The orchestra was playing softly. The worship leader had just finished leading a stirring hymn and was encouraging the people to worship the Lord with the blessing. There are moments in a service when suddenly a hush descends upon everyone simultaneously. The atmosphere is distilled into a thick holiness that stuns the senses into a peculiar mixture of somnolence and brilliant awareness. Such a moment presented itself and the leader fell silent.
A woman from the back spoke forth in a loud voice, “Thus saith the Lord…”
She went on to explain that the Spirit of God was being quenched by sins in the body. One by one she went on to list the things which were being done in secret which required repentance. She encouraged the people to rise up and turn to God so that His Spirit could work supernaturally again in the congregation.
Paul, the apostle, wrote in I Corinthains 14:1 “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.”
A certain amount of confusion exists concerning the gift of prophecy as it is outlined in Scripture. Most think of prophecy as prognostication, seeing the future, even clairvoyance. Really though prophecy is more forth-telling than fore-telling.
Prophecy is, simply put, bringing forth a message from God to a body of believers. It may involve revelation of a future event but many times it is simply encouragement or instruction which helps the church to move through a certain event in its corporate life. As Paul wrote, “…he who prophesies edifies the church.” (I Corinthains 14:4 b)
The gift of prophecy is not to be exercised lightly; It requires wisdom and great obedience. There are rules:
1. Prophecy must edify It must enlighten, it must encourage and instruct to improve moral, intellectual, or spiritual understanding.
As an aside. I am not a big fan of what many people term “hard words”. The story I opened with is an example of a hard word. I have found they almost never produce the desired result. Usually such a word is better held, reported to the senior pastor, and then given under his advisement.
2. The word must be biblical
This must seem obvious. But I have heard people give words that are contrary to Scripture believing they are speaking to some kind of loophole or giving new revelation (this is a particular temptation when dealing with personal words of prophecy). The gift of prophecy is subject to the Word of God and the Bible is our ONE authoritative rule for faith and conduct. The gift is not even on equal footing with Scripture. Scripture first then prophecy lines up with it!
3. Prophecy is a gift that must be judged by others who have the gift. “And let the prophets speak by two or three, and let the others discern.” I Corinthians 14:29
In our church after a prophet speaks our pastor will ratify the word if he feels it is of the Lord and timely. If he feels it is out of time or incorrect he will pass the prophecy by and speak privately to the person who gave it after service. the gift of prophecy must be pastored. Many times people speak a word that is from God but they add or subtract from it out of fear or confusion. Again we are not dealing with Scripture here. People make mistakes (particularly when they are new to the gift). However mistakes publically made must be corrected and dealt with so that no harm is brought to the body.
I cannot tell you how the gift operates in everyone’s life. I can tell you how it has come to me:
Usually when I am about to be used in prophetic utterance it begins as an unction. An unction is a strong sense of the Lord’s presence. To me it feels like my insides are on fire and I am going downhill on a rollercoaster all at once.
As the unction increases I begin to receive a very strong inner impression of the word God wants me to speak. Seldom do I just start speaking without having and idea of what I am going to say.
As the word of the Lord comes I begin to ask the Lord if the prophecy is to be shared or just held onto for prayer purposes. I wait for an answer. I do not move forward until I know. I always wait for an opening, a proper place to share. If a proper spot for the message is not found I hold the word and send it via e-mail later to my pastor.
Always after service I try to write the word down so I will remember it. Many times I receive a word in service and do not get to share it until several weeks later. Often I end up sharing it to several different groups of people. It’s odd how it works. I will receive a word of prophecy during a Sunday morning service and never get the opportunity to speak but then I will be leading worship on Wednesday night and the Lord will bring the word back to my mind and will tell me to share.
The gift is marvelous and the body of Christ needs it. Eagerly desire spiritual gifts brothers and sisters and especially the gift of prophecy!
What are your experiences with prophecy?