Not like much of Old Testament prophecy. It is given “for edification, encouragement, and comfort” (I Cor. 14:3). I thought as a young man that its purpose was to say something dark about a person so he or she would be ashamed and confess sins. New Testament prophecy is about grace and mercy, not shame and condemnation. The New Covenant through the blood of Jesus changed everything.   


It speaks to who people are and who they are becoming, not to their past and how they’ve blown it. It is not looking to call someone out but to invite them into their destiny. Do you know anyone who could use some encouragement or comfort?  God in his love wants to say upbuilding words to discouraged people, and He wants you and me to do it. People get beaten up enough; they don’t need us to point out their failures. They need people to tell them what God thinks of them. People who are victims look to their past and are threatened by the future. Prophecy helps them to become victors and face the future with confidence.


We used to have well-known prophets from around the country give prophetic words at our Holy Spirit Conference. Few people were saying, “I could do that.” Then we began inviting people to teach us how to do it rather than doing it for us. Then my daughter Karis said, “I could do that.” You learn to say what you see, and God opens your eyes to see what He wants you to see. My friend Fred Thoni, a gifted prophet, teaches people to start prophesying by telling them to say this as they look at people: “The Father loves you and says to you that…” As you step out in faith, knowing that “love believes all things,” God will give you prophetic words that speak grace and truth to the heart.  And you won’t get stoned if you don’t get it all right, because you are learning little by little and growing in faith and confidence. New Testament prophecy helps you do that.


Paul made that clear. He said, “You can all prophesy” (I Cor. 14:31). It is meant to find expression in the local church when the people gather on Sunday or during the week. It can also go wherever we go! Really cool! Joel wrote, “Your sons and daughters shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17). The New Covenant opened the door so that you didn’t need a beard to prophesy.


As you walk into prophetic words with faith, the prophecy grows, and so does the prophet. We can practice prophesying, and we grow in the gift as we exercise it in faith. At the beginning we may be 30% accurate. As faith increases, so does the accuracy. Paul wrote, “If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith” (Romans 12:6). 


even with the big guys. No one is spot on every time. You do not have to receive a word simply because it was given by an important person. Paul wrote, “Do not treat prophecies with contempt” (I Thess. 5:20), but then he adds, “Test everything. Hold on to the good” (21). And remember–without love, prophecy is nothing.


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!