‘Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.’ (Proverbs 13:12)
You received a personal prophecy—or a prophetic word for your family or for your church.
You believed, you positioned, you prayed, and you waited.
Now it has become evident that the prophetic word will never be fulfilled in the way that you believed it would.
Maybe it is too late for something to eventuate in your life, as a prophecy led you to believe. Maybe someone you cared about became sick, and died contrary to prophetic words that he or she would live and do something more for God. Maybe other people around you, or in leadership over you, have made decisions that have ruled out the possibility that a prophecy will be fulfilled.
Questions now arise:
Was the prophecy wrong? If so, why did God allow me to believe it and pursue it? What about the person who prophesied—was he or she mistaken?
Was the prophecy right? If so, what have I, or we, done wrong? What conditions have gone unmet, and what has got in the way of the prophecy’s fulfilment?
And how do we get past the hurt and the disappointment, the crisis of faith, and indeed the grief, of having a long-term prophetic vision die?
The Problem of Unfulfilled Prophecy
There are varying degrees of difficulty and pain associated with an unfulfilled prophecy. At the lower end of the scale, I have prophecies sitting in my drawer that I now realise will never be fulfilled in the exact way the prophetic minister described it to me. This does not cause me concern, because Father has clearly led me in a different direction.
At the other end of the scale, we have had friends pass away, leaving prophecies unfulfilled, questions unanswered, and pain in our hearts.
Why are Some Prophecies Unfulfilled?
There are many reasons why a prophecy may not be fulfilled. Let’s explore a few of them:
The Prophecy was not Adequately Weighed up
If you are waiting on a prophecy to be fulfilled, then it was most likely a very specific, directive type of prophetic word.
For our protection, these kinds of prophecies should always be submitted to wise oversight and leadership in the church.  Without this Biblical safety net, there is a greater possibility of some of the following issues taking place. (1 Cor 14:29, 1 Thess 5:20-22)
Some prophecy, especially that concerning the call of God, is conditional upon us doing our part, obeying God, and allowing the Spirit to deal with us in maturing our character.
I received a prophecy many years ago concerning my future ministry. In the same prophecy, I was exhorted to ‘stay committed, stay submitted.’ I know without doubt that I would not be where I am today if I had not stayed committed and submitted to my church and leadership during testing times.
The Prophecy has Already Fulfilled its Purpose
Sometimes a particular prophecy is the signpost that God uses to get you somewhere else. Instead of the destination you expected, you find that you are positioned for another, higher, God-given purpose.
This may also be an issue of inaccurate delivery of a prophecy. But we also need to understand the nature of prophecy:
Fulfilment of prophecy is not always like hitting a ‘bulls eye’ on a target. It may be more like a river that has twists and turns before reaching the Father’s intended destination.
The Prophecy was Delivered Inaccurately
‘For we know in part and we prophesy in part’ (1 Cor 13:9)
Following are some reasons that a prophecy may have been delivered inaccurately.
If the person prophesying knows the recipient of the prophecy, it is tempting to deliver the prophecy in the context of what is known currently. This can hamper the purity of a word.
This also goes for prophecies made in church life. We may be receiving a revelation from God, but then we interpret and deliver that word in the light of our church’s current vision or circumstances, which may later change
The person may have prophesied out of the desires of his or her heart, rather than from a revelation from God.
The person delivering the prophecy may be receiving an incomplete revelation, but then try to express the prophecy in specific terms when it has not been received that way.It is true that there is, on occasion, higher revelation and greater levels of accuracy (indeed we believe and strive for this), but we must also be content—and honest—when this is not the case.
The Prophecy was Interpreted by the Recipient Inaccurately
Maybe the prophecy was not mistakenly given, but there was a miscommunication, and the recipient took the prophecy the wrong way.
Just as the giver of a prophecy can interpret and deliver a word based on known circumstances, a receiver of a prophecy can also interpret a word based on what he or she knows or desires it to be.
At the end of the day, we may never understand this side of heaven why a prophecy remained unfulfilled, just as we do not understand why some sick people who are prayed for do not get healed.
In the face of the unknown, we need to trust in the love and sovereignty of our Heavenly Father.
What to do About Prophetic Disappointment
There is a time to hold on to a prophetic word, but we also need to know when to release or shelve a prophecy. The time to release a prophecy is when holding onto it is not bearing good fruit in your life, or in the lives of others around you.
This includes disappointment, disillusionment, division or disunity, dissatisfaction, resentment, bitterness, grief, or any other negative fruit.
If you can relate to this, here are some things that may help in the process:
1. Allow the Prophecy to be Weighed up Again
Prophecy is subject to being weighed up. This does not only relate to assessing a prophecy at the time it is delivered. For our protection, we should also keep our prophetic vision submitted to godly leadership as time goes along.
2. Forgive Whomever you Need to
If an unfulfilled prophecy has left you feeling disappointed or even bitter, it is vital that you forgive anyone that you need to. (Mark 11:25) This may be the giver of the prophecy, yourself, or anyone you perceived stood in the way of its fulfilment.
3. Stop Looking for Unfulfilled Conditions
If you are open to God, and the Holy Spirit is not forthcoming about a condition not being fulfilled, don’t labour over finding one—this may be distracting you from releasing it and moving on with God’s purpose for your life, or that of your family or church. Release it and trust Him to show you anything necessary.
If you can identify a wrong turning in your life, as you repent, the grace of God is released over your life. He will give you a new vision—He is the God of the resurrection.
4. Release Others from Expectations Relating to the Prophecy
Sometimes in our search for unmet conditions, it is tempting to blame other people for hindering the fulfilment of a prophecy. This may include a spouse, family member, vocational boss or leader in a church.
We need to release them completely from expectations and remember that God is sovereign and able to fulfil His plans regardless of their actions. Look at the life of Joseph! (Gen 37-50)
5. Release the Prophecy Completely
You are not being unfaithful to God and His word when you release a prophecy and all expectations associated with it, if holding onto it is not bearing good fruit.
God is able to bring the word to you again if it was truly of Him. He can resurrect the promise in His time.
Sometimes it is helpful to release the prophecy, not only through prayer, but to do something symbolic as well. We need to do whatever it takes to bring closure.
6. Ask, ‘Am I in the Father’s Will Right Now?’
If you know that right now your heart is right with God, then you are on track for His purposes to be fulfilled in your life.
Ultimately, we must trust in the absolute sovereignty of God—not in ourselves, others, or in any prophetic word.
‘The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand.’ (Ps 37:23-24, NKJV)
It is Time to let go
‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?’ (Isaiah 43:18-19)
Is it time to let go of an unfulfilled prophetic word?
Let go, and you will be released from the place of disappointment and grief
Let go, and you will be able to receive the new word from God
Let go, and you will have the joy of discovering the new things Father is doing
ISAIAH 40: 28-31