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On Christmas day there is always one present that I rush to open before anything else. It’s not under the tree or in my stocking, but on the fireplace mantle there’s a little framed card that has become my favorite Christmas gift.
This gift isn’t expensive, flashy, or bought in a store, but it’s the most personal, encouraging, and valuable gift I open each year. And it’s a gift we all should be giving more often.
My Father’s Tradition
About ten years ago, my dad started the tradition of giving each family member a prophetic word for the coming year. Months before the Christmas season, he begins to spend time in prayer listening for what God would say to each one of us. He types them on in pretty fonts, and frames them for us to display at home where we’ll be reminded of them long past Christmas morning.
The words are short and simple, just a few sentences, but they are always spot on to what my heart needs to hear that year. From an inner healing perspective, I love the thought of my earthly father partnering with my heavenly Father to give me a special gift.
God could always just tell me these things Himself in prayer, but the prophetic has a way of making us actually listen to what He is saying.
Rarely do the prophetic words say anything my dad would have already known, so hearing the words come from my dad confirms all the more that it is God speaking to me through him.
It’s so reassuring to get such confirmation that the things I think God is telling me are not just in my imagination.
The Gift of Prophecy
1 Corinthians 14 says “It is good that you are enthusiastic and passionate about spiritual gifts, especially prophecy […] when someone prophesies, he speaks to encourage people, to build them up, and to bring them comfort.” (TPT)
Sometimes we can get tripped up by the terms “prophetic word” or “prophecy” because of how others have misused or misrepresented them in the past. But prophecy is simply speaking God’s truth in a way that edifies, encourages, and consoles others. It’s a powerful spiritual gift that God tells us to desire, pursue, and share freely.
And prophecy isn’t just a gift that some people get and others don’t. Acts 2:16-18 tells us that prophecy is a gift of the spirit for all believers. You can hear God’s voice, which means you can prophesy. You can give encouragement straight from God’s heart to someone else.
Although Romans 12:6 and 1 Corinthians 12:10 are used by some to say that prophesy isn’t a gift everyone gets, 1 Corinthians 14 and Acts 2:16-18 make it clear that prophesy is a gift God desires for all of us to have and to operate in for the health of The Church. “…the one who prophesies builds up the church.” 1 Corinthians 14:4 (TPT)
Perhaps neglecting the gift of prophecy is part of why we see depression and anxiety inside the church as much as outside. Remember the purpose of prophecy is to encourage, bring comfort, and build up. And Paul contrasts prophecy to tongues explaining that tongues is for the encouragement of the individual but prophecy is for sharing with each other. “I would be delighted if you all spoke in tongues, but I desire even more that you impart prophetic revelation to others.” 1 Corinthians 4:5 (TPT).
Prophecy vs Word of Knowledge
One distinction between prophecy and a word of knowledge (also sometimes just called a prophetic word) is that a word of knowledge has specific information about the past, present, or future that you would not know except by God telling you. With words of knowledge you do need to be careful that you aren’t sharing from your own thoughts.
For example: not telling someone they are going to have a baby or marry a specific person or see something happen on a specific date. Words of knowledge need to be weighed very carefully and shared with the caveat that we all are still learning to hear clearly from God and do get it wrong sometimes. Specific words of knowledge also need to be given in an atmosphere of relationship where you can walk in accountability with the person you share with in seeing what happens with that word and handling the disappointments together if it was off.
Prophecy itself though is purely encouragement, consolation, and edification. It does not need to contain words of knowledge and the ultimate goal of prophecy is to communicate God’s heart towards the person.
My thoughts or God’s
If you’re worried about if what you’re hearing is really God or your own thoughts, consider first if what you are hearing is simply prophecy — encouragement, edification, consolation or a word of knowledge — specific information about the past, present, or future.
2 Peter 1:21 says, “No true prophecy comes from human initiative but is inspired by the moving of the Holy Spirit upon those who spoke the message that came from God.” (TPT)
If what you are sharing is full of God’s truth, his heart towards people, his encouragement, his consolation, there is no way you could be filled with those words except by the Holy Spirit. It is still good to examine everything we hear with Holy Spirit but as your heart aligns with God’s heart your thoughts sound more and more like his and the distinction can get harder to make.
If you’re not sure if a prophecy aligns with his heart then ask him, he’ll be happy to tell you. The same is true for prophetic words other’s give you. If it doesn’t feel like love, encouragement, truth, edification, then it’s probably not from God. It’s Holy Spirit’s job to convict us, not other people’s.
However if what you’re hearing is more a word of knowledge than simple prophecy you do need to carefully weigh out whether that is something you thought up yourself or if it’s coming from God. Even if it is coming from God he may not want you to share it, he may just want you to encourage the person with that information in mind. The gift of prophecy isn’t meant to be used apart from relationship with God. He wants us to partner with him and encouraging his people.
Starting Your Own Tradition
Maybe start your own tradition this year of giving prophetic words to your loved ones. My dad frames ours but you could start a journal to fill each year, write cards, or simply spend some time praying over one another and sharing what God puts on your heart. (For your words of affirmation love language folks this will be the best gift you could ever give them.)
It can be vulnerable to share what you hear from God with others, especially family; it definitely was a vulnerable place for my dad. But the blessings we have all reaped from him willing to be vulnerable were well worth the risk it took to begin sharing them.
Some questions you can ask God to get started with giving prophetic words:
- How do you see this person?
- What do you want them to know about the coming new year?
- How do you feel about the struggles they’re facing?
If you want to learn more about growing in the gift of prophecy check out Translating God by Shawn Bolz, it’s a great down to earth introduction to walking in the spiritual gift of prophecy without being weird and is also one of the text books we use in The Inner Healing School. The Bethel Prophetic blog also has lots of great content to help you grow in this gift.
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