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“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24)
I absolutely love what this drawing represents! It was inspired out of powerful times I have had in “prophetic worship”.
When we worship the Lord in spirit and truth we come into the glorious presence of God. Just like the Word and prayer, God has used worship as an avenue to reveal himself to me–the priceless treasures of his character, wisdom and ways (Psalm 103:7). God is a priceless treasure chest, and when we pursue him with all our hearts there will always be deeper beauties about him which we will discover. This is why I am so excited about worship, particularly prophetic worship. As the vital union between the Spirit of truth (John 16:13) and the Word of truth (John 17:17) is upheld, prophetic worship becomes a powerful avenue to come to know and experience God ever more intimately.
Because the church is so large and diverse, there are many who have not experienced nor even heard of “prophetic worship” before, even though it is a Biblical form of worship mentioned in various places throughout the Word of God. It is impossible for me to explain this drawing and the inspiration behind it to those who are unfamiliar with it. Therefore, I have included some background information about prophetic worship in order to be able to explain my drawing. I have broken it down into 5 parts:
I) WHAT IS PROPHETIC WORSHIP?
II) WHAT HAPPENS DURING PROPHETIC WORSHIP?
III) THE DRAWING EXPLAINED
IV) EXAMPLES OF PROPHETIC WORSHIP
“Prophetic Worship”, which is sometimes called “Free Worship”, “Spontaneous Worship” or “Davidic Worship” is a very broad, loose term. It carries different connotations to different groups of people. This drawing is about my personal connotation of what prophetic worship is. Personally, I see prophetic worship as a particular strain of Holy Spirit-led, Holy Spirit-filled, Holy Spirit-prompted worship (worship which is in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24)).
I) WHAT IS PROPHETIC WORSHIP?
The Scriptures say that it was a normal part of worship which David instituted at the temple in Israel:
“David, together with the commanders of the army, set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals. Here is the list of the men who performed this service:…As for Jeduthun, from his sons: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah and Mattithiah, six in all, under the supervision of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied, using the harp in thanking and praising the LORD.” (1 Chronicles 25:1,3)
Even before David’s time we are told there were bands of prophetic worshipers:
“As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person.” (1 Samuel 10:5-6)
We are also told that the prophets Elisha (2 Kings 3:11-19) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 33:30-32) incorporated music into their prophetic ministries.
In the Scriptures, both the Father (John 4:23-24) and the Son (Revelation 5, Matthew 14:23) are worshipped. However, the Scriptures never record anyone worshiping the Holy Spirit, nor does the Word of God ever tell us to worship the Holy Spirit. Instead, the Scriptures say, “For it is we…who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 3:3). The Holy Spirit is the one by (or in) whom we worship. In other words, the Holy Spirit is the one who enables and moves us to worship the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is also the one who communicates the words of God (John 16:13-15) and reveals the will of God to us (1 Corinthians 2:6-16) (these are elements of the “prophetic”). The Holy Spirit is the one who enables us to prophesy.
Many churches pre-select a set of songs for each worship service and determine how many times they will sing through them beforehand. They provide a rigid, structured framework for worship services with the hope that people will be able to project heartfelt meaning into the lyrics which are presented before them. In contrast, “Free Worship” (out of which prophetic worship sometimes arises) has no rigid framework; instead, music becomes a backdrop for the people to sing their own, new songs which arise out of their hearts unto God. The Scriptures exhort us to: “Sing to the LORD a new song…” (Psalm 96:1). “Free worship”, therefore, is simply singing “a new song” unto the Lord spontaneously.
Jesus tells us, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). In essence, while the ‘traditional’ style of worship seeks to project the heart into what the mouth is already speaking (singing), free worship allows the heart to overflow with its own song and words. “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20).
One potential pitfall to the ‘traditional’ style of worship is that if the lyrics fail to engage the hearts of the worshipers, the words they sing become vain babbling (confer Matthew 6:7). ‘Worship’ then becomes an empty religious ritual in which God is not present and in which he is not pleased. “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men” (Isaiah 29:13).
When David established worship ministry in Israel, he incorporated both the ‘traditional’ style of worship by singing set songs (1 Chronicles 16) (Jesus also sang set hymns Matthew 26:30) as well as prophetic worship (1 Chronicles 25). Many of the Psalms are prophetic and most likely arose out of times of free, prophetic worship. David is perhaps the most prominent Biblical example of a ‘free worshiper’ and a ‘prophetic worshiper’.
In Psalm 144:9-10, David sang a “new song” which overflowed from a grateful heart over what God was personally doing in his life at the time, “I will sing a new song to you, O God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you, to the One who gives victory to kings, who delivers his servant David from the deadly sword” (Psalm 144:9-10). This captures the idea behind “free worship”.
When we pray, we normally just pour out our hearts to God instead of exclusively praying set prayers. If this is our approach in prayer then why not take the same approach in worship? It is not about the outward form of our worship; it is about the heart for, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
The Hebrew word for “prophesying” is “naba” (Strong’s H5012) (taken from 1 Chronicles 25:1, in the context of prophetic worship). It means, “…to cause to bubble up, hence to pour forth words abundantly, as is done with those who speak with ardour or divine emotion of mind”. This definition strikes closer to my looser personal connotation of prophetic worship. I view prophetic worship as Holy-Spirit led and inspired worship; that is, the Holy Spirit causes praise and worship to bubble up and overflow out of our hearts and off our lips unto God. Sometimes within this setting, prophetic words come forth. As prophecy comes forth it is not always “worship” by the strictest definition. Rather, in an environment of “prophetic worship”, worship can be the overall backdrop while the gift of prophecy begins to operate. These prophecies are ‘threads’ which are sung or spoken into the overall tapestry of worship, which may include praise, thanksgiving, adoration, proclamation and exaltation, etc.
In my personal experience the vast majority of genuine prophetic words during prophetic worship are either direct quotations of Scripture, paraphrased Scripture or small phrases which allude to Scriptures. Sometimes they come as basic phrases or metaphors which exemplify Scriptural principles. While genuine prophecy may not always be a direct quotation of Scripture, it will NEVER run in contradiction to the Scripture. Genuine prophetic words are spoken as specific “words in season” and therefore carry the dynamic, life-giving power of the quickened word of God. If it is a genuine prophecy specifically meant for you, then it will always have this effect on you (See 1 Corinthians 14:24-25, Hebrews 4:12-13, Jeremiah 23:29), although not always instantaneously.
Furthermore, the living and active word of God (such as spoken in prophecy) never fails to transform people (Isaiah 55:10-11).
“But if…someone…comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’” (1 Corinthians 14:24-25)
When it is genuine prophecy it will make an impact on us, and we will know that it is the Word of the Lord (1 Corinthians 14:24-25). Sometimes it is difficult for others to see immediate outward results, as the Word of God often comes like a double-edged scalpel that performs heart surgery deep on the inside of us. Nevertheless, the rain and snow which watered the earth months ago will eventually yield buds, then seeds for the sower somewhere down the track.
Furthermore, wherever the Holy Spirit is present, so is his fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) as well as his ministry to glorify Jesus (John 16:14), to guide us into all truth (John 16:13) and to transform our characters to be Christlike (Romans 8:29). Just as genuine prophecy carries the living, active power of the Word of God, so also the genuine works of the Holy Spirit (who distributes prophetic words) will be evidenced by the fruit it bears in us. The Word of God is our “Field Guide” which helps us identify different spirits by their fruit. One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:23) and the Word says that, “…the spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:31-32). When the Holy Spirit brings forth prophetic words through his people, though they may be spoken with “ardour or divine emotion of mind”, they will never be uncontrollable (ecstatic) or cause the speaker or the listeners to lose control. Lastly the Holy Spirit is Holy, and his genuine works and prophetic words will always display that holiness and, likewise, work his holiness within us.
II) WHAT HAPPENS DURING PROPHETIC WORSHIP?
Sometimes prophetic worship takes the form of a loving conversation between the Bride and the Bridegroom, just like in Song of Songs. The Holy Spirit inspires the Bride with words of worship for her Bridegroom, and the Holy Spirit prophetically speaks the Bridegroom’s words to his Bride. The result is a loving, passionate, very alive form of worship where we are engaging with God and he is engaging with us. We express our hearts to him, and he communicates and reveals his heart to us. This kind of worship is reminiscent to the kind of love expressed in Song of Songs in that it is spontaneous, free-flowing and “bubbles forth” from the lovers with “ardour” (like the definition of “naba”, the Hebrew word for “prophesying”).
At times prophetic worship may carry with it an anointing for other things such as healing or deliverance. For example, there was a season in my life where I was very broken and hurting. I also felt distant from God, like he was unconcerned about me. I was struggling in my walk with him, and I desperately longed to get back into that place of being sound and strong in my spirit again. I attended a prophetic worship meeting at that time and began praying through these issues as the others were worshiping. As I was pouring out my heart to God one of the worship leaders began to prophetically sing, “And I will soar on eagles’ wings”. As she sang this prophetic word over and over again, the Holy Spirit immediately began to wash his Word over me:
“Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God’? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:27-31)
This prophetic word immediately penetrated deep into my heart like a double-edged sword. God was not aloof or unconcerned about me! He was speaking directly to me and was answering my prayers! I received deep emotional healing at that time, and a significant foundation was laid that morning which set me on a course to being sound and strong in my spirit again. The Lord did this privately in my heart through prophetic worship.
Interestingly, however, when I spoke with others about the meeting, they also testified how that the same prophetic word came with dynamic power and healing that was unique to their own lives. There was obviously an anointing for corporate healing during that time of prophetic worship and on that specific prophetic word.
Sometimes the Lord physically heals through prophetic worship as well. One of my best friends, who was in extremely severe nerve pain in her spine, which even the highest doses of morphine could no longer touch, experienced miraculous pain relief as the Holy Spirit washed over her through simple a cappella prophetic worship. The Lord sovereignly did what the doctors and medicine could not do! Praise the Lord!
The Lord does far more than just heal (Isaiah 61:1-3). Among other things, he also delivers his people from their enemies. King Saul experienced relief from an evil spirit as David worshiped on his harp (1 Samuel 16:14-23). Likewise on a number of occasions I have seen the Lord powerfully deliver people of demonic oppression during times of prophetic worship. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
Because prophetic worship is purpose-driven (to worship and seek God, his heart and his will, and to follow him wherever he goes (Revelation 14:4)), free and prophetic worship provide a great atmosphere for the Holy Spirit to speak and to move freely how he sovereignly chooses. The Lord has his own agenda, plans and purposes he wants to achieve, and he most often chooses surrendered vessels through which he will accomplish them. The Lord wants to use us!
Nothing opened my eyes and drove home this point to me like the following experience:
(I have found that when a group of believers is of one heart, mind and spirit (Philippians 2:1-2), sometimes the Lord will pour out his Holy Spirit upon the whole group (confer Acts 2, Psalm 133). In the context of prophetic worship, I have found that sometimes those who are not normally prophetically gifted become prophetically gifted because God has poured out a prophetic anointing upon the whole assembly (this happened in 1 Samuel 10:1-11 and Numbers 11:24-29). When I have been in this kind of situation, I am amazed at how much more prophetic I become and how the Lord moves the whole assembly together as one in the spirit of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:24-25). This is part of what happened during the following experience:)
One night there were about a hundred of us gathered in prophetic worship. After we had been worshiping the Lord for about a half an hour, an impression distinctly came to me that God was the God of the Hebrews, the God of Israel, the God of the Jews, even though nothing we had been singing about or doing had related to Israel. My eyes had been shut the whole time, but when I opened them I noticed there was a woman waving Israel’s flag directly over my head. I thought that was interesting considering my impression and the fact she had about 20+ other banners to choose from. Within a minute after that, a prophetically gifted man took the microphone and began to prophesy saying that he believed the Lord wanted us to intercede for Israel.
I shut my eyes again, knowing that the Lord was leading us down a direction of interceding for Israel. When I began to seek the Lord about what he wanted me to pray I began to get a vision (and I don’t get visions very often, but I attribute this to the corporate prophetic anointing that had come upon us during worship). I saw a dreadful vision of bones and dead bodies; this was accompanied by a horrible impression of death and dread (like Abraham, Genesis 15:12). As I was waiting on the Lord to give me an interpretation of the vision, the man got back up on stage and voiced something similar to the impression I was getting and said, “I believe the Lord wants us to intercede for the protection of Israel and for the safety of his people.”
With that, the Spirit of intercession came upon us corporately in power, just like he came upon Samson in power (Judges 14:19). Though by myself I would struggle to pray for Israel 5 minutes, the Spirit came upon us so strongly that we spent the next 60-90 minutes in fervent prayer for Israel (under a prophetic worship backdrop the whole time). I then understood the meaning of my vision. The dreadfulness of the death and destruction I saw is what fueled my fire to intercede for Israel’s protection, for I did not want see my vision become reality.
For me personally (and a couple others I talked to later) not a single moment was contrived or forced in human strength, rather, it was all fervency in the Spirit of the Lord.
(*Nothing in the Holy Spirit is ever forced or contrived. We never have to strive, for it is always him doing the work, not us. Striving, etc., are works of the flesh, the exact things the prophets of Baal did in attempts to summon up the presence and power of their ‘god’ in 1 Kings 18:26-29. Let us never follow the example of the pagans. Instead, let us wait on the Lord, apart from whom we can do absolutely nothing (John 15:5)).
This deep intercession for Israel happened on another occasion as well. After one of these times the newspaper headlines read the next morning that a major attack against Israel had been foiled. Many in the meeting attributed that to the intercession the night before. While only God knows for certain, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case! “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16 NKJV). When the Holy Spirit is truly inspiring and moving us, it is never going to be without effect, of that we can be sure!
This experience really opened my eyes to see God’s heart. We have the tremendous privilege of being involved in God’s redemptive plan for this world. We have the extraordinary honor of being chosen as vessels through which he will achieve his eternal plans and purposes. It is all about God and his heart, not us.
How many fellowship assemblies, I lamented after my experience this night, have I been a part of where we have not been men and women after God’s own heart? How many times have we approached God in worship, but not acceptably according to what he has said, as surrendered living sacrifices (which is our spiritual act of worship, as it says in Romans 12:1-2). How many times of intercession have we failed to enter into? How many more things has God wanted to say to us? How many more things did he want to do through us, but we have missed out on them because we were unsurrendered and inattentive to his voice? How many times have our highly structured worship services and time schedules ‘restricted’ God from speaking and doing all that was on His heart to do? How has our lack of surrender, worship and freedom in worship affected the rest of the world?
“I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD.” (Ezekiel 22:30)
Over my years of experience in worship, one thing that consistently amazes me is just how eager God is to commune with us and how much he eagerly desires to reveal his heart to us….IF this is what we desire. I have found that when there is genuine humility, purity of heart and a communal desire to worship in spirit and truth, then God is always quick to presence himself amongst his people. However, when there is pride, idolatry, complacency, sin and divided hearts, ‘worship’ is often reduced to nothing more than empty, dead, religious rituals (Isaiah 1:10-17) or arduous striving in the flesh that goes nowhere and fails to touch the heart of God.
In addition to intercession, sometimes the Lord may also move us into times of spiritual warfare during prophetic worship. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). Praise is inherently warfare whether we are conscious of it or not (2 Chronicles 20:1-30, Psalm 8:2, Psalm 149) because praise is declaring and believing the truth of who God is. Truth exposes and defeats all lies and leaves the Deceiver, the Father of lies (John 8:44), no place in our midst. The presence of the Lord drives away all darkness for, “…thou art holy, O thou who inhabitest the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22:3 KJV).
King David is one of the greatest prophetic worshipers and prophetic songwriters of all time; he was also a mighty warrior. He understood the nature of prophetic worship–that it is wafare. Therefore David did not consult the talent agencies but rather the commanders of his army when selecting those he was going to appoint to the ministry of prophetic worship. “David, together with the commanders of the army, set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals” (1 Chronicles 25:1).
King Jehoshaphat was another man who knew the power of worship in warfare (see 2 Chronicles 20:1-30). This renowned story embodies the Scripture, “The voice of the LORD will shatter Assyria; with his scepter he will strike them down. Every stroke the LORD lays on them with his punishing rod will be to the music of tambourines and harps, as he fights them in battle with the blows of his arm” (Isaiah 30:31-32).
For more on becoming a vessel for doing God’s perfect will, please see:
Listen to a powerful song about learning to pray God’s perfect will (and a small example of ‘free worship’ and ‘prophetic worship’ at the end):
III) THE DRAWING EXPLAINED
In my drawing the dove represents the Holy Spirit. The colors represent both worship and also the full spectrum of the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the body of believers. The seven eagles represent the “complete” number of prophetic worshipers and prophetic worship leaders. These seven eagles each carry different colors of the Holy Spirit’s ‘spectrum’ of prophetic worship and ministrations. Some may be carrying an anointing for praise and exaltation, others prophecy, intercession, deliverance, worship, adoration, healing, warfare, etc. These seven eagles also represent seven vessels for the seven spirits (or sevenfold Spirit) of God (Revelation 1:4) to fill, that the fullness of God’s Spirit may go forth through them. They are soaring on the breath of the Holy Spirit, each carrying what has been given to them in order that they might distribute it for the edification of the body of believers (1 Corinthians 12-14) and that they may carry the presence of God into the darkness of this world.
IV) EXAMPLES OF PROPHETIC WORSHIP
Those who come from non-charismatic church backgrounds may be a little wary, apprehensive or skeptical of “the prophetic”. Those who have never experienced anything supernatural before may be unsure or afraid of God moving in such ways. I completely understand, for this is the way I was before my first encounter with the supernatural (and I still am very cautious in discernment when it comes to anything supernatural).
After I got saved, I joined a conservative church and was not exposed to anything charismatic. When I first heard someone praying in tongues (Acts 2, 1 Corinthians 14) in a prayer meeting at a house church not associated with with my regular church, I was stunned! Even though I believed from the Scriptures that tongues existed, this was my first ever encounter with the supernatural. Immediately all my walls went up. Though in my mind I accepted tongues as being Scriptural, I was still very wary because this was a side of God that I had never seen before. I was dumbfounded and didn’t know what I should think or what was ‘safe’. I felt I needed to completely investigate this tongues issue before I would accept it as being of God…or before I would think of embracing it myself.
Being a new Christian, my friends took me through the Scriptures, explaining the gift of tongues to me. As I kept an open heart and an open Bible (Acts 17:11), the Lord began to reveal himself to me as a God of supernatural power. This is exactly the way it should be, for, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the same God of power as we read about 2000 years ago. Becoming convinced through the Scriptures and the evidence of God’s good gift before my eyes, I began to ask the Lord that he would also give me the gift of tongues, for I now understood the purpose of the gift and could clearly see the advantages of having that gift.
Shortly after this I was highly exalting God in free worship, and in a single instant, my English praises turned into (what I discovered a couple years later to be) fluent Aramaic and Hebrew (in addition to a few other unknown languages 1 Corinthians 13:1), and I was overjoyed! The gift of tongues has been such a beneficial gift in my life ever since (1 Corinthians 14:4), more than I ever could have imagined. I also praised God for revealing his supernatural side to me, for it was my first taste of many more good things to come on this new road with my supernatural God.
Just like the gift of tongues, to those who have never been exposed to the prophetic before, it may seem a little strange at first. For those of you who are skeptical, I would encourage you to investigate it for yourself through the Scriptures, and ask the Lord to give you understanding of whatever you don’t understand.
About a third of the Old Testament is poetry/prose, and much of this occurs in the prophetic books. Prophetic scripture is often figurative and sometimes uses metaphors and other figures of speech in order to communicate its message. Jesus often employed parables to both reveal and conceal spiritual truth (See Matthew 13:10-17). Naturally, prophetic worship often follows this poetic and metaphoric pattern.
To get the most benefit from prophetic worship we need to allow the Lord to open our hearts to receive the spiritual truth which lies underneath these poetic or metaphoric words. Sometimes revelation may come awhile after we have heard the prophecy. Open hearts are the only ones that can receive. We really need to listen with the ears of our spirit more than with our physical ears (Matthew 13:14).
The following are a few examples of prophetic worship:
The first example is from Jason Upton (my favorite worship leader). This is an example of free (spontaneous) worship which, some may say, turns into a prophetic song:
One of the most powerful live recordings of Jason Upton in spontaneous, prophetic worship is “Fly”. The first time I heard it, I thought it was quite a strange song and didn’t understand it, but the more I listened to it, the more I understood it and the more God used it to powerfully impact me spiritually…again and again and again. The song is about having an ‘aerial view’ (heavenly perspective) and getting out of earthly mindsets (trying to slog out our spiritual battles with our own human strength) by soaring in God’s presence and in spiritual victory above our struggles on earth. It is greater revelation and belief in God’s Word and greater revelation of God’s heavenly perspective, (“seeing what God sees”, “hearing what God hears” and “knowing what God knows”) (the TRUTH) that sets us free from the sins and battles we struggle with on earth.
The following video set is an excellent worship session (just under 60 minutes) with worship leader Jason Upton. It features some of his most-loved songs as well as bit of free and prophetic worship sprinkled throughout. While the examples above are “excerpts” of prophetic worship, this worship session flows naturally from start to finish and one can get a better sense of how free and prophetic worship naturally arise. I periodically come back to this worship set because it always deeply ministers to me, particularly the latter half.
There are many other good (and counterfeit) examples of prophetic worship on You Tube. May God give us spiritual discernment!
“Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22)