I was asked the other day, "When a well known prophet gives a national prophetic word and it ends up being completely wrong, how should the prophet address it?" Excellent question.
This strikes me as another way to ask the question, “Who is responsible for inaccurate prophetic words?”
If there was such a thing as an ideal world, everybody would take responsibility for their own stuff. But that doesn’t happen, and there are at least two ways that it doesn’t happen that make this a complicated question:
First, it has appeared that prophets with big public ministries don’t often take responsibility for their prophetic words. There are a few that DO take responsibility when they find out something was predicted correctly, but most don’t slow down enough to even recognize either when a word is fulfilled or when it’s proven inaccurate.
The other side is that I can’t really affect whether the national prophet will, in fact, acknowledge and respond to an errant prophecy. National prophets generally haven’t made themselves accountable to me, so my expectations have no real effect on their actions.
Second issue: so many prophetic declarations are worded in such a way (I make no statement about intent here: this is just the way it is) that it’s hard to clearly interpret and apply portions of the word, and therefore, it’s hard to judge the word (1 Corinthians 14:29). For example: the word is about an earthquake: but is it a literal, physical quake, or a metaphor for God shaking things up? And does a 3.4 quake that knocked a pencil off of a teacher’s desk somewhere qualify as fulfillment when we were all clearly expecting the earth to open swallow a region whole?
But let’s face it, the people receiving a prophetic word are more likely to be invested in the word than a prophet that’s travelling through, heading towards their next meeting. That’s not a criticism, it’s just recognizing how the “real world” interjects itself into the ideal.
This leads me to a third issue. I’ve long been an advocate of the concept that when a prophet gives me a word, it’s now MY word; it isn’t theirs anymore. And therefore I am the one who needs to take responsibility for that word: I need to nurture it, feed it, cherish it, and help it grow to fruition.
And I need to discern it. It certainly saves time and energy if I can successfully discern a word BEFORE I encounter the conditions stated in the word. I’d much rather recognize beforehand if a prophet was adding something of himself into the revelation, rather than wait till afterwards.
Note that it may not be the prophet that’s adding something to the word: it may be my own expectations. I met a woman who was praying for the death of her pastor’s wife. “But God said I could have anything I want! I want him, and she’s in his way!” And I’ve run into lots of prophecies that have been taken way beyond the original word that was spoken.
So yeah: if the prophet is aware of having given a word that turned out to be inaccurate, it would be appropriate for that prophet to take responsibility for the mistake, acknowledge it, and (how does one do this?) apologize to those who were misled by it.
But whether or not they take responsibility for a word that they’ve given to me (or to a group of which I’m a part), still I have responsibility for the word, which is now mine. I need to discern it (“judge it”) even if I’m late in doing that, and if it’s bogus, I need to toss it out.
I’ve done that with a lot of words recently. I find myself frustrated with a number of national and regional prophets who drop a prophetic bomb and move on, or who prophesy so vaguely that they are essentially mumbling gibberish in God’s name.
More than once, I’ve stood with a group of people (the prophet having never left their home, on the east coast, or wherever) and renounced a prophetic declaration that we’ve judged to be inaccurate, false, mistaken. Sure, it would be better if they did it. But if they don’t, then somebody needs to. I often find myself following these sessions up with prayers for the prophets whose work we were just correcting.