Have you ever desired to prophesy but weren’t confident that you could? Or, have you ever thought that prophecy was only for those weird ‘prophetic-type’ people, who always claim they heard from God? Or, have you been taught that prophecy is not even available today, so why bother pursuing something that is ‘spiritually-illegal’? Well, I want to encourage you, that not only is prophecy available today, but more importantly, that prophecy is part of your spiritual inheritance and something that YOU CAN DO!
When thinking about prophecy, you may imagine one of the prophets from the Old Testament—you know the scary looking dude that came to Israel with a gut-wrenching, negative assault on the way people were living at the time and with predictions of doom and destruction. Or, you may think of a contemporary prophetic person, like some high-profile conference speaker that talks about ‘seeing’ angels and things like that, and stuns audiences by calling individuals out by name and giving detailed information about their lives. While both of these examples can be accurate descriptions of prophecy or prophetic ministry, the truth is that there is a far more common expression of prophecy that has been made available to every believer in Jesus that neither uses the Old Testament prophets nor the super-gifted modern day prophet as the normal, day-to-day example of prophecy in a believer’s life.
When considering prophecy, what we’re really speaking of is ‘hearing’ from God—and by that I don’t mean some ‘audible voice’, but rather the small sensing within. But how can you prophesy if you haven’t heard what to say? This is critical for us to understand, so we can have healthy, biblical perspective concerning God’s desire to talk to us. Years ago, I used to imagine prophecy like the example above, with the super-gifted prophet as my standard for what ‘real’ prophecy looked like. In one way, I was greatly encouraged by the supernatural display of power, but in another way, I would get discouraged because when I looked at my history with God, I assumed because I didn’t have such awesome experiences that I wasn’t really ‘prophetic’—just someone hungry for things I probably wouldn’t receive. For me the issue that affected me the most was my lack of confidence, which caused me to play down much of what I was receiving from the Lord, believing that it probably wasn’t Him, so I would just forget it. Over time, however, I began to discern and value the way the Lord would speak to me and was surprised how often I was ‘hearing’ from Him.
We have to be careful when comparing our experiences with others, because this can end up causing more discouragement than good, especially when it comes to the issue of ‘hearing’ from God. This can quickly turn into the ‘have and have not’ divide among believers. This kind of tension creates unnecessary pain resulting in division and inflexible opinions justifying one’s experience—or lack of one.
Once again, God absolutely desires to speak to you, this is at the heart of being able to prophesy. When we become convinced that God not only speaks today, but that He will actually speak to us, this awakens hope and excites our faith to pursue prophecy confidently. In the book of Joel, God had given an amazing prophecy, concerning a future time when He would pour out His Spirit in such a way that those receiving the Holy Spirit would have ‘prophetic’ encounters with God, “It will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. 29 “Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28–29).
I can imagine the prophet Joel being completely stunned to hear that the Spirit would be poured upon all flesh and that they would prophesy and have dreams and visions. Joel understood that prophecy was only given to those specially called to that function, yet the Lord said those filled with the Spirit would prophesy. This gives us a new understanding of God’s heart as it expresses His desire to intimately relate to us by graciously providing a way for us to supernaturally encounter Him.
The promise of Joel had its initial fulfillment on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2, where the Holy Spirit descended upon the 120 in a supernatural way that caused awe and wonder in those present. Peter said in Acts 2:16 that “this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel,” and quoted Joel 2:28–32. So, we see the outpouring of the Spirit connected to the event on Pentecost. This means that anyone who believes in Jesus has as an inheritance of prophecy, dreams, and visions. God made a way for all to know Him through His Son and to be filled with the Spirit.
The Spirit now living inside us communicates God’s heart to us. God wants all His children to know Him directly and be able to discern His voice—the ‘prophetic’ Spirit is in every believer, which is unrelated to a ministry calling. Paul spoke about this inclusiveness of prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14, “Now I wish that … You would prophesy… For you can all prophesy… (1 Corinthians 14:5, 31). Paul further encouraged us to earnestly desire prophecy because of its benefits to strengthen and encourage others (see 1 Corinthians 14:1, 3).
I want to encourage you to not only believe that God will speak to you, but for you to specifically pursue prophecy. The Holy Spirit lives in you and will speak to you! Be looking for part two of “You Can Prophesy” to see more practical tips on how to prophesy.