearing, that’s when we become God’s spokesman.

And isn’t that what all of our hearts are truly hungering for?

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About traviskolder

Travis Kolder is a follower of Jesus, a husband, a father of five, an organic church planter, and a writer. He lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he serves as part of the Cedar Rapids House Church Network.

3 responses to “Listening To Ourselves”

  1. riverflowsdown says :

    UNBELIEVABLE fortitude in this post, Wow, sounds like scripture. It makes me contemplate a few things. In the Old Covenant law, prophesying something false “meaning not coming from the Lord” could get you literally stoned to death. In the new Testament Community- law of flesh is changed to law of the Spirit, and that standard is changed. We are told by the prophetic community that the % changed. Now we don’t have to be accurate any more. Thank God, Right? Funny thing, on most things like literal adultery and murder, they are changed to be equal to thinking it in the heart, by the words of Jesus. So what about prophecy? What if it is not what we are told? I know you spent time in Kansas City. Back in my Grace Training center days there was a community rule (NOT LAW) of only saying “God said” or “thus saith the Lord” a couple times a year. Even then there was a lightning rod of controversy called the “Kansas City Prophets”. Motive, what if that is what changed in the New Covenant? What if that is part of the responsibility of community, why have so many prophets in the last 70 years died in their prime not of old age? If the Lord shows up in our community in a manifest presence “shekinah” such as with Ananias and Sapphira. I just wonder how long the prophetic would continue from three sources. My guess is at least for a short time it would come from one source. Community where the lord shows up a little, could look a lot different than when shows up in all His Glory. There are benefits to him showing up this way and tho it may have been a generation since he has done that in America, it could just happen again. Church history is a wonderful story especially the last chapter. Thanks for touching this Holy Cow.

  2. gunnarlarmstrong says :

    Travis: I think that everything you have said is good and relevant. I think I take a simpler approach — which I think you also agree with. The modern charismatic church glorifies prophets and all these people go to prophet schools (or, perhaps, just start prophesying), but there is virtually no real discipleship and character building.

    I am convinced that the Lord is moving away from the big-name preachers and prophets and healers. And he certainly doesn’t want loose cannon prophets who are not willing to be corrected. I think he wants to raise up discipled, self-disciplined, humble people who will walk in these gifts within their local bodies — where their character will be known — and where there will be people who will be willing and eager to develop the prophet’s character at the same time that they are developing his prophetic ability.

    I am very hesitant to allow any prophet to speak to my children or to anyone under my care unless I know his character — because I think a person’s character is the strongest witness to the reliability of his prophecy. But, unless this person is from my house church or from a house church where I know people who can vouch for his character, I am very hesitant to let him prophesy.

    Sorry I haven’t commented in a while. I have been swamped here, and have had trouble even taking the time to read your posts. I have missed reading them. Gunnar

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