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Prophecy: A Beginner’s Guide

An introduction to the charismatic gift of prophecy by Duncan Mitchell from the Cor et Lumen Christi Community.

About fourteen years ago a man praying over me shared the following picture: he saw me at home, looking out of a window at the moon.

He prayed a bit more and then asked if I had a sleep problem.

This rather mundane picture opened up the world of prophecy to me in a new way: what this man couldn’t have known was that for years I had suffered from insomnia and to help relieve the tedium of sleeplessness I’d open my blind and gaze at the moon.

From this picture came such a consoling prayer but, more importantly, I knew that God cared for me and was with me during those long nights.

What is prophecy?

Prophecy can be a difficult charismatic gift to understand. It helps to be able to recognise the common ways it is expressed, and to have confidence in the appropriate ways of responding to prophetic messages. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Prophecy should: build up, encourage and console (1 Cor 14:3). I was consoled by a prophetic word, but I have witnessed or read about words that do the following: lead to forgiveness and reconciliation; liberate from addiction; provide direction and focus for different areas of people’s life and ministry; assist with inner and physical healing. Indeed, prophecy has the capacity to speak into all areas of human life and experience.

  • Prophecy can relate things unknown by human reasoning (revelational) or what is known but under a particular anointing (inspirational). The prophetic word about my sleep problem was an example of revelational prophecy. An example of inspirational prophecy is this: I remember being ill at ease once before giving a talk and someone prayed saying that God loved me and would send me his peace. I knew this to be true but under the anointing I experienced this truth in a new and powerful way.

  • Weighing prophecy. Since we prophesy only in part (1 Cor 13:9) prophecy should be weighed so that its accuracy and appropriateness can be fully understood and accepted, rejected or ‘filed’ for further reflection.

  • How God communicates. Some people hear or see written words; others see pictures either of a particular object or of a person engaged in some activity (as in my opening example); a passage of the scriptures may come to mind or; a person may experience a particular feeling or emotion.

  • Understanding what God has said. Once God has communicated an image, word, etc. we must seek to understand what this means. Don’t jump to conclusions if you are delivering the word. (Sometimes the meaning of a prophetic word only becomes clear over time.)

  • A living word. Pray that what God has revealed may come to pass and give life.

  • Finally, the key to growing in an authentic prophetic gift is to combine daily prayer with a humble obedience to the prophetic word that God has chosen to reveal to us.

Are you open to being prophesied over?

‘Make love your aim and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.’ 1 Cor. 14:1

Before I experienced a prophetic word I was rather dismissive of the gift. Afterwards I saw it as a means of grace by which God ministers his love and brings new life. I had to repent of my casual attitude, give thanks for what I had received and pray to be open to allow God to speak in this way.

St Paul makes it clear that he envisages that Christians who want to prophesy will want to do so because they desire to see God’s love in action.

As with all Charisms love must be our aim and the same is true of prophecy. If we prophesy with love and humility our prophecy will bear real fruit. So let us pray that, like St Paul, we too might earnestly desire to prophesy.


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