Amid all the controversy surrounding the prophetic, another issue that may be greatly misunderstood is personal prophecy. Below are some answers to common questions that address its major concerns.
Dr. Paula A. Price, Renowned Author of
The Prophet’s Dictionary
1. What is prophecy?
2. Why is prophecy needed?
3. Who is prophecy for?
4. Should “personal prophecy” be practiced?
5. Why should people receive personal prophecy?
6. What is the biblical basis for personal prophecy?
7. What value is personal prophecy to people and why does God permit it?
8. Should people seek personal prophecy?
9. Does Scripture allude to or record anything akin to a prophetic presbytery?
10. What are the means of receiving personal prophecy?
11. What about false prophecy?
The most succinct definition of prophecy, used in The Prophet’s Dictionary, is “God’s communications media.” Prophecy is God’s means of talking to us to reveal His mind and actions.
Prophecy allows our invisible and inaudible God to publicize His thoughts in our world through people.
Prophecy is for its communicator; in our case, the Lord. Communication between the Creator and His creation began with God, who remains unknown apart from tangibly contacting us. True prophecy reveals His future for us. Despite what traditional doctrine preaches, the Scriptures emphatically show that He wants us to inquire of reputable prophets to unveil to us His eternal answers for our lives. Daniel 2:28 frankly makes this point.
Yes, because people desire to know the future for many reasons, most of them good. Also, the Lord needs them to know it. Prophecy helps us plan life better, arm ourselves for its upsets, and equip ourselves to take better advantage of coming opportunities that God arranged before time. With prayer and Bible study, it can be an amazing tool.
God desires people to know His future for them so that He can guide their life decisions. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says the Lord put eternity in our hearts. Why? So that He can lead us throughout life. Job 33:14–16 adds that He sealed our work in our hands for us to seek His plans for our lives because, as Acts 15:18 declares, God has known from eternity all of His works. Prophecy answers our unknowns.
Scripture is full of examples of personal prophecy to individuals, families, and nations. From God’s prophecy to Adam that he would surely die in the day that he ate from the forbidden tree, to the book of Revelation’s end of the age, prophecy reigns. Creation, future leaders, and answered prayer all started with prophecy. It is the single medium that keeps the Almighty in touch with His creation and keeps God in control. Jesus reiterates how He came to earth according to the prophecies made concerning Him. (See Psalm 40:7 and Hebrews 10:7) The purpose of prophecy is to bring God’s eternal word to pass on time, as stressed in Scripture at least fifty-five times. Evidence of that word’s coming to pass is its physicality in events, objects, or actions.
We cannot know tomorrow except if someone from the future reveals it to us. God is outside our time and holds all tomorrows in His hand. Psalm 139:16 says He wrote a book for every life that He made, and recorded every life before it began. Genesis 5:1’s book of Adam’s generations and Matthew 1:1’s book of Christ’s generation suggest this. See The Prophet’s Dictionary under their headings.
True prophecy is not empty words prayed or uttered by gifted people describing what they see. Rather, it taps into Creator God’s library and sees a page or chapter of a person’s life book written long before time began. God permits and perpetuates prophecy to steer our lives to His eternal existence and to refine us and make us flourish along the way. He also uses prophecy to assure that the gifts and talents He deposits in people are properly and prosperously used as He intends. According to Exodus 18, Moses performed this function for Israel as he told them the work they were to do.
Scripture does not say God’s people are not to inquire of Him by His prophets. In fact, it appears to say the opposite. Jesus said to receive a prophet in the name of a prophet in Matthew’s gospel; Paul encouraged Timothy to use the prophecies that commissioned him to wage a good warfare. Later he told Timothy not to neglect the gift he received by prophecy. (See 1 Timothy 1:18 and 4:14.) Why else would he instruct his young protégé thusly, except that prophecy is a powerful means of conquering this life?
When questioning the propriety of seeking a bona fide prophet, consider this. If it is okay for you to seek counsel, prayer, intercession, professional or casual advice, but why is it taboo to inquire of God from a prophet? You can seek words of wisdom or knowledge from someone’s prayer, hear God through an advisor or a therapist, and benefit from a friend’s wisdom, but you may not seek a prophet. That does not seem to make sense. Meanwhile, as pointed out previously, Exodus 18 says Moses let God’s people inquire of him all day.
As a prophet, he judged, taught, and instructed Israel according to God’s law. Later, in Exodus 18:20, Jethro’s counsel shows that Moses addressed their lifestyles and careers, clearly doing so by ministering personal prophecy. In 1 Samuel 15, Saul visited the prophet Samuel to learn what happened to his lost donkeys. Samuel was not surprised that Saul sought him on such a mundane issue. Furthermore, Samuel’s company of prophets suggests people sought them routinely for life’s answers.
A prophetic presbytery is strongly implied in Scripture based on several mentions of a company of prophets, also expressed as “the sons of the prophets.” These groups of stationary or itinerant ministers identify a body of prophesying voices who served from the palace to the villages. Jeremiah’s conflict with Hananiah in Jeremiah 28 further reinforces this practice as an apparent presbytery of prophets was summoned by the king to advise him on an impending military campaign. A similar example is seen with Ahab and Micaiah in 1 Kings 22, and Paul spoke of a prophesying presbytery in 1 Timothy 4:14.
Aside from gaining audience with a prophet or encountering one with the gift of prophecy, other ways of receiving prophecy include dreams, visions, prayer, Scripture study, and casual conversation with highly spiritual or especially wise people. Most notable among these is the conscientious intercessor.
A last and most typical way to receive a prophetic word from the Lord is through the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, taught in 1 Corinthians 12:7–11. This action is not the same as one exercising the gift of prophecy. The manifestation is as the Spirit wills; exercising one’s gift of prophecy is not dependent upon the Holy Spirit’s initiatives.
Of the more than five hundred times the word prophet appears in Scripture, there are only about twenty-one mentions of false prophets, perhaps because less than 10 percent of the prophetic actions recorded were false. Of the more than thirty prophets identified in Scripture, including major and minor prophets, only a handful of false prophets are named: Jezebel, Noadiah, Jannes and Jambres, and Balaam, to name a few.
That is not to say that there were no others, but it implies that false prophets and false prophecy were less of a threat than today’s popular teachings communicate. Divination, the word for false prophecy, is in the Old Testament about twelve times. While false prophecy is a concern, more damage is done by uneducated or overly sensual prophets such as those given little opportunity to perfect their skill before now.