To hear some Christians talk you would think they had a “hot-line to God.” They are so convinced that God is in daily, direct communication with them, to suggest otherwise would be to compromise on the glorious intimacy that faith and grace bestow. So overweening is this confidence that rarely do they stop to ask:- “Am I hearing right? Is this God or Satan? Is this perhaps me talking to myself? There is no room for such doubts on the hotline. Moreover, if God is speaking so clearly to me should I not like the prophets open my mouth and tell others, “thus saith the Lord”? And if my hearers reject my word are they not rejecting the very Word of God Himself? And aren’t there terrible consequences for such rejection?
The logic is inexorable isn’t it? If I am the Lord’s anointed, you should take heed to what I say in his Name. If you do not you place your soul in peril. It is but short step here from this pride, this hubris, this prelest to the Jonestown massacre and every other craziness that emerges from the cults and sects who assume an infallibility that even the Pope never claims. It even infiltrates Orthodoxy in the rush of young and inexperienced monastics to become “elders” for sycophantic devotees, (usually of the opposite sex).
Against this we must set the standards of the Church for true prophecy which are:
1. Counsel must be in accordance with the Scriptures in Holy Tradition as interpreted by the Church not the alleged prophet.
2. In respect of foretelling the only test is retrospective in terms of previous utterances. Did these things come to pass? Even then, there is no guarantee that future pronouncements will be unalloyed by sin and pride.
3. Is the speaker living what he or she prophesies? In other words is he or she a servant or a manipulator, subtle or overt?
4. Is the prophecy received, tested and authenticated in the church? If not then flee from such a voice as from hell itself.
With this in mind we should not say that we have a “hotline to God” that rather that we have “an ordinary connection.” True, God speaks to us. He does answer our prayers, although not always in ways we would like. However, in this life our sin and laziness always generate “noise on the line.” Repentance deals with this interference progressively. We should therefore have a more measured sense of what we and others are able to hear. Sometimes it is the “Word of the Lord.” Sometimes it is not. Discernment is called for.