Recently, someone asked me this question. My answer follows it.
Prophecy is one gifting Paul said to earnestly desire for edifying the Body, but I’ve only once experienced it close to how it was practiced in the early church. Instead folks with the gifting (or something like it) seem to be celebritized at some level in charismatic circles, or in evangelical circles. Others get harnessed with presenting it simply as “teaching.” The Holy Spirit is a polite bystander.
My question is, practically speaking, how can one grow in and practice this gifting in the church, especially without slipping into these ruts? I just feel what is presented as prophecy today is a far cry from what the Spirit wants to offer (Christ, the Father), or how He truly expresses Himself (unboxed, radically humble, unapologetically supernatural).
Most of what passes for “prophesying” today is not the real deal. It’s often packaged in unbiblical and artificial accents, gestures, and voice tones that are largely learned by imitation.
A prophetic utterance is a word that reveals Jesus Christ. It’s not a “teaching,” but a present word from God concerning Christ. The Old Testament prophecies all revealed Jesus.
New Testament prophecy does the same. “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10).
A prophetic utterance doesn’t have to be preceded by “Thus says the Lord” or “The Lord is telling me,” or any of those appeals. (I rarely if ever make those statements when delivering a prophetic word.)
The best book to understand what prophetic utterances are is T. Austin-Sparks’ Prophetic Ministry.
Unfortunately, this understanding of prophetic utterances has been lost to us. When Paul talks about prophetic utterances in 1 Corinthians 14, he’s speaking in the context of an open meeting where the believers are knowing the Lord together during the week, then sharing Him in their gatherings.
I was in a meeting recently when a powerful prophetic word was given. The one who gave it never said, “I’m about to give a prophetic word” or “God is telling me” or “Thus says the Lord or “El Shundai!”
He just started to speak. He told a story from the New Testament in a way that made it come alive. While doing so, he began weeping. The others in the room started to weep also. (Sometimes prophetic words create overwhelming emotion in the one giving it as well as those hearing it.)
He then made an incisive point with the story and applied it straight to someone in the room, exposing the Lord’s present thought for that individual, exposing their hearts and exhorting them toward repentance and trust in Christ.
I’m not sure how many people in the room — or the individual to whom the word was addressed — recognized that they were standing in the presence of the Lord speaking prophetically.
I say this because it didn’t come with all the typical packages that so-called “prophetic words” have been associated with over the last 50 years.
The real Jesus often comes to us in ways with which we aren’t familiar or used to.
That’s one small example.
Prophetic utterances can be spontaneous or they can be brought as a message unveiling Christ that the speaker has received and then delivers.
Most of the Master Class sessions are prophetic utterances in the New Testament sense of the word. Others are teachings.
Regarding how one can grow into this gift, it begins with knowing the Lord, learning how to live by His life, and discerning His voice. That’s the content of prophetic utterances.
So my advice to you would be to seek to know the Lord Himself in a deeper way than you know Him now. And let all other pursuits — including pursuing certain “gifts” — fall to the way side. In knowing Christ and learning to live by His life and hear His voice (something I discuss very practically in Part 2 of Jesus Speaks, should you be interested), you will have all that you need.
When you are in a situation where you are given a platform to share the Lord, you will have something to share of Christ. Forget the label “prophetic” and simply share Him. That’s what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 14. The Spirit uses such words to encourage, strengthen, challenge, comfort, and even expose the heart.
These words — or messages — shed light on Christ, magnify Him, and be edifying to those who hear it. Unfortunately, churches that have meetings that resemble 1 Corinthians 14 are rarely known today. And “prophecy” has been reduced to mean something very different. Sometimes a prophetic word can contain a word about the future (e.g. Agabus), but it always points to Christ. I deal with all of this in more detail in the Titan (There Must Be More).