In this post-modern world and sadly in the Church one of the first big hurdles to leap when speaking of the prophetic is the strong disbelief that God still uses the prophet and the prophetic message. The second hurdle is that Christians can all prophesy. Let’s take a look.
The gift of prophecy is one of the most useful tools or gifts and one of the most misunderstood in the congregation. The Hebrew word for prophet is navi and in its feminine form, naviah. The basic root means to “bubble up or pour forth like a fountain.” I love that! If you have ever witnessed a prophecy in the middle of a worship service that was delivered in the anointing of the Holy Spirit, then you saw and felt the “bubbling of up” of God’s message to mankind. It derives from the heart of a man or woman who has learned to lean into Him to hear His words for the moment and deliver them with power and confidence.
The prophetic words bring new light and life. It restores hope. It testifies of the love and constancy of Jesus in your life. It shows you are not forgotten or set aside. A prophetic word can be like a shot of Vitamin B that strengthens your faith as you pursue your dreams.
Throughout Scripture both men and women prophesied. Both Aaron and Moses were declared prophets (Exodus 7:1). Miriam is the first prophetess mentioned in the Bible leading the women in song and dance before the Lord (Exodus 15:20). And many others in both Old and New Covenants spoke God’s word including Deborah, King David, Samuel, Huldah, Elizabeth, Miriam, Philip, and Paul. I encourage you to read how God used prophets in scripture. It will boost your faith if you have held reservations or despised the use of the prophetic.
With that said, yes, there are imposters and false prophetic words, but here are some guidelines to help you discern what is from God, from the human mind, or from the devil or evil spirits warring against the success of your spiritual walk.
1) Do not quench or despise the prophetic
“Quench not the Spirit, despise not prophecies. Examine all things. Firmly hold onto what is good” (I Thessalonians 5:19-21).
Christians find themselves in one of two camps—those that stop the flow of the Spirit and disallow the prophetic word or those that accept and allow all of it. My experience tells me to search the scriptures. Also, it is important to hear the testimonies of those who have been profoundly impacted by the prophetic; it boosts your faith.
2) Three purposes of the prophetic
“But he who prophesies speaks edification, exhortation, and comfort to men” (I Corinthians 14:4).
I do believe God can give specific directional words to some prophets, and these kinds of messages “wow” the congregation and can be very helpful to the Body of Messiah. But I believe this is rare and for specific purposes. When using your gift, stick to the basic three purposes. If you feel, the Holy Spirit is giving you a specific word for someone who is directional, submit it to leadership before delivering. All prophetic words will follow these guidelines even if they are directional.
3) Prophecies are to be judged by congregational leadership and other prophets.
“Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment” (I Corinthians 14:29).
*The prophetic word must not be contrary to God’s Word or the heart of the Father.
*You must bear witness in your spirit even if you do not fully understand it with your mind.
*The word must draw you closer to God and His purposes.
*Church leadership must be in agreement with the prophet word.
*You need the Holy Spirit to help you understand the meaning of prophetic words.
4) Prophecy is desired more than the other gifts.
“Pursue love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” (I Corinthians 14:1).
I believe this is so because it has the power to encourage, edify, and exhort more than other gifts. The enemy of our souls hates this gift and. of course, would try to stop it.
5) All can prophesy.
“So then brothers, seek to prophesy” (I Corinthians 14:39).
The book of Corinthians lists prophecy as the third of nine gifts, so there is a specific gift of delivering God’s messages given to some. Yet Paul says here, “Seek to prophesy.” This gift can be developed as well. Every believer has the desire to exhort, encourage, and comfort others. One way to do this is to learn to speak prophetically to each other.
If you have never received a prophetic word for someone else, then ask the Lord to give you one. It won’t come with thunder and lightning all the time, in fact mostly not. It will come in a still and peaceful voice in your heart or mind. It will correlate with scripture and bring comfort and hope. It may come as a mental picture or a single word, a verse, a scripture, vision, dream, or an impression.
Don’t try to interpret it. That is not your job—just speak what you see or hear in faith. You are a messenger. And it is not your fault or even business if your word is not heard, received, or acted upon. You obeyed God to deliver.
Scripture says we prophesy according to our faith (Romans 12:6-8). You have the faith to encourage, edify, exhort, and comfort others. This is simply operating in the prophetic. As you use this gift, it will grow with the vast potential of blessing others.
If you have received a prophetic word from someone, you know how to test or judge it now. Submit it to someone in leadership if you are troubled by it or desire someone to agree with you on it. Guidance and agreement help tremendously as you learn to discern.
It is also very important to note that prophetic words must be nurtured and prayed over. They don’t come to life in a sterile environment. You must take action. I once prophesied over several young women that they would go to the nations and share the Good News. Less than one year later, these women called me back to their group and stated I was a false prophet because none of them had gone to the other nations. I was stunned. Of course, I told them immediately that I could have missed God for their lives. I took the humble road. However, this word was and is in accordance with scripture. The Gospel commands all of us to “go into all the world and make disciples.” Some are graced more than others, but we are all called to participate in some way.
Years later, as I ran into to each of these women, I asked had they checked out any opportunities to take short-term trips that would help them fulfill this prophetic word? Had they started to learn the language of a country they might want to travel to? Had they asked God for specific ways to fulfill this word according to their desires? Had they actively prayed for open doors and sought opportunities in other countries? They had no answer.
If you receive and believe a prophetic word for you, then you MUST act on it. If a prophet sees you preaching in a church, maybe you should consider Bible school. If you hear a word that you should reach out to the poor, then find a ministry the reaches the poor and become active, etc.
We must pray and move in some way on prophetic words otherwise they get stale and dusty on the shelf. If a prophetic word hasn’t happened in your life yet, maybe you haven’t pursued it. Or it could be that God’s purposes and timing still haven’t been fulfilled. If you believe it to be true, do all you can to prepare yourself and step out to make it happen. Then keep praying over it and waiting in faith.