Have a question about the gift of prophecy? In two weeks I will be recording a Q&A session where I will answer your questions! Leave questions in the comments or send me a message, and I will get to as many as I can!
You should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives—especially the ability to prophesy…. But one who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them. A person who speaks in tongues is strengthened personally, but one who speaks a word of prophecy strengthens the entire church.
(1 Cor. 14:1, 3-4 NLT).
Paul knew that the gift of prophecy is a huge asset to the church, so it should be something that is encouraged, and believers with that gift should want to grow in. So what does that look like in everyday life?
When you hear the word prophecy, if you haven’t ever used that gift, there can be a sense of something grand and mysterious. People can be hesitant to use it for fear of messing the prophetic word up and steering someone off course for their life. But using the gift of prophecy doesn’t have to be a scary or fearful thing. Remember, the main purpose for prophecy is to encourage, comfort, and strengthen others—not to guide them into their divine destiny; that’s God’s job!
Those who operate in the gift of prophecy may find that they have an urge to say a specific thing to someone, especially during prayer. You might get an image in your mind or just have some words or phrases pop into your head that weren’t there before. This is often from the Holy Spirit, and He wants you to start speaking. If you just have one word or phrase, you may find more comes out once you step out in obedience to speak what God is saying.
When to Speak—or not Speak!
Something that comes with time and experience with the gift of prophecy is being able to discern what, when, and how to speak the things God is giving you. It may not always be for the very moment that you get the word. For instance, maybe you see someone across the sanctuary during worship and God speaks a word to you for them. You probably shouldn’t march right over to that person during the service and tell it to them right then. Sometimes it might be a word that someone is not ready to hear just yet, and you need to rely on the Holy Spirit to release you to speak it in the right moment, even if it is weeks, months—or even years later!
Proverbs even talks about this:
Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time! (Proverbs 15:23)
Using Prophecy Privately and Publicly
As a general rule, someone who is using the gift of prophecy will not normally be addressing the whole church with that gift. I mentioned that there is a big difference between someone who is a full-time minister who operates in the office of the prophet versus a believer who operates in the gift of prophecy. An extremely brief distinction is that the prophet speaks to the church as a whole; the gift of prophecy encourages and strengthens individuals in the body.
So if you have the gift of prophecy, you will mainly be speaking one-on-one with people or maybe in a small group setting at most. There may be moments when God gives an encouraging word (not a “thus saith the Lord” warning or admonishment) for the whole body, but before you grab the microphone to speak it, make sure you clear it with your pastor or a church leader. And sometimes the “word” actually may be an interpretation of something spoken in tongues, not a stand-alone prophetic word, but we will get into that later on when we talk about that gift.
Just like you need to discern the right time to speak a word to someone, you also need to determine the right setting. There are times when the word should be given privately to in individual instead of in front of others. It has been said that the greatest thing Christians should pray for is discernment, and I agree! In order for any of the spiritual gifts to be used properly, we have to use discernment with how we walk in them.
Steer Clear of Heresy
When it comes to prophecy, some people may roll their eyes and walk on the other side of the sanctuary. Why? It’s easy for prophecy to slip right into heresy. I know of whole movements that are so focused on releasing prophetic words, it almost seems as though the Bible becomes secondary to prophecy—and that is a huge problem! If someone is seeking the next “word” more than they are seeking Jesus, their priorities need to get realigned.
The Bible should be what you measure prophetic words against; and if it doesn’t line up with scripture, then you probably did not hear God for that word, but rather the flesh or the enemy. So how do we safeguard ourselves from heresy when it comes to using the gift of prophecy? Always look to the Bible to see if what you are saying lines up with it (and not “slicing and dicing” verses to make it fit). If you can’t find it in the Word, don’t speak it. Sure, it might mean that you can’t speak that word over someone until later on after you’ve checked it, but it’s better to wait than to speak something contrary to Scripture over a fellow believer.
Thank you for reading this spiritual gifts training. I pray it has been a blessing to you! Stay tuned! Next week we will be doing an interview with someone who God uses in the gift of prophecy, so you won’t want to miss it!
Are you a writer? This summer we will be releasing author training courses. Visit www.csbookdesign.com for more information.