God is concerned for the character of the prophet as he is for the truth of his word.
God is more concerned about the purity of his Prophets, than the accuracy of their prophecies: He values the men and women themselves and their motives as much as their message and ministry (Dr Bill Hamon - Prophets Pitfalls and Principles).
There are several pitfalls, which prophets, young and old, must be careful to avoid.
A Critical and Harsh Spirit
Prophets have high standards. They see things in black and white. This can sometimes result in the prophet being over critical, which makes their words seem harsh, even if they are true. If we enjoy giving hard words we may have a critical spirit.
If we find it easy to give negative words, then we have no understanding of the grace and goodness of God (Graham Cooke - Developing Your Prophetic Gifting p.76).
Kiwis have a preponderance of the prophetic gifting. But the downside of that is our propensity to judge others. Moreover we tend to judge others in the areas of our own weaknesses.
Sin produces in our heart a critical, negative spirit, which makes us despise whole categories of people. But the sin we hate the most in others, we are sensitised to by our own guilt. We are measured by our own value judgements of others, and our criticisms of them reveal what we really do not know about ourselves (John Dawson - The Sin of Unrighteous Judgement).
Frustration and bitterness
All prophets experience rejection, if their words are not always accepted and obeyed. If this happens frequently, the prophet can become frustrated, and frustration can lead to bitterness. Words spoken out of frustration and bitterness will be contaminated by these things and will not come out pure. This is one of the most serious problems faced by prophets. They must learn to deal with rejection without going into frustration and bitterness.
Frustration is an enemy to the prophetic ministry. It will always colour our thinking, infect the word we have, and give us a jaundiced perspective on the life of the church. If we are to represent God's heart and be good servants, we must learn to master our frustration (Graham Cooke - Developing Your Prophetic Gifting p.78).
Dwelling on past rejections will keep us self-centred instead of Christ centred, which will obviously cause a distortion in our vision (Rick Joyner - The Prophetic Ministry).
The Prophetic Ministry often places the prophet in extreme situations with high stakes: success or failure, acceptance or rejection, vindication or humiliation, life or death. When great success results, victories are won and great revival takes place, the prophet usually expects leadership to appreciate his or her prophetic words and powerful performances. Yet often such leadership reacts instead as Queen Jezebel did - not only with rejection, but with threats of destruction. Consequently the prophet may grow discouraged.
Prophets reach the bottom of this pit of despair by descending steps, beginning with disappointment. If the situation is not immediately adjusted with a proper attitude, such disappointment will lead next to discouragement, then resentment, self pity, a persecution complex, and anger. The final step for prophets who climb down into this pit is a bitter and hard critical spirit that causes them to be a law unto themselves, with such a spirit of rejection that no one can reach them in their self delusion (Dr Bill Hamon - Prophets Pitfalls and Principles).
If, as the prophetic person involved, we move out of a sense of frustration with events, or rejection in the ministry, then it is easier to prophesy our own opinions. Also we must ensure that we are not living with any negative influences over our own lives that can infect the prophetic word Leaders too can be at fault in this area. There is a need to care for our prophetic people, to give them love, accurate feedback, loving kindness and a framework of discipleship (Graham Cooke - Developing Your Prophetic Gifting p.97).
I have seen a phenomena among God's people. I have seen that the prophets with the clearest vision and highest call are those that the enemy isolates and desires to overcome with bitterness, rejection and a critical spirit. Some of the most influential prophetic people in my life carried an edge of bitterness, that if not tamed with brokenness, threatened, and in some cases shipwrecked the person. The travesty is that many of these people have been ridiculed and driven from the very church to which they were called to be a voice and watchman (Kris Couchey - Bitter Prophets).
Prophetic people are especially susceptible to rejection. This rejection can lead to bitterness, negativism, and self-pity - all things that make prophetic people useless for the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Jack Deere Surprised - By the Voice of God p.205).
Prophetic ministers seem to have more disappointment with God than the average person. They often see clearly how things should be or how God plans for them to be. But they have to wait in faith for a longer time because they have seen further ahead. They are much more prone to the Proverbs 13:12 difficulty: "Hope deferred makes the heart sick." Because their expectations are typically higher, they are more deeply disappointed. Every time Jeremiah opened his mouth he got in trouble. He was perplexed, he was ridiculed, and he wanted to quit. Nevertheless, the word of the Lord was like a fire burning within him, and he could not hold it back (Jer 20:9). Some of that pain comes with the calling (Mike Bickle - Growing in the Prophetic p.130).
I empathise with prophets speaking an unpopular word that comes from God's own heart, and being rejected. What a devastating experience for a prophet. We feel God's grief personally, because that is the way God has made us. Rejection for a prophet is like torture! (Andrew Strom).
In rejection we must open our hearts so that the love of God can flow in. Most prophetic people feel rejected because they do not have any relationships of worth and value" (Graham Cooke - Developing Your Prophetic Gifting p.78).
Bitterness is presented in the Bible as a kind of sharp, pungent poison. It's like bitter bile. This is why avoiding offense and an offended nature are so important. These traps often inject the bile of bitterness into whomever they capture and leave them tainted and defiled. When someone's spirit is tainted, everything that flows from their spirit is tainted. Prophets are particularly susceptible to his both because of the hard path they have usually had to walk and because the anointing on them is often so strong. The power of the anointing can often amplify what is in their hearts, making a bitter heart a putrefying experience for all who hear them (Stephen L Mansfield - Pastoring the Prophetic).
Given the path that most prophets have had to walk, both as Christians and before, there is usually an exceptional need for attending to issues of wounding and bitterness. If these aren't addressed, the prophet will likely gravitate to an isolated, critical, and hardened condition of heart that can quench the prophetic fire. If these issues are addressed successfully, however, there can be a greater love and wholeness and thus a clearer prophetic flow than ever (Stephen L Mansfield - Pastoring the Prophetic).
A cave seems to be a safe place, but it is not a dwelling place. The Body of Christ is full of wounded prophets who went into a cave and dwelt there. (Janet Chambers - Cave Dweller or Tower Dweller)
Prophetic people often get angry with those who do not receive their words, when the real problem is that the message was not spoken clearly. The prophetic person may have been given a truth to share, but if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, no one will respond. The hard truth for prophetic people to swallow is that an unclear word is a dead word.
Praise from friends and people who have already received the word does not mean much. We are all receptive to words that confirm our own views. The real test of a word is whether it is clear to those challenged by it.
Taking rejection as a sign that a word was true is dangerous, because this is not always the case. Rejection often occurs because the word was not clear, and sometimes because it was not true.
Prophets must be constantly looking at the way they presented their message. They should hone their words, so they can present a clearer warning.
Prophets usually lead lives that are extremely righteous. They can easily take on the spirit of the Pharisees, who felt good, because they could see the sins of other people. Pride is very destructive of prophetic ministry.
The arrogant cannot stand in your presence (Psalm 5:5).
Another trap into which I commonly see prophetic people fall is the desire to be awesome in ministry, to be "a prophet to the nations." This is exactly opposite of the true Spirit of prophecy (Rev 19:10). Prophecy is meant to testify to the awesomeness of Jesus, not to the prophetic ministry (Jack Deere Surprised by the Voice of God p.207).
Why does God have to deal so strongly with those who are prophetic? For one thing, they are so stubborn! For another, they are more prone to pride (Cindy Jacobs - The Voice of God p.59).
Prophets must avoid the trap of pushing their name forward. This pushiness often comes from frequent rejection, but must be rejected. Prophets must be servants of God's word. Their only concern should be that God's word is heard. If the word is heard, it does not matter if the prophet is forgotten. Prophets are human, so this is easier to say than to live. When a prophet hears a word he brought being quoted with the vague words, "I think this came through a young man who lived in the south", his heart will often scream for his name to be mentioned. This feeling is human, but is dangerous for the prophet, because it is rooted in pride, and pride kills prophecy. Prophets must struggle to quiet their hearts and be content if the word they spoke is being heard.
Many prophetic people get in touch with their giftings long before they cultivate the corresponding wisdom, humility and character that is necessary to succeed in prophetic ministry. In the beginning, they may appear arrogant or pushy because of their zeal. As years go by, their pushiness usually increases because of fear, hurt and rejection. The average person who has been in prophetic ministry for 10 years is pretty beat up and bruised. This is especially true if the prophetic gift was active in their early years. By the time they are 40 or 59 they are often very guarded and suspicious of authority figures (Mike Bickle - How Pastors Relate to Prophets).
Some people are attempting to build enough credibility to insure they won't be rejected. Since building clout is so important to many prophets, there is the temptation to push hard to get credit for having accurately heard from God figures (Mike Bickle - How Pastors Relate to Prophets).
Prophets must take on the ministry attitude of the Spirit of Christ, which does not demand the right of self-promotion and self-preservation (Dr Bill Hamon - Prophets Pitfalls and Principles p.49).
Pride often leads to rebellion. Rebellion is terribly crippling for a prophet. It is the moral equivalent of witchcraft (1 Sam 15:23).
I believe that many prophetic people (like myself) do have problems with "rebellion". They seem to rub leaders the wrong way almost by design sometimes. And then they develop a "persecution complex" or slink off wallowing in self-pity. I have done all of this and more. In times past I have found myself sitting in the "gate" like rebellious Absalom, subtly speaking words against the leadership and growing my own reputation thereby. Rebellion is the most insidious sin, and when you begin to see how much it dominates our world, and how ingrained it is in us, it is a real eye-opener.
I have found that it is only when you have dealt with Rebellion that you can trust yourself to speak only God's word to a leader. Rebellion can greatly affect the words we bring to leaders, and yet many prophets seem to hardly know they have a problem in this area. I can look back now and I wince at the influence of Rebellion over my words and actions in the past. But God does cleanse and heal. Often now I see the Pastor's point of view - that of a leader and responsible shepherd, when unwise prophets arrive looking for something or someone to 'target'. So-called "prophets" like this are a curse, not a blessing.
God is dealing with Rebellion now. If you can't sit under authority today, you will be a pain in the neck to tomorrow's leaders too. Deal with your rebellion now, or miss out. It's that simple. I believe a lot of problems could be caused by roaming "lone ranger prophets" in the coming move of God - even worse than today. Tell me friend, do you have the makings of being just such a "lone ranger"?? (Andrew Strom).
Our democratic society is a breeding ground for insubordination. Because of this we have lost sight of what it means to submit to authority. True submission never wavers. Yet today we only submit when we agree. If authority goes against our will or direction, we disobey or grudgingly go along with it until a better option presents itself. This makes us especially vulnerable to deception and the counterfeit prophetic ministry (John Bevere Thus Saith the Lord p.125).
Control and Manipulation
The Jezebel spirit uses manipulation and control to achieve results. It is the opposite and the enemy of the prophetic ministry. Prophets must avoid all temptation to "help" the fulfilment of their words by manipulating people.
Steer clear of the "Three C's" Condemnation, Control, and Criticism. These have to stay out of our prophecy. We need to root out the three C's ruthlessly in our words, in our thought life, in our actions. Don't give them a place. Don't pray them, don't think them, and don't speak them. Then they won't get into the prophecy (http://www.africaprophecy.co.za/2prophets.htm).
Every church that embraces a prophetic ministry will have to contend with the Jezebel spirit because it mimics the prophetic gifts and callings of God. This spirit comes to destroy the prophetic gift. Consequently, since it works covertly, its activities are extremely treacherous (John Paul Jackson - Unmasking the Jezebel Spirit p.123).
The prophetic spirit is not worried about the timing of the prophetic word. It links with the heart of God and declares his heart. Be patient, stay with God, stay with his heart (Wesley Chambers).
Misuse of Power
God gifts are irrevocable (Rom 11:29). This means that prophets can misuse their gift. Elijah and the rude children is an example. The scriptures do not say that Elijah's behaviour as correct. They just record the incident. Elijah was not perfect, he just did his best with the knowledge that he had. With knowledge of Jesus and his teaching, it is clear that Elijah misused his gifting. The boys who mocked him were irrelevant. He should have just turned the other cheek and ignored them.
James and John acted in the same way when they wanted to call down fire from heaven on those who opposed them. Jesus warned that they were acting in the wrong spirit. I think he would have said the same to Elijah. Prophets must not use their gifting to protect their role or their reputation.
Prophets can often become jealous of other ministries that seem to receive much more honour and acceptance. Jealousy can prevent us from hearing clearly.
Men who have not mastered glory get easily offended at others. We get "this stinging bitterness" inside of us when we have not died to glory. We will only have menial success in life and ministry with this hindering spirit still raging on the inside. It will cause a jealousy to build on the inside of you. It will make you feel good when others "ministry does not work." It will make you feel the "I am the one who can do this". "I am the one"! "I am the one"! Dying to Glory is the hardest death to die (Elijah list - Dying To Glory 12/2/01).
Prophetic people need to have the fear of the Lord operating in their lives much more than others (Cindy Jacobs - The Voice of God p.68).
John Paul Jackson warns that prophets need to be ver careful about sexual temptations.
Any ministry can fall prey to any sin, but prophetic people seem to be especially prone to sexual sin. Perhaps one reason is because of the heightened sensitivity that comes with the prophetic gift. While prophetic individuals can "feel" the movement of the Holy Spirit, but they can also feel the torment of demonic spirits that attack them through others.
Sometimes a prophetic person will begin to discern and feel what someone is tormented with. If the prophetic individual is lax in their time spent with the Lord, it will become increasingly difficult to differentiate between their own feelings and those coming from other people.
The second reason stems from various roots of rejection. In many cases, prophetic individuals have experienced rejection so often that they harbour deep feelings of insecurity. Subsequently, they also can harbour pride at doing something others may never have had the opportunity to experience. This pride becomes a driving force that opens the door to deception. Furthermore, they are prone to receive the acceptance of others with open arms, without maintaining an attitude of vigilance. Thus, a prophetic person who has not developed the characteristic of restraint becomes "open prey" for demonic torment and attraction (John Paul Jackson).
Some prophets are so worried about their mistakes that they refuse to admit them. No one is right 100 percent of the time.
Sometimes a prophetic person has a hard time admitting a mistake because he or she thinks it would ruin their credibility. Usually just the opposite happens. Rationalising or failing to admit our mistakes is what usually ruins credibility. People trust people who say they were wrong (Jack Deere Surprised By the Voice of God p.208).
Prophetic ministers must guard against self deception, self justification and improper motivation (Dr Bill Hamon - Prophets Pitfalls and Principles p.59).
Calling Out Sins Publicly
Prophets should not publicly accuse individuals of sin. The gospel provides guidelines for dealing with Christians who sin. They should first be spoken to in private.
If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector (Matthew 18:15-17)
Many prophetic folks begin to take themselves too seriously, or they love the feeling of having such influence over others. They are tempted to make themselves look and sound more spiritual, holy and sensitive than they really are. I encourage them to throw a cloak over their prophetic mystique and deliberately refuse to utilise it to gain favour, praise, opportunities, sympathy, trust, affection or money. Stay impressed with God and His power without becoming impressed with themselves (Mike Bickle - Growing in the Prophetic p.62).
Money can be a cause of blindness. Prophets should be careful about giving favourable words to those who provide them with financial support. Generally, it is better if prophets can be financially independent of the church and the community.
Materialism and money have always been a problem in prophetic ministry. Micah complained in his day, "This is what the Lord says: 'As for the prophets who lead my people astray, if one feeds them, they proclaim 'peace"; if he does not, they prepare to wage war against him" (Mic 3:5). When prophets succumb to the temptation to give good prophecies to those who treat them well and bad prophecies to those who don't show them special deference, then the Lord may cease speaking to any of the prophetic people (Jack Deere Surprised By the Voice of God p.209).
People pleasing is a killer for all ministry, and especially prophetic ministry. Prophetic people who tell people what they want to hear will lose touch with God (Gal 1:10; Ezek 13:2). A true prophet should not expect the praise of men (Luke 6:26), they will seek only the approval of God.
Human love can taint a word. Sometimes love blinds the prophet, causing him or her to give a good prophetic word when the Lord wanted to give a word of correction (Cindy Jacobs - The Voice of God p.186).
I could see the discontentment of the men and women who come to these services. Out of this has arisen the desire for what they think they lack in life. (Most often these are not needs but are nothing more than wants or lusts). This idolatry opens them up to receive words that speak directly to those wants or lusts and strengthens these desires or idols. All that is necessary for them to hear what they want is that they find "ministers" who are lacking in the area of the fear of God. These will be concerned with their reputation, appearance, growth, and agendas. They can be bought or persuaded with the right reward, thus they will speak to them in light of their desires rather by the faithful light of the Word of God (John Bevere Thus Saith the Lord p.76).
Few self proclaimed 'prophets' are anything more than teachers. I see too much of the man pleasing spirit everywhere. I have just preached a little on Samuel. Now there was a prophet. Are there any so-called prophets operating in the realm of Samuel? If any, I don't know of them, and have never heard of them. Are there self-proclaimed prophets around the world? They are more abundant than cent pieces, and yet just about every single one of them are more travelling teachers who couldn't prophecy themselves out of a paper bag (Ivan Poulter).
One of the greatest problems a young prophet or prophetess can have is an attitude of presumption (Cindy Jacobs - The Voice of God p.124).
Regardless of which ministry we are called to, we must not copy or emulate other people, but rather the One whose image we are called to bear. Schools for prophets may be helpful, but they will be counterproductive if they just bring forth "parrots", who all prophesy the same things (Rick Joyner - The Prophetic Ministry).
Confusing Wisdom and Prophecy
When reading many of the words on prophetic lists on the internet, it is hard to distinguish between human wisdom and true words from God. Many of the words have good applications of the scriptures and others provide good insight into what is happening in the world, but none seem to be very different from what would be heard in many Sunday sermons, of the pastor seeks the Lord about what he should say to his flock. Calling these words prophetic, not only devalues the meaning of the word prophetic, it makes it hard to dig out the genuine word from the Lord.
Most prophetic people have studied the scriptures for most of their lives. They usually have a passion for God's Kingdom and are keen observers of all that is going on in the world. This puts them in a good place to comment on what is happening in current events or to develop sound applications of the scriptures. Their wisdom is often be really insightful and worth sharing (often more relevant than the editorial writers who dominate the websites of news organisations), but it is not the word of the Lord, so it is misleading to label it prophetic.
A prophet must be able to distinguish between what they receive from the Lord and what comes from their own wisdom. If they are unable to do that, they are on a very slippery slope, which often leads to disaster. Prophets should be very clear about the source of their words. If a word comes from the Lord, the prophet should say so. If it a prophetic of their wisdom and experience, they should label it as wisdom. If they are not sure, it is better to be modest than to exalt their wisdom.
When prophets do not distinguish between their human wisdom and a word from the Lord, the word prophetic confusion follows. The true word from the Lord, which his people need to hear, gets lost in the "prophetic slush". The biblical prophets used everyday language and context to describe what they saw, but they were also very clear about what was a revelation from God and what was a description of their response or their experience.
Blindness to our Culture
The hardest thing for a prophet is to see the weakness and sins of their own society, culture or denomination. If we are attached to something, we can be blinded by it. A true prophet stands apart from their culture.
The late 20th century release of prophetic spirit into the world has been perhaps the greatest spiritual marvel of our times. Prophecy is an amazing phenomenon for the way it bridges two worlds at the same time. The burden of the prophetic is to bring the things of heaven to bear on the earth, to enforce the authority of the eternal over the temporal with a view to transforming the earthly to become like the heavenly. But with this burden comes a mandate. The mandate is this: before we can transform the earthly into the heavenly, we must first lose our love for the earthly. If we attempt to execute the prophetic burden upon earth's affairs without first losing our love for and identity in our culture, our spiritual gift and office becomes overpowered and subverted by our culture to reaffirm its own ways. The prophetic becomes a mouthpiece for the very powers behind culture which it has been dispensed to challenge and oppose. We become culture prophets (Chris Anderson, Little Flock - Culture Prophets).
If we attempt to execute the prophetic burden upon earth's affairs without first losing our love for and identity in our culture, our spiritual gift and office becomes overpowered and subverted by our culture to reaffirm its own ways. The prophetic becomes a mouthpiece for the very powers behind culture which it has been dispensed to challenge and oppose. We become unable to discern between the loves of John 3:16 and I John 2:15, deceived into believing that God's love for men and our love of culture are the same thing-- and their agendas as well. Now, as prophets of the culture, or "culture prophets," we begin prophesying to the glory of our culture--- our nations and our denominations, our government's policies and our society's passing fancies, our civic customs and our religious holidays--- believing we are indeed prophesying the true mind of the Lord and the true love of the Father to the world. We think we are executing God's will to transform the earthly into the image of the heavenly, but are only debasing heaven, lowering God to the image of the earthly (Chris Anderson Little Flock - Culture Prophets).