A major disagreement of mine with Pentecostalism is the conflation (deliberate in my view) of prayer with prophecy. So rampant is it that it has become a big deal within the Pentecostal movement and in some denominational churches. Having apparently discovered that both words are aces, preachers-big, medium and small-decided that a fusion of both was necessary and came up with “prophetic prayer”, which I consider eminently dodgy. I will return to prophetic prayers later.
Prayer, the way I understand it, is a plea to God for things desired or an expression of gratitude for what He has done. Prophecy, on the other hand, is hearing direct, specific messages from God and relaying such-undiluted-to the person (s) for which it is intended. It is God’s prerogative to reveal, not that of the pastor.
As such, there cannot be “I want to prophesy” or “let me prophesy into your life”, as we hear pastors say.
Some 11 years ago, journalists at a press conference addressed by Pastor WF Kumuyi of the Deeper Life Ministries Worldwide asked him for his prophecies for the new year. He replied that he had none, arguing that he did not understand the practice of year-end prophecies, as prophets of old did not give such because they were not commanded to do so and that the calendar in operation now is different from what the one operational in Biblical times. He also attempted to point out the difference between a prayer and prophecy.
Using himself as an example, Kumuyi said it was his prayer and wish that Nigeria will prosper, but it had not been revealed to him that the country will. He advised the media to learn how to tell a prophecy from a mere wish, desire and prayer. I thought he spoke well. I am not sure if he has reviewed his position, which I think was spot-on, is and eternally will be.
The prevalent thing these days, however, is for preachers to frame their desires and wishes (I hope such are honest) for their followers as stuff they picked up directly from God in their round-the-clock conversations with Him. The prolificity is astounding. Every time pastors pray, something is revealed to them, they claim.
In an hour-long church service, say, you could hear a pastor issue as many as 30 “prophecies”, with not one being person or event-specific. It is a smart way to avoid accountability. Even when an attempt is made at being specific, it is nothing more than fluffing up or encouraging the person concerned. At best, they are prayers for changes in individual, group or national circumstances, not prophecies.
God directs what is to be said and how. He does not hand out licenses for freestyling. “Thus, shall ye say” was God’s commandment to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 10:11.
What we have now are preachers arrogantly attempting to fashion new interpretations of the scriptures that they believe only they are qualified to offer. The fusion of prayer and prophecy to produce prophetic prayer, I believe, occurred because preachers believe they are praying the very words of God into the world. They are persuaded that they can deliver messages straight from God’s throne, thereby claiming to have the powers to make their prayers “prophetic.”
Prophetic prayer, a very seductive term, is framed as the act of commanding God’s “prophetic vision” to be fulfilled on earth, with the result that God’s will is accomplished. It is directed at individuals, so they will fulfill their “prophetic purpose”, and at the world in general, so God’s desires can be accomplished.
However, I am of the view that it is in conflict with the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 6, which explicitly states that Christians should submit to God’s will. It does not, in any way, state that believers have special powers to actualise God’s will. God’s plan, the Bible says, will come to pass in His own time. “What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do” (Isaiah 46:11).
For a prophet to demand that a woman gets married before the end of the year or for God’s judgment to fall on evil doers before the end of the month, for example, is plainly arrogant if not blasphemous.
Christians engaging in prophetic prayer, in my book, are treating the will of God as secondary, perhaps tertiary. They are followers of those who think they can command God and He must obey. Teachers of prophetic prayers are of the belief that they do not just possess the ability to predict what will happen, but also think they can actually bring into existence what is predicted.
I reject the notion that “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10) commands believers to demand God’s will because the Bible declares that God alone decides when, where, and how He will act. What I think believers are required to do is pray for Him to act according to His perfect will and timing, not according to theirs.
Teachers of prophetic prayer also appear to believe that if someone is seeking an answer to a prayer, God may urge a prophet to pray prophetically, so the prayer will be answered. The Bible, from the little I know, does not teach that the answer to a believer’s prayers is not dependent on a “prophet”. It recognizes only one mediator between God and man-Jesus.
Those conflating prayers with prophecies and hawking prophetic prayers, I think, are exploiting believers, particularly Africans, who view religious functionaries as people with supernatural abilities to intervene in life’s turmoil caused by spiritual forces. Many large ministries have been built on the successful exploitation of this belief, with preachers getting the big head because they think they are an oracle or “God’s General”.