WHAT IS PROPHETIC ART?
by Lyn Packer
An article exploring the difference between these different types of art – Scriptural, Inspirational, Revelational, and Prophetic.
Today we hear the term 'Prophetic Art' a lot, and it seems that any piece of art that is the result of feeling inspired with a specific idea is being labelled as prophetic, but is it truly prophetic art? To understand what prophetic art actually is, we must understand what prophecy is.
A prophecy is a specific message from the Lord given through a human agent – the prophet or prophetic person – to a specific person or people. It has a very clear message contained in it from God that addresses either the past, present or future of the person/people. Scripture tells us that New Covenant prophecy must result in the building up, encouraging, or comforting of those that the message is intended for (1 Cor 14:3).
Scriptural guidelines for prophetic words
A prophetic word has certain guidelines and effects, according to Scripture, so prophetic art must also follow those guidelines and have a similar effect.
What are those guidelines?
- New Covenant prophecy must have the end effect of building up, encouraging, or comforting those that the message is intended for (1 Cor 14:3).
- It must reveal the nature and character of God and His heart for people (Jer 29:11).
- It must be sourced in love and given in the fruit of the Spirit (1 John 4:8; 1 Cor 13; Gal 5:22,23).
- It must have a clear message to convey (1 Cor 14:1-9).
- A prophetic message must be clearly communicated and not hard for people to understand (Hab 2:1,2).
Prophecy can have a creating effect or a foretelling aspect to it. Foretelling is where the prophetic person sees something of the future and communicates it, but their word simply reports what they see, it doesn’t set things in motion. Creative prophetic words release the power of God to set things in motion and bring to pass what they speak. Prophetic art from the Lord can contain either of these aspects to it.
If these things are to be in evidence in a prophetic word then a piece of prophetic art should follow the same guidelines. If a painting does not contain these things or follow these guidelines, then it follows that it cannot actually be a true New Covenant prophecy, or prophetic artwork.
So for a piece of art to be classified as prophetic art it should contain these things...
- The prophetic artist must receive from God a specific clear message to convey.
- They must convey it in a way that clearly gets the message across. In other words, it must be able to be easily understood by those who view it. (Representational art will do that better than abstract art, although abstract art with an interpretation is okay).
- It must address either the current state or the future of the people it is intended for – the viewers.
- Its end result should be that the person, or people, it's intended for should be edified, build up, encouraged or comforted.
Objects can carry anointing, as we see in Scripture – Paul prayed over handkerchiefs and aprons, and those things retained the power of God to heal those they were given to (Acts 19:12). So, too, art can carry an anointing. Art that speaks a message and releases things can be found in both God’s Kingdom and the kingdom of darkness.
A clear message
A prophetic message must be clearly communicated and not hard for people to understand.
“I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; and I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me…Then the Lord answered me and said “record the vision and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.” Hab 2:1,2.
If a prophetic word needs to be made plain (or easily understood) then it’s important for a piece of prophetic art to be able to be easily understood by the person, or people, it's intended for. Not all art is easily understood, and some art forms are less easy to understand than others – such as abstract art or non-representational art.
Some people believe that an art work should be able to stand on its own, without explanation, and if it is art for art’s sake then that may be a fair comment, but when the art is supposed to convey a specific message then that message needs to be clearly communicated. So if the artwork by itself doesn’t do that, then you may need to consider giving a spoken or written explanation along with it.
Over the years I’ve had several conversations with people around this subject and most of the time their rationale comes down to this – they believe that if they share what God was saying to them as they painted, or share the prophetic word that the painting conveys, that their sharing will stop people hearing from God for themselves through the painting. While I understand that rationale I believe in the end it is short sighted, and in some ways can also lack faith in God's abilities.
God is well able to give more revelation than the original word He gives. I have found several times that a painting that I believed to have a certain meaning was later given another meaning by the Lord. This extra revelation did not mean that the first was wrong, nor did it lessen the power of the first revelation; instead it meant that I got blessed twice, and it heightened my awareness that God is masterful and creative, and is able to give multiple revelations from the same thing. How often have we believed that a verse in Scripture meant one thing, and then God gave us additional revelation on it and we got something completely new from it?
I recommend that you share the prophetic word that the painting is seeking to convey, and at the same time believe that God will give people extra revelation personally. My personal practice is to write out the prophetic word and give that to the person with the painting, so that they not only have the painting, but the written word as well, to keep and pray into. It is very hard in a painting to convey accurately all that God is saying in any particular prophetic word. The painting may convey the main point, or several points, but a written explanation attached beside, or on the back of, the painting will give the full detailed word. If God chooses to speak to them extra revelation then they get blessed again on top of their original blessing.
The above gives you an understanding of what prophetic art actually is, but as I said earlier, there is a lot of confusion surrounding it in the Christian community. I believe that the confusion is found in misunderstanding some aspects of art, and revelation that comes through art, that are explained in the rest of this article. So read on, and hopefully I’ll be able to clarify things for you even further, and give you a good foundation of understanding.
Artists have long had a powerful influence in society for good or bad, and art has helped shape cultures, society and people’s lives. We see art around the world that has had effects on man – from cave art to museum quality pieces. Some of that art speaks themes and messages that inspire man to wonder, and belief in beauty and goodness, and that point to a better future, and some speaks of despair and dystopian futures where societies are reduced to animal behaviours and struggles for survival. All these pieces of art have an effect.
Both God and Satan have influenced and inspired artists throughout the centuries.
Multiplied hundreds of thousands have stood, caught up in wonder as they’ve gazed on works by Michelangelo and other famous artists, and their thoughts have been turned toward the themes of Scripture and the majesty of God.
But we know also that Satan and the demonic can inspire art that speaks. He can inspire dark prophetic art also. Dark art is inspired by the forces of darkness and contains the values of the kingdom of darkness. Dark prophetic art is art that gives an intentional, specific message from the kingdom of darkness that releases power for that realm to operate.
But man’s heart and mind is also a source that we must consider. There is art that issues from the heart of man, and is sourced in an individual’s values and outlook on life. That can be either positive or negative, and it, too, can have a powerful effect.
How do artists receive their ideas?
Knowing how artists receive their ideas will help us understand why any artist paints what they paint.
Some inspiration for a painting is received from an external source and some is originated in the artist's heart and mind. Let me explain that further...
- To paint by inspiration received from an external source means that an idea originated from something sourced outside the artist. The idea or inspiration comes into their mind / heart and they feel inspired to paint that idea. The inspiration did not originate with them, it came from outside them. Inspiration can originate from different sources – the Kingdom of Heaven, the kingdom of darkness, or the world around us. The artist comes into agreement with this inspiration / idea and then acts upon it.
- To paint by self-sourced inspiration, decision and will, means that the artist deliberately thinks about what they would like to paint and makes a decision based on that. The artist comes up with the idea as a result of a thinking process and then paints their idea. It is a process of rational thought and decisions that leads to the outworking of their idea.
Let’s look now at the differences between Prophetic art, Scriptural art, Religious art, Inspired art and art that brings Revelation.
Scriptural or Religious art
There is a difference between Prophetic art and Scriptural art. We’ve seen above what Prophetic art is, but what is Scriptural art? Scriptural art (or religious art, as society calls it) is the representation of a Scripture verse or passage in painted form. It shows us in visual form what we have read as words. There are many wonderful pieces of Scriptural art out there – “The last supper” by Leonardo de Vinci, “The Transfiguration” and “The Sistine Madonna” by Raphael, “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt, “The Creation of Adam” and the sculpture of David, by Michelangelo etc.
Much Scriptural art, while it is not prophetic, is inspired, and it does bring revelation to people as they view it. So let’s look at those terms – Inspired and Revelatory – now.
Inspired and Inspirational art
Inspirational art is a term that many use to describe art with spiritual meaning, and it is also used to describe art that inspires us or makes us think. Art can be inspirational yet still not be prophetic. Much of what is currently being called Prophetic art is not actually prophetic. However, while it may not be prophetic, it may be inspired and it may be inspirational.
As we saw earlier, inspiration can come from several sources. Some inspired paintings come from the artist receiving revelation from what they see around them in this realm, or from the unseen realm – both the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of darkness.
God can inspire us to paint. We can receive ideas from Him and paint those ideas. These inspired ideas will show people the realities of His Kingdom, His nature and character, etc. or they may be of things of this world and its beauty and majesty. These paintings may be a window into another realm, or the unfolding of the treasures hidden within our own world for us to discover, however they are not a specific prophetic word to a specific person or people.
An inspired painting could be one that portrays a verse from Scripture, a field of flowers to show the beauty of creation, a feeling portrayed with colour, texture and gestural stroke in an abstract form, and more. Or it could be one that portrays darkness, destruction, the decay of society, the moral standards of society, or things like murder, anger, hatred, etc.
We can receive revelation or inspired understanding as we view a piece of art. That revelation can come from different sources -
Kingdom of Heaven and kingdom of darkness – Revelation can come from the two kingdoms – the Kingdom of Heaven or the kingdom of darkness.
God can give us amazing revelations as we view a piece of art, whether that art is a piece of Prophetic art, Inspired art or a piece of art that was decided and thought up by the artist themself. God loves to communicate with us or give us revelation! He delights in revealing to us things of His Kingdom, things about our life and our place in this world, things about others etc. Revelation from Him brings understanding and wisdom into our life.
In our daily life, if we are open to God communicating to us, He does so in a variety of ways. Those ways are full of revelation, wonder and discovery for us, as we get to know His heart for us and others, His will etc. One of the ways that God communicates is through visual means, through animate and inanimate objects – things we see in nature, through reading, movies, art and more. For more information on this check out my article “How God Communicates”.
The kingdom of darkness can give revelation, too. For example if we were viewing an artwork of a family sitting around a fire we could receive revelation from God on the beauty of the relationship found in family love, or we could receive revelation from the kingdom of darkness telling us that family love is a farce and what the painting is depicting is nothing but a lie. Satan has a definite plan to communicate the values of his kingdom, and one of the ways he does that is through art and the arts. They are powerful avenues of communication that can impact people greatly.
Our heart and mind – Revelation can come from our heart and mind, making connections between the art we are viewing and revelatory thought. For example, a painting of a child curled up on the floor may mean that we think about abuse and come to the realisation / revelation of how bad abuse actually is – its effects on people and society – or it can connect back into our own journey and bring up feelings or memories of hurt in our own lives, giving us revelation that something may need to be addressed.
The value of the different types of art
The types of art we’ve talked about above are all different ways to communicate and receive. In my life as an artist I have done art works that were the result of all these methods, and God has chosen to minister to many people through all three kinds of art – prophetic words in art form, artworks done from an inspiration, and others where I have thought about and chosen what I wanted to paint.
All art can be used by God to minister to people and sometimes, as the artist, what we thought would minister the most doesn’t, and what we dismissed as not having much meaning or value can be taken by God and used to minister deeply to someone. I have had people see things in my paintings that I never intended or put there, interpreting my paintings in ways that I had never imagined. One lady who had turned away from God was spoken to so strongly through a piece of abstract art I did called “Peace” that she gave her life back to God there and then. People have been set free or healed as they were ministered to through an artwork. The artwork itself did nothing, it just hung there on the wall, but the Spirit of God breathed on those things and used them to bring revelation, life and freedom.
The most valuable…
Which is the most valuable form of art out of the ones we’ve talked about - prophetic words in art form, artworks done from an inspiration, or those where the artist has deliberately thought about, and chosen, what they personally want to paint? I believe that all have value, and that none is more valuable than another; they all have their place. And in that, God can take whatever He wants and use it to communicate with people. Our part as the artist is to paint and leave the rest to God.
Art is a powerful medium to communicate through, and prophetic artists can use art powerfully to convey God’s heart and intentions. I hope that this article has given you some understanding of the different types of art and how God can use them all.
Are you called to paint prophetically? Then be a good steward of that calling. Become the best artist you can, so that you can communicate effectively. Get training, if you can, so that your ability to communicate what God gives you isn’t hindered by your lack of expertise. But also know that God can speak through your current skill level, so don’t disqualify yourself if you feel that you aren’t as good as someone else. And lastly, enjoy the adventure of partnering with God in communicating His great love and wonderful plans to those that you paint for.
Lyn is recognised as a Prophet within New Zealand and other nations she’s ministered in. Her ministry is revelatory and catalytic, propelling people into encounter with God. The governmental prophetic gift she carries is expressed through prophetic, revelatory insight and strategy, prophetic words (personal, corporate and national), teaching, art, and writing. Click here for more info...