For many people the word prophecy is taboo.
It’s associated with charlatans.
It’s associated with people who threaten cities with judgement and wrath for sin.
It’s associated with people who shame people publicly by exposing their sins.
And it’s associated with those who make numerous inaccurate predictions about the end of the world.
I’m not going to lie to you, all these people exist. Not only that, that list is just scraping the surface of those who use “prophecy” to do terrible and stupid things.
But does that mean we should run away from prophecy?
Why prophecy is so important
When I was in my early twenties I found myself in a church that was a little bit conservative. OK, it was very conservative. In fact, just the mention of the word prophecy could endanger your membership!
It was at this time of my life though that God started to teach me the importance of prophecy.
I discovered that according to 1 Cor 14:3-4, prophecy “strengthens, encourages and comforts others” – that sounded like a great gift to me!
In the next verse Paul says that “he would rather you prophecy than any other gift.”
In verse 1 he tells the Corinthians to lust (zēloō) after spiritual gifts. These gifts are not something we should be nonchalant towards. No, we are to desperately want to operate in them… prophecy most of all!
Another key to note is that later in the chapter (verse 31) Paul says that “you may ALL prophesy”!
Many contest this and say “no, no, no! Prophecy is a special gift for prophets.”
But when we look a little deeper this appears to be quite a ludicrous belief.
We can all prophesy!
We have made prophecy such a mysterious and dangerous topic.
I am going to prove to you that EVERY person on the planet with a pulse is capable of prophecy and it should be a very normal experience.
I’m going to do it by asking two simple questions. They are so simple you could say I’m setting you up here.
1) Is it possible for us to hear the voice of God?
The answer to this is a resounding “yes”.
Many think they don’t hear God’s voice. It’s an unfortunate truth that we don’t train people very well in the church on how to listen for God’s voice. (Possibly because leaders like being that voice – but that’s another blog entirely.)
But just because someone hasn’t helped you learn to recognise God’s voice doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of hearing it! We are His sheep and His sheep hear His voice.
We can all hear God’s voice if we take the time to listen and learn to distinguish His voice from the noise of the world.
2) Is it possible for you to communicate with other people?
Again, duh! Of course it is! Even a quadriplegic with no voice box can communicate with others through today’s incredible technology.
We can all communicate with one another.
What is prophesy?
Now that we’ve established that you can a) hear the voice of God and b) talk to others let’s stop and think about what prophecy is.
Prophecy is often made up to be some epic moment when the booming voice of God sounds from the heavens and the “prophet of the Lord” shares what he has heard.
The truth is that, while that might happen, prophecy doesn’t need to be so glamourous. In fact, it’s typically much more normal than we think.
Prophecy is hearing something from God for another person and sharing it with that person.
No, it’s not for calling out sins or speaking forth judgement – we live in the NEW Covenant. Those things are not something God is interested in speaking over people anymore. Sure, God stays the same forever, but sin doesn’t, nor do we. Jesus came to do away with sin, forgive it once and for all and make us righteous!
Paul gave us the guidelines for prophecy. Prophecy is to be strengthening, encouraging and comforting.
With that in mind I’d wager you’ve probably been prophesying over people and you might not have realized it.
Looking back at my old church – the conservative one I mentioned earlier. If I was to say I had a prophecy for one of the elders I’d have probably been ripped out of any leadership position I had.
But if I came alongside an elder and said “I was praying for you today and felt I had a word of encouragement from The Lord for you. Can I share it?”
Well, considering how much they were against prophecy they sure loved getting it so long as you didn’t use the “p” word.
Any time you hear from God, and share that word into someone else’s life to bring forth strength, encouragement or comfort you are prophesying into that person.
We can all prophesy. Not only that, we should all prophesy!
Want to go deeper?
For those who want to look into this more I highly recommend the excellent book by Steve Thompson – “You may all prophesy”. It’s a really easy read but goes into this topic in much more depth – especially if you have questions of how to hear God’s voice better and what about all that Old Testament prophecy?