By Paul Christensen (Takanini, NZ)



To introduce this topic, let’s look at the vision that The Holy Spirit gave the Prophet Ezekiel:


3As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. 4He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. 5He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross. 6He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this?”  (Ezekiel 47:3-6, NIV).


The actual context of the passage is a vision to show that the river is a life-giving river that flows through the land which God has promised to the children of Israel.  The man with the measuring line is demonstrating how the land is going to be divided up among the tribes of Israel, as promised by the Lord.

Because the Word of God is a living entity, there are other subtexts that come out of it, so it would not be stretching the passage out of its original context to use it to explain a very important principle of how we step out in faith.  In fact, there has been a lot of good teaching coming out of this passage about how far we go in our dependence on Christ.   The instruction of our Lord in Luke 5:1, where He tells Peter to “Launch out into the deep” is similar in that the contextual meaning was for Peter to direct his boat into deeper water, in obedience to the Lord’s instruction, in order to catch a good load of fish.   The principle is that getting out from the safety of the shore, into deeper water, we are moving away from our foundations of self dependence and putting our lives into the hands of Christ.

So, the subtext principle of learning to swim in the Spirit is that we get out into the water and as soon as we get out of our depth, we are forced to swim, or we sink and drown.  This speaks of depending so much on Christ that we would fall badly if He was not there to support us.  This is also seen in the Lord’s instruction to Peter to get out of the boat (Matthew 14:29), and Peter, obeying the Lord got down out of the boat, in the middle of a storm, which takes extraordinary obedience and faith, and started to walk toward Jesus.  What he was doing was demonstrating his willingness to get out of his depth in order to obey the Word of the Lord.  He was not walking on the water as such, but on the Word of Jesus.

So, getting out of our depth in the things of the Spirit so that we depend completely on Christ, is a sound Scriptural principle, and therefore we can use the passage in Ezekiel quite happily to explain how we can apply it to the prophetic.


The Prophetic River


So, for the purposes of this article, we are going to see the river in Ezekiel as a prophetic river which brings life to the creatures that live in it, and to the trees that grow alongside it.  It reminds us of the Nile River in Egypt, where the most fertile and fruitful land runs alongside it.  So we see the prophetic as a life-giving river, which is seen clearly in what Jesus said to the woman at the well in John 7:38:

"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" (NASB).

The passage goes on to say that Jesus spoke of The Holy Spirit that believers in Him will receive.

Now that we have established that we have a good foundation in Scripture to view the prophetic as a river that contains living water, we can look at how far we can venture into that river and what are the effects on us as we go deeper, or whether we decide to stay at a particular level of involvement.  Notice that the man with the measuring line went into the river in front of Ezekiel.  He did not come from behind and push him out further than he was willing to go.   In the same manner, The Holy Spirit does not force us beyond our comfort zone; He invites and encourages us to go further and is patient with us while He waits for us to develop the faith and courage to “launch ourselves into the deep”.

The first thing we have to do is to recognise that the prophetic involves how God speaks to us, and how He works in the Church.  Once we know that it is God’s will for us to be involved in the prophetic, we take the first steps into the river.  Standing on the shore is equivalent to hearing about prophetic equipping meetings and coming along just to observe without being actually involved.  We are not going to progress any further into what God has for us in the prophetic until we are prepared to stop looking and wondering about the prophetic and get off the shore and get our feet wet in the river.


Up To Our Ankles


The first stage after getting into the river is that we are in the water up to our ankles.  Basically, we are paddling along the edges.  Little children paddling in the shadows depend on their parents watching them like hawks just in case they fall deeper into the river and get carried away by the current.

Involvement in the prophetic at the “ankle” level is very tentatively giving an encouraging word of prophecy every now and again when a person is put in the “hot seat”.  He would feel quite safe because there is the assurance that there is a loving, supportive, non-critical environment in which he can take a chance, give his encouraging word and then retreat back into the crowd, hoping not to be noticed too carefully.  A lot of believers who have never been previously exposed to the prophetic might stay at that level for quite a long time, because they need to grow in their confidence; but there is no time limit for that.  God is never in a hurry, and He is very patient toward those who wish to spend a lot of time making sure that they can give accurate and helpful words.

Up To Our Knees


The next level is to move out to where the water is up to the knees.  The part of the body that moves the legs forward are the knees.  This part of the body is essential for forward motion.  When then living water hits the knees, this propels the believer to venture further into the prophetic.  He might go from giving just verses of Scripture and very simple, generalised words, to giving more specific words that might contain words of knowledge and wisdom.  There might be discerning of spirits coming through his prophetic words.  He may be inspired to receive the gifts of healing and to pray for sick people, believing that the Lord will raise them up.  He may also feel confident to impart gifts to others.  He is also able to encourage those behind him who are still paddling around in the shallows that it is safe where he is and that they could come out further.  He might be developing the confidence that he could give words of prophecy, knowledge and wisdom to the whole group when the opportunity arises.   At this stage, his feet are still firmly placed on the riverbed, and therefore he has the choice still of going deeper into the river, or turning back to the safer shallows.


Up To Our Waist


When he goes further into the river up to his waist, he is finding that he is having more difficulty maintaining his footing on the river bed, especially if the current is strong.  Moreover it will be more difficult for him to turn back.  The waist, or the loins speak of personal security.  In most cultures, even if no other clothing is worn, there is covering for the middle part of the body.  This may have something to do with modesty, but it also has to do with personal security.  There is the famous football photograph where a player is about to do a penalty kick toward the goal and the players forming the defensive screen are all covering their private parts with their hands.  This shows a desire for personal protection in the face of a perceived danger.

Going into the prophetic river up to the waist then speaks of putting personal security into the hands of The Holy Spirit.  This is where the specific nature of the prophetic words is going beyond the “comfort zone”.   This is where a person may be prompted to call people out from the congregation and give them such specific words of encouragement, containing words of knowledge, wisdom, or discerning of spirits, that there is a fifty/fifty chance of them being right or wrong.  There is then the amazement when the subject person says, “Who told you that?  No-one except my personal counsellor knows about that, and you have no way of knowing him, let alone he breaking my confidence to you.”  Or, “My wife and I were discussing that same Scripture last night over our evening meal!” 

Further examples are when a specific word of knowledge about a need for healing is shared with the group, and it is so specific that only one person could have that condition.  It is a real blessing when that person responds, receives prayer, and testifies to the accuracy of the prophetic word.  It is a much greater blessing, and amazement to all if that person came up and testified to instant, complete healing of the condition spoken about as the word was given.  

To minister in the prophetic to that degree requires a greater trust in the Holy Spirit and less regard for personal security, and to achieve this, sometimes the laying on of hands in impartation may be needed by more mature mentors in order to impart the greater level of faith needed to step out into this deeper part of the prophetic river.


Swimming In The River


The final place in the river is when we go right out of our depth where our feet no longer reach the riverbed.  We are now swimming in the river, with the current taking us wherever it is leading.  This is a type of total abandonment[1] of self reliance and a complete giving of yourself to The Holy Spirit to lead you wherever He wants you to go.

An example of this is when George Patterson, the well-known missionary to Tibet in the 1950s, having no money for travel, would wait in faith in the ticket queue and have people come up to him and give him the fare.  One day he waited in the queue until he got right to the ticket booth, and the man behind the counter said, “God has told me to give you a free ticket!”[2]   Now that is swimming in the prophetic river.

Agabus the New Testament prophet was a person who was swimming in the prophetic river.  He prophesied a famine, which came to pass (Acts 11:28), and later on he prophesied about what was going to happen to Paul in Jerusalem (Acts 21:10).  Predictive prophesy is something that should be used very sparingly, and only by people matured and experienced in the prophetic, with an advanced discernment of spirits to know the difference between truth and error[3]

Furthermore, a person swimming is able to hear the voice of God directing him to go to particular people and give them specific words of ministry from the Lord.  Ananias who went to minister to Saul straight after his conversion on the Damascus Road was also swimming in the prophetic river.[4]  He heard the word of the Lord in a vision and went despite Saul’s reputation as a persecutor of Christians.  Ananias knew that he could be putting his very life in danger, but he trusted entirely in the specific and detailed words he received from the Lord.

Rodney Francis, the founder and director of the Gospel Faith Messenger Ministry, was a Elim pastor for many years.  Ten years ago, he heard the voice of God telling him that the time had come for him to lay down his pastorate and go full time with the GFM Ministry.  That was no real surprise to him because he had been praying about that for some time.  What did take him unawares was that God told him not to make up a financial support base, nor take a salary, but to live completely on faith.  Then the Lord told him to lay down his New Zealand pastoral credentials and depend completely on Him for ministry opportunities.  He said that at the time he felt the gift of “dysentery” coming on, but obeyed God nevertheless.  He went right out of his depth in the Prophetic River, and God has honoured his obedience in many wonderful ways.[5]

To get to this place, a believer has to be a man or woman of prayer, knowing a close fellowship with God where he or she is able to clearly hear the voice of God and to distinguish it from the other “voices” that come from the world, flesh, or the devil.   Also, he or she needs to have a comprehensive and intimate knowledge of not only the general teachings of the Bible, but knows the plans and purposes of God as clearly taught in the New Testament.

Swimming in the prophetic river is not having a dependence on “experience” separated from the Word of God.  There are some who say that they are trusting in the “promptings of the Spirit” and have left behind the “dead letter of the Word”.  This is a deception, and leads to error and ruin.   Being advanced in the prophetic does not give any believer more status or authority than any other believer.  This level of the prophetic ministry is still a ministry, and the minister is still a servant of God to all.  This is because fruit of the Spirit[6], especially love,[7] is the foundation of any prophetic ministry.  It has been said that if we are motivated by love for Christ and for our fellow-believers, it is very difficult to make a mistake, because The Holy Spirit will always honour our faith when it works by love (Galatians 5:6).

Paul expressed the desire that the Ephesian believers got right out into the prophetic river:

 15”For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.”[8]


An Encouragement For You


So, how far into the prophetic river are you?  Are you merely paddling in the shallows, or do you desire to “launch out into the deep?”  The beautiful thing about putting your dependence on Christ and wading deeper into the river is that The Holy Spirit is out there waiting for you.

There are some steps of faith to enable you to press further into God and to get further out into the prophetic river:

1.       Be totally sure[9] that everything that is available in the prophetic ministry is God’s will for you.  You may have to spend some extended time in prayer to get to this place.[10]

2.      Ask God to take you further into the river.[11]

3.      Accept and receive the abilities and tools that will enable you to go deeper[12].

4.      Confess your belief that God is taking you further.[13]

5.      Activate your faith and do what the voice of God tells you to do.[14]


Because the prophetic ministry is a team ministry, it is important that you do not attempt to do it alone.  Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Proverbs 11:14 NASB).  Most of the “prophets” who have shown to be in error and have caused distress and damage to the Church, have been those who made themselves independent of experienced prophetic ministries which have operated on the firm foundation of God’s Word and who have shown good fruitfulness to the Body of Christ.  A prophetic person must be teachable, no matter how advanced he thinks he is.


Therefore, get amongst a group of good believers who operate in the prophetic, and you will soon find that The Holy Spirit will train, develop and use you to strengthen, build up, and bless the Body of Christ.


[1] It is not “reckless” abandonment as sometimes taught.  It is a deliberate abandonment of self reliance and a conscious dependence on The Holy Spirit demonstrated by a complete trust in the promises of God as set out in the Bible.

[2] Ross Tooley, a New Zealand evangelist working with Youth With A Mission, has the same experience of miraculous provision of travel fares that has enabled him to travel to different parts of the world.


[3]But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).


[4] Acts 9:10


[5] Rodney says that each month for the last 10 years all his bills have been paid, and he has travelled around the world several times and taken mission teams to several countries.  He says that he has never been forced to cancel an overseas mission because the money has not come in.  He is a strong believer in God always financing His will.


[6]But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23  NIV).


[7] Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV).


[8] Ephesians 1:15-19 NASB


[9] But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavers is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed (James 1:6 NKJV).


[10]So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17 NASB ).


[11]Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24 NIV).


[12]And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV).


[13]For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:10 NIV).  This directly applies to salvation, but it is also a general principle of faith in any area of the Christian life and ministry.


[14] My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27).