The Prophetic Character of Prayer

by Bishop William H. Murphy, Jr.
Senior Pastor ~ New Mount Moriah International Church ~ Pontiac, MI 48340
Bishop of Intercessory Prayer ~ Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship

Most believers have found it easier to study the Bible, meditate, worship, tithe, and exercise all the other disciplines of the Christian life; but struggle to maintain a consistent, disciplined prayer life.

Is the issue a lack of discipline? That\’s only part of it. Certainly a consistent prayer life takes discipline; however, the lack of discipline is rooted in a lack of vision. True vision is what motivates us to be disciplined. Proverbs 29:18 say, “Where there is no vision the people perish”. And, unfortunately, for many of us our vision of prayer has not been adequate to produce discipline.

As believers we have a responsibility to increase our vision as to what prayer should be. We must realize that prayer is not a game or a religious exercise; but a means by which God has chosen to engage us in the manifestation of His kingdom in the earth.

One aspect of prayer that is continually overlooked is its prophetic character. We generally think of a prophet as one who speaks to people on behalf of God. This is true of the prophetic role, but it is incomplete. The biblical concept of the prophet is much greater. Scripture shows us that the prophet can speak to man because he has first listened, and spoken to God.

The first time we see the word “prophet” in the Bible is in Genesis 20:7, where Abraham, the prophet, was interceding for someone suffering under the judgment of God. Again in Genesis 18:16-33, we see Abraham interceding for Sodom. In fact he is arguing with God, attempting to get God to change His mind. We see here that he is on such close terms with God that he can argue his case before Him. These passages clearly show that the characteristic activity of a prophet is prayer.

No one could appoint himself as a prophet; one had to be chosen by God, spoken to by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit. This did not happen to everyone. Moses recognized this, and longed to see the day when this blessing of intimate fellowship would be available to all of God’s people; “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them” (Num. 11:29).

This was fulfilled, when Jesus taught His disciples about the Holy Spirit and prayer (John 14-16). He then revealed the intimacy of relationship, like that of the prophets, they were being brought into. He says to them: “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).

While all intercessors do not stand in the office of the prophet (Eph. 4:11), just as the prophets we have been given the privilege of intercession and are called to speak God’s Word to our culture. This is a huge responsibility, for we are more than a messenger. We are those who stand in the presence of God (Jeremiah 15:19); who stand in the council of the Lord (Jeremiah 23:18); and who is a participant in the council of God. In other words, we are counselors as well as messengers.

Just as the prophets of the Old Testament, we should be on such close terms with God that we can speak frank and openly with one another. In the Old Testament, we find the prophets engaging God in debate, interceding, and mediating for others. As intercessors, through the Spirit, we are taken into God’s confidence. God’s basic plans regarding the world and His means of accomplishing those plans are disclosed in Christ through the Spirit.

The prophets in Ezekiel were considered foolish because they were not praying prophets, had no dialogue with Heaven; they contrived how to please people, not how to do them good; they stood not against sin. They flattered people into vain hopes. They caused men to think themselves deserving of eternal life, when the wrath of God was upon them. Ezekiel 13:5 expresses three reasons why God pronounced judgment on them; (1) Ye have not gone up into the gaps; (2) You have not provided a hedge or covering; and (3) You have not prepared the people for battle.

It is when we don\’t align ourselves with God\’s ways and purposes that we run the risk of being judged like these prophets. We must not be foolish in our doings that we prevent the sinner\’s repentance with our flattering promises and false predictions. But by prayers, examples, and advice, contribute toward their salvation. We must hold true to the principles of truth, justice and purity for they are our protection from destruction. We must be a wall of defense for the people.

Let us not be labeled and judged as were the false prophets. Let us become more disciplined in our prayer life so that what we deliver is what we have seen or heard through the Holy Spirit and not out of our own heart so that we do not bring a reproach upon God\’s people or ourselves.



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    In society today there is a clear divide between fashions considered feminine and those considered masculine. However, is this a result of the fashion industry itself, or is the industry merely reflecting the changing attitudes of society as a whole? It is difficult to determine where the line between gender reproduction and gender construction stands in regards to fashion and dress, as it can be read in a number of ways. Fashion has been used in attempts to deconstruct gender stereotypes, as in some cases of cross dressing, but has also been used as a means of reinforcing them via items like the high heeled shoe. Fashion has been a part of western culture for centuries and as fashion has changed so too has its significations. The style of the garments we wear, their fabrics and colours, all carry signifiers of various aspects of our lives. In times past, fashion trends were set by the middle and upper classes, with the result that fashion became a signifier of social standing. For example during the Baroque period of the seventeenth century it was fashionable for both men and woman of the upper classes to wear garments decorated with large amounts of lace and ribbon (Stecker, 1996, p14). This gave men’s fashion a highly feminine appearance; however they were quite distinct from the lower classes which did not utilise such decoration. In the present day this class distinction has lessened and a gender distinction has become predominant. This division is established almost as soon as we are born. In western culture it is customary for male babies to wear blue and female babies to wear pink. earning a living) (Lurie, 1992, p214). In the adult world it is acceptable for women to wear blue, however men still rarely wear pink, and those who do are often accused of being effeminate and homosexual (Lurie, 1992, p214). One theory states that one of the first functions of clothing was to attract the opposite sex. By only revealing and highlighting specific parts of the body, much can be left to the imagination and thus sexual desire is increased (Lurie, 1992, p213). This is similar to Freud’s assertion that “visual impressions remain the most frequent pathway along which libidinal excitation is aroused” (Freud, 1977, p69). In order to be successful in attracting a member of the opposite sex the garments must therefore serve to distinguish men from women. On a basic level this can be seen in department stores where the women’s clothing section is distinct from the men’s. However the relationship between fashion and gender is significantly more complicated, with the definition of what gender actually is having a significant effect on how fashion could be seen to impact it.

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    A woman wearing men’s clothing does not conform to the feminine ideal and as such is recognisably subverting it. The fact that this subversion is identifiable highlights the gendered nature of the fashion industry and the way in which it supports society’s belief in the feminine being separate from the masculine. If gender identity is learnt, then by choosing our own clothes we reflect how well we have learnt to be masculine or feminine. For cross dressers fashion is a means of either constructing a gendered identity different to the one expected of them or parodying the constructed nature of gender itself.

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    The ‘gaze’ plays a significant role in the maintenance of the male/female binary and as such the separation of gender identities. The ‘gaze’ (that is, the act of looking at and objectifying the opposite sex) is considered predominantly masculine, with many images of women in the media being constructed for the male audience (Barnard, 1996, p140). However when a man is the subject of the gaze the binary is not destroyed, as merely reversing the act of ‘looking’ and being ‘looked at’ does not alter the active/passive, male/female binary. These must be transcended in order to begin breaking down the distinction between gender identities (Barnard, 1996, p140). As such fashion, by encouraging the male gaze and helping to define masculine from feminine is supporting the male/female binary. Cross dressing is one way of making it especially clear that this male/female binary exists.

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    Whilst fashion may try to subvert or construct gender identities, it may simply support social ideals already in place. As Malcom Barnard writes in his book Fashion as Communication, “Signs are only meaningful on the basis of their relations to all other signs” (1996, p156). In this way fashion can only convey a meaning when coupled with other signs (particularly the body itself), and as such cannot construct a gendered identity of its own accord. In order for clothing to be a signifier of a gender identity, that gender identity must already be constructed in order to give fashion its meaning. In which case, fashion is not constructing gender identities; it is reflecting and reinforcing them. Not all fashions have been accepted by society, the most obvious examples being skirts and the colour pink not being acceptable for men (Lurie, 1992, p214). Some designers, like Jennifer Minniti, have attempted to promote skirts and dresses as a male alternative; however such designs have not succeeded in the mainstream (Shreve, 1998). This is likely due to them not conforming to society’s expectations of gender identities. Men in skirts are still considered to be cross dressing, and as such skirts remain signifiers of femininity. Gender identity also comprises more than appearance. Gesture, behaviour and social standing all contribute to a person’s gender identity, and whilst fashion can attempt to draw on or hide these signifiers it cannot do so completely.

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    Fashion perpetuates the image of the slender woman being the ideal feminine and can sometimes have significantly detrimental effects. Due to the mass production of clothing, it has become easier for the fashion industry to encourage women to be slender (Macdonald, 1995, p208). Many of the most fashionable garments are not made larger than a woman’s Australian size fourteen. This encourages women to diet and exercise in order to lose weight, a trend also encouraged by the many advertisements involving slender women. One disturbing result of society’s fascination with being thin has been the rise in eating disorders, including anorexia (Macdonald, 1995, p208). In Australia’s November 2004 issue of Cosmopolitan an article was run entitled ‘Anorexia for Sale’. This article discussed Mary Kate Olson, a well known actress, and her public struggle with Anorexia Nervosa. Images of Olsen and other famous women who appear to be unhealthily thin, such a Kate Moss, have been used on websites known as ‘pro ana’ sites, that is, websites supporting anorexia as a ‘lifestyle choice’ as opposed to an illness (Percival, 2004, p62). Many of these sites have begun to sell ‘ana bracelets’ and ‘ana necklaces’ which are a means of identifying other anorexics and which serve as a reminder not to eat. This jewellery has proven quite popular within the anorexic community (Percival, 2004, p62). This is an extreme example of fashion (or in this case accessories) being used to specifically propagate the idea of being thin. On the other hand clothing can also be used to raise awareness of eating disorders and encourage women not to go so far. T shirts with the slogan ‘Save Mary Kate’ and a drawing of her emaciated figure were released with just this intention (Percival, 2004, p62). Released when Mary Kate began her rehabilitation, the emaciated drawing on the t shirts is far from attractive and draws attention to her bones and the unnaturalness of being so thin. The words ‘Save Mary Kate’ could be read in one of two ways however, they could refer to the fact that she is need of help, thus constructing her as a victim, or they could be referring to the desirability of her image and a wish that she remain so thin, thus the implication could be ‘Save Mary Kate from the rehabilitation clinic’. This second reading is supported by the image itself, in which she is smiling and returning the gaze of the viewer. This subverts the intended message that she is a victim.

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