Karis, our youngest, once said, “I used to think that prophecy was something speakers did at conferences. Now it’s simple: say what you see.”

She was taking prophecy from the extraordinary into the ordinary. When a well-known prophet delivers a right-on message, no one says, “I can do that.” When a team of young people spoke prophetic words at the store, my daughter decided, “I get it.” When Paul said, “You can all prophesy,” he wasn’t speaking to veterans.

He also said that “everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort” (I Corinthians 14:3). We don’t have to look for dark clouds to give an authentic word. Prophecy builds up; it doesn’t tear down.

If you receive a negative word like pornography, you might say, “God is for you. He wants to bring you victory, not shame you.” Or if you know the person, you might say, “We all fight battles. Any you are not winning?”

Jesus could have found plenty of garbage in Matthew’s life, but he called him to his destiny by saying two words: “Follow me.” Jesus looked past his faults to his future. Prophecy can take peoples’ eyes off their defeats and allow them to see what God is doing. Prophecy is more about peoples’ potential than their past.

Here are some guidelines:

  1. Say what you see. Speak naturally and deliberately. If the person has a bright countenance, you may start by commenting on it. God will give you more as you step out.
  2. Address the future. Speak to where people are going more than where they have been.
  3. Keep it simple. Jesus loves making things simple.
  1. Don’t give direction or correction unless you seasoned.

Paul writes, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.” This tells us first that it works in conjunction with love. Grow in love—grow in prophecy. Second, prophecy is a supernatural gift to be desired, not a natural ability to be cultivated. We prophesy according to our faith. Grow in faith—grow in prophecy.

Prophecy is not the same as encouragement. Prophecy includes a timing issue. It is a now word, something coming not just from the heart of the speaker but from the heart of God.

Prophecy is not flattery. Saying something nice about a person’s character or destiny thatis not true will hurt them. People who receive words about being called to the nations when God never intended them to leave their hometown will develop a false sense of hope.

People who prophesy are operating at different levels. A beginner may be 30% accurate, while a person with a mature gift may be 80% accurate. Yet 80% is 20% from perfection. We don’t stone prophets for inaccurate words in the New Covenant; we weigh the prophecy.

Scripture encourages us to go after prophecy. And we should be open to receive prophecy from others. Receiving is a mark of kingdom living. But an open heart and a gullible heart are not the same. Prophetic words can never replace the Word of God. If you are hungry for a prophetic word, read the Scriptures!

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