#564 (24/3/22)WHAT IS PROPHECY AND HOW CAN I DO IT?
This week, as we continue our 6-week study on the person of the Holy Spirit, we will be looking at the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
i) WHAT IS PROPHECY?
Prophecy (Prophéteuó) means to foretell (future events) and forth-tell (praise to God, or strenthenning, encouragement and comfort from God) by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Prophecy is declaring the immediate word of God to the church or an individual for edification and insight. Prophecy can be spoken, sung or even be enacted (Acts 21:10-11). It can be received in numerous ways such as when reading a text of scripture, a picture/impression on the mind, a dream a vision etc.
Some would claim that prophets and prophecy no longer exist now that we have the Bible – we have God’s word, they say, so why do we need lesser words from God? All I can say is that the bible itself promises prophets, prophecy and gives direction on how to do it! So, to honour God’s inerrant word (the bible) we have to accept the imperfect words of prophets! Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 13 that when Christ comes the gifts will cease; but, in the meantime we,
‘know in part and we prophesy in part.’ (1 Corinthians 13:9)
It’s worth pointing out that we can all prophecy in some measure but some prophecy on such a regular basis and with such power that they are recognised as prophets.
ii) EAGERLY DESIRE SPIRITUAL GIFTS ESPECIALLY PROPHECY
‘Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy’ (1 Corinthians 14:1) (See 12:31).
Love is the motive for prophesying. One who loves the church will be ‘eager’ to bless her through gifts, especially prophecy. I know that I can be passive at times, my desires being far from ‘eager’. What are you eager for? At around lunchtime, I ‘eagerly desire’ food. We eagerly desire what we actually need. I can be tempted to think that I can live life and do church without the Spirit and His gifts – specifically, without prophecy. Let’s eagerly desire Him and His gifts and see the fruit that comes as a result.
Prophecy can be for an individual
We read regarding Timothy,
‘Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well…’ (1 Timothy 1:18).
May we all be eager to give personal prophecies to people so as to encourage them.
Prophecy is often for a whole church
Gordon Fee writes,
‘The prophet spoke to God’s people under the inspiration of the Spirit. In Paul such speech consists of spontaneous, understandable messages, orally delivered in the gathered assembly, intended for the edification or encouragement of the people. For the most part these appear to be directed toward the whole community.’ (Fee, Gordon D.. Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God P. 171)
iii) HOW TO PROPHESY IN THE CHURCH?
‘Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.’ (1 Corinthians 14:29) (See 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 also)
There is limited time and ability to digest what’s said and so God puts a wise limitation on the number of prophecies in a meeting.
Prophecy should be ‘weighed carefully’. The ‘others’ who weigh could be the church or the elders but weighing should happen. At CCP it’s the elders who do this by thinking and praying about what is shared.
iv) A FEW POINTERS ON HOW TO PROPHESY
Be consistent in your devotions and scripture study. The Spirit will use the truth that you’ve digested in your prophecies.
Pay attention to things that come into your mind: words, scripture, images thoughts etc. that seem to have surprisingly ‘turned up’ in your mind. These could be inspired by the Spirit.
Personally ‘Weigh’ your prophecy against scripture in advance of sharing it – is it in line with truth?
Expect your prophecy to be weighed and be ready for it to be questioned. If we are not humble, we will become easily offended and stop using this gift.
Listen to what’s happening in the meeting – is your word in accord with what the Spirit is already saying?
Think about what you are going to say so that you can be concise. We love people by seeking to communicate clearly.
For obvious reasons, be very cautious in using “The Lord is saying…” (Something like it is used in Acts 21:11 so can’t be ruled out). Use a softer approach like “I feel that God may be saying…but please weigh what I’ve shared with you”.
If you are prophesying over someone, it’s good (if not always possible) to have someone else with you who is listening to what you say. This provides accountability and safety.