Scrupulosity and the Prophetic Word

Scrupulosity Video Post

Jaimie Eckert

Published on Nov 22, 2023; Updated on Jan 25, 2024

In this brief article, I would like to address the issue of scrupulosity and the prophetic word. Let me illustrate the problem in the following true experience.

A woman we’ll call Leslie was attending a new church at the invitation of her friend. When she arrived, she discovered that the church was a tad bit more charismatic than she was used to. The church members were very active during the service, shouting praises to the Lord and uttering prophecies over one another.

One church member approached Leslie during the service. He laid hands on her, closed his eyes, and prayed. When he finished his prayer, he told her that he had “seen” a vision from the Lord for her life. He then proceeded to speak his prophecy over her.

This prophecy did not correspond at all with what she believed God was doing in her life. She was learning to step back from her overcommitments, to view God as a gentle Shepherd rather than a prodding taskmaster, and to stop burning herself in the name of religion. This man’s vision, however, was a massive reversal of all she had been learning, placing overt pressure on her to get involved in ministries that would require incredible investments of time and effort.

Leslie went home, terribly confused by the word spoken over her.

She felt obliged to follow the plan laid out for her in this stranger’s vision, even though he didn’t know her and his “vision” conflicted with the gentle growth she had previously been experiencing in her walk with the Lord. When Leslie spoke to me about this vision, she was in a terrible spiral of anxiety, feeling that if she did not obey the vision, she would be living in direct disobedience to the Lord and may lose her salvation.

Have you experienced anything similar?

This article may be for you if you have religious OCD and:

  • You can’t stop watching YouTube videos containing prophetic utterances that confuse and frighten you
  • You get tripped up with competing or opposing prophecies that are spoken over you
  • You view the prophetic word as a type of personal horoscope for your life
  • You just find prophecy in general very scary

The Purpose of Prophecy

Let’s back up first and talk about prophecy in general before we talk about scrupulosity and the prophetic word.

The gift of prophecy is as old as the Bible itself. For the past 6,000 years, God has used His servants, the prophets, to declare His word and His will to us.

Surely the Lord God does nothing,
Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.

Amos 3:7

This verse informs us that the gift of prophecy is God’s way of preparing us for what is coming in the future. Generally, biblical prophecy deals with major, overarching events in human history or in the church at large. However, many people who struggle with scrupulosity and the prophetic word view prophecy as a direct line to heaven, where all the minor details of their lives may be confirmed or denied by the Lord. These modern-day prophetic utterances are treated like ancient Israel’s Urim and Thummim.

Lord, should I study nursing or law? Please send someone to confirm Your will for me!

Two people prayed over me and said that God wants me to move to Texas. I better do it!

I really don’t think teaching is my spiritual gift, and I’m already involved in so many other church ministries, but the pastor keeps pressuring me and told me he was praying and saw a vision of me teaching. If I don’t do it, maybe I’ll be resisting the Spirit and I’ll lose my salvation!

Is this really what biblical prophecy is all about?

Let’s zoom out to get a birds eye view of the purpose of prophecy in Scripture. There is actually a very fascinating pattern. Before God does any major act in the history of His people, He always sends a prophet.

  • Before sending the flood, He sent the prophet Noah.
  • Before leading His people into the promised land, He sent Moses.
  • Before setting up the monarchy in Israel, He sent Samuel.
  • Before Israel was carried away captive into Babylon, God sent the pre-exilic prophets, such as Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Hosea, and Micah.
  • After bringing Israel out of Babylon, God sent the post-exilic prophets, like Obadiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Joel, and Malachi.
  • Before the Incarnation, God sent John the Baptist.
  • Before the gospel was carried to the world in the time of the apostles, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples, many of whom received the gift of prophecy.
  • Before the second coming of Jesus, we are also told that the gift of prophecy will be powerfully manifested.

“And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
And also on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth:
Blood and fire and pillars of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.
And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the Lord
Shall be saved.”

Joel 2:28-32

So we see a pattern in Scripture that prophecy precedes major events, specifically those that will impact God’s people. For example, Daniel’s prophecies of the rise and fall of nations do not include the dynasties of the Far East or the civilizations native to the Americas. Daniel’s prophecies strictly concern the regions where God’s people were historically concentrated.

Or, for example, in the book of Acts, on prophet named Agabus rose up to declare his prophecy of the coming worldwide famine. This was given for the purpose of them being able to prepare relief funds for the church in Judea (Acts 11:27-29).

While it is true that there are some examples of very personal, private prophecies (such as Isaiah prophesying to King Hezekiah about his coming death), most prophecies have a far broader field of application–either for the world or for the church.

How does this apply to our understanding of scrupulosity and the prophetic word?

My first point is that we need to be careful not to view prophecy as our own personal horoscope. It is possible to over-rely on other people’s visions for our lives, assuming that their vision is actually God’s vision. (See my video below on one of the most common phrases that overspiritualizers in your life might use to convince you to follow their “vision” for you.)

It’s also possible to be so insecure in your own ability to discern God’s will for your life that you hungrily search for prophetic utterances that will help you be sure.

One thing we know in any discussion of scrupulosity and the prophetic word–people with OCD are always looking for something that will make us 100% sure. And prophecy, a direct line to heaven, promises to do just that. But is everyone who claims to have the gift of prophecy legit?

True and False Prophets

The second point I would like to make for those individuals who struggle with scrupulosity and the prophetic word: most people today who claim to have the prophetic gift………probably don’t.

And that means you shouldn’t start obsessing every time someone speaks a word over you that feels urgent, confusing, and conflicting. You shouldn’t worry about the political predictions you hear the “YouTube prophets” declaring, which sound convincing but never actually come true. There are lots of people in the world today who are going around declaring the so-called “word of the Lord” over other people, when in fact it is their own word.

Maybe there’s someone who needs to read that sentence again.

There are lots of people in the world today who are going around declaring the so-called “word of the Lord” over other people, when in fact it is their own word!

Someone who truly has the gift of prophecy:

That’s a tall order. And that’s why I think it’s probable that most people who are supposedly having visions and making horoscope-like predictions are not speaking on God’s behalf.

Solutions for Those Who Struggle With Scrupulosity and the Prophetic Word

There’s one very simple solution the Bible provides:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1 John 4:1

The intersect between false prophecy and scrupulosity is an ugly one. It can lead to terrible spirals of anxiety and very weird, compulsive decisions. I hope you won’t get caught in this trap.

Test the spirits, whether they are of God. Be very suspicious of those who dogmatically claim to know God’s will, especially if you have a tendency to overspiritualize. Especially if your OCD gives you an intense, insatiable desire for certainty. Especially if there are power-hungry people in your church or your life who would like you to believe they have the gift of prophecy.

“Do not despise prophecies,” (1 Thessalonians 5:20), but also “test the spirits, whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1).

Conclusion

People with scrupulosity are much more vulnerable to being manipulated by false prophecy than those who are not as scrupulous. We are also more likely to rely on prophecy as a type of personal horoscope, simply because we are so desperate to achieve a sense of certainty about very important matters.

This tends to be more of an issue amongst charismatic-leaning Christians, but I have seen this issue even in those who would not necessarily call themselves charismatics. My guess is that the critical moving piece of this issue is the scrupulous person’s chronic uncertainties. Because religious OCD never really allows us to “land the plane” in feeling certain about anything, we look for fail-proof ways of knowing God’s will–and the prophetic word promises to do just that for us.

I’ve had a few of my own situations where other Christians have said, “I was praying for you and I felt strongly that God wanted me to tell you _______.” These Christians wouldn’t overtly claim to have the prophetic gift, but that’s what prophets do, isn’t it? They bring unique messages from God to His church.

In many of these cases where people came to me with messages “from God,” I had to eventually categorize their word as their own opinion, not God’s voice. However, I first went through some anxiety about whether or not I was ignoring God and sinning by disregarding these messages.

I hope to spare you the same trial.

Scrupulosity and the prophetic word don’t mix well. Be very sure that you are not falling for false prophecies, which are rampant in today’s world. Don’t guilt trip yourself for being skeptical of all that is called “a message from the Lord” when it comes from any source outside the pages of Scripture. Yes, BE SKEPTICAL! Squeeze that messenger to the wall and make sure he or she lines up with the biblical definition of someone with the gift of prophecy.

Remember that the prophetic word is a good thing, and it is biblical, and we do not despise it. But the complications that arise between scrupulosity and the prophetic word mean that you and I need to be extra, extra, super-duper careful about any word spoken over us.

As with many other scrupulous problems, we have to come back to the Word and rest our case on what God has clearly revealed. Our feelings, our culture, our anxieties, our magical experiences, our physical sensations, and even the “prophecies” spoken over us can never take the place of a plain reading of Scripture.

May God bless you as you seek to discern His gentle will and ways, and as you work through the challenges of scrupulosity as it relates to the prophetic word.

Best wishes on the journey,

  • Hi, Jamie! Thank God and you for your ministry through this site and your channel. They've been really helpful to me and my struggles.

    If it's convenient for you, it would be lovely if there could be video/audio on the topics covered in the site. Don't get me wrong, i really like the articles. But my eyes get tired very easily and causes migraines when i use too much phone or laptop. I like re-reading your articles but can't sometimes because of that. But an audio would be nice.

    This is just a request. I know you are busy with your little family and other things. Even if it doesn't happen, I'm still super grateful for your content. <3

  • Thank you Jaimie, I’ve found this info very helpful! I took the test and scored “low likely” that I have this but man do I feel like I have the whole “god voice” Messing with my mind. I’ve can look back on my life and spiritual journey and see where it may have been the case. I’m 62 and feel like I’m just now starting to figure some of this out! I will press on!

    • Thanks for your comment, Jim! I actually have an updated quiz coming out soon (my husband, who is my website specialist on weekends and holidays when he’s not working, is trying to get this up for us over the Christmas holiday and is right now at his desk working on it!) I mention this because my old quiz sometimes said “low likelihood” for people with really solid OCD cases, and I’ve come to see that we often deal with distinct “symptom clusters,” so you might only click on a few items in the quiz but those few items bother you immensely and are actually indicative of a moderate or severe case of OCD. So, sometimes it’s more helpful to look at the nuances.

      Please do remember, I’m just a normal person like all of you and I’m not a therapist or psychologist. I can’t diagnose anybody. I’m just hoping to create tools and resources that can help you decide if you’re honestly dealing with a spiritual problem or if you have a condition like religious OCD that would merit a visit (or two!) to your friendly neighborhood therapist. 🙂

      But anyways, maybe check back in a week and see if my spiffy new quiz is up by then! 🙂 Merry Christmas!

  • Hello, forgive my long text.

    I struggle a lot with the idea of giving up the things I like, like music, movies, video games and that kind of thing. When I go to church and they talk about people who have one foot in the world and one foot in the church I think that fits my case. I'm careful with what I see and hear, but these ideas still come to me.
    There were times when I erased everything I had and got rid of everything, then they helped me understand things and I returned to my tastes, but the same thing happened again and I got rid of what I had.
    What has happened these days is that I pray more (I had prayed before for my prayer to improve) so I think what if this is true and it is not OCD and that is why these situations repeat themselves?
    I also think: well maybe I spend a lot of time on my hobbies (although I always dedicate time to pray and read the word) and I think: do I have to manage my time better or do I have to get rid of everything? And thinking about the first option, I would like to go back to what I like, but what if God wants me to leave what I like? What if taking up the things I like is like rejecting prayer or being stubborn?

  • Thank you for this weapon against over-spirituality. The church I attended in college had altar calls every service and they would use various people to speak prophetic words over you. Lots of times it instilled fear and one of them even encourage scrupulous thinking and the basis of it was to be hypersensitive and overawareof everything and every little decision I make…..yeah how's that for soemone with ROCD.
    Another told me how big a small group I started was supposed to be and how God basically wanted me to spend even MORE time with Him aside form the fasting and Bible study time I was spending with Him and basically belittling the time I was spending with Him, almost like saying put every waking distraction not God related in your life to the side just to hear what He has to say to you.
    I got told that I needed to keep the vow I made to God,yet at that moment I didn't even know I made one!
    Just soo much, that at the moment I sadly fell victim to them with the fear that I was not listening to God, and I 100% shouted in relief with the way you put the phrase" personal horoscope" with the prophetic minsitry because that's exactly how they treated it.

    • If there was a way I could pin a comment, this would be it! Thank you for sharing your experience with honesty and vulnerability. I know someone else is going to come along and read what you’ve written and find relief that they are not the only one. Thank you! This is NOT what God meant for the gift of prophecy to do to His precious children!

    • Yes in a way. For me it was college and the career I was pursuing. I ended up getting so sick stemming form the stress of "seeking God's will for my life" that I spirialed and ending catching an ED. I chose to leave college to be able to heal but it defintely wasn't like I wanted to let it go and drop out. I did to take care of my self and kept getting the compulsion of self sacrifice so I thought I had to literally give up my career

  • Please continue to pray for me and put me on your church prayer list. Thank you so much for your articles. I struggle with scrupulosity.

  • "anxiety about whether or not I was ignoring God and sinning by disregarding these messages"

    Thank you for sharing that you (and others) have the same experience. I know that it is our job to discern and decide what to do. Yet the fear of making a mistake, of being stubborn, of being deceived can be so overwhelming.

    I would love to hear more about how you overcame this in your life and in the lives of your clients. Especially in cases where the messages were delivered in supernatural ways (prophecy, dreams, voices, etc.).

    Thank you for this ministry and may God bless you more!

  • "Our feelings, our culture, our anxieties, our magical experiences, our physical sensations, and even the “prophecies” spoken over us can never take the place of a plain reading of Scripture."

    A big AMEN to that!

    I am so very grateful for this blog. I have finally found a safe place and am blessed by the encouragement and the fact that I am not alone as I seek to follow the Lord with all I've got, struggles included.

  • Good topic to tackle Jaimie.
    A similar, closely related topic to tackle would be compulsive thinking that everything you read in scripture is Gods message for YOU, and applies to you.
    It’s scripture so it could be Gods Word for you. Could also very likely not be.
    Thank you for ministry Jaimie

    • Thanks Josh, this is a really good point. I have a lesson in my group coaching curriculum that tackles this. I should eventually make a post about it too. Everything in Scripture is inspired, but not everything was meant for YOU. We can’t play Bible horoscope, open the book and put our finger down in some random place and expect it to be God’s message of the day. Discernment and interpretation is necessary!

  • I'm so heartened you mentioned Agabus! Paul's interaction with him in Acts 21 cuts against the…stereotype?…of what prophecy is for. Agabus's prophecy of what will happen to Paul is apparently accurate. But Paul had an existing plan that meshed his life with God's wants. Paul seems distressed – quasi-irritated – at Agabus's prophecy, almost like it's someone saying "don't mess up!" in the middle of your mini-golf swing. Paul took the prophecy into consideration and did what he thought he needed to do. And God worked with it just fine. Paul didn't fatally disobey the prophecy – there wasn't anything in it to obey or disobey. He survived.

  • Prophecying was only at a certain time in the Bible and was gift given by God to his Disciples the same as talking in tongues. so if I seen something like that the best thing would be to stay away from that. talking in tongues wasn't gibberish they were talking in other people's languages. also there was always someone there that could understand what was being said. but this is not something that was countuied God gave us the Bible for his word we no longer need tongues or prophecy. so if I was in that person's position I would say well what does God's word say is there anything in the Bible that supports what this person is saying.

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