What is Prophecy and the Prophetic? Here's Everything You Want To Know

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By Alice Clarke

Prophecy can seem like a confusing and mystical thing. There is prophecy in the Bible, and in the present day. But how does it all work? I interviewed Lynley to discover a beginner’s guide to prophecy.

Lynley Allan leads Catch The Fire in Auckland, New Zealand, together with her husband Stuart. She also leads the prophetic network for Catch The Fire churches around the world. Lynley has been prophesying for over 30 years. Her heart is to serve the body of Christ with prophecy and raise and train up prophetic voices that are living the value of transformation and steeped in the love of the Father. Lynley also sits on a prophetic round table for the country of New Zealand.

What is prophecy?

Prophecy is a supernatural enabling by the Spirit of God to hear His voice and then deliver the message of what that voice is saying. I believe that you cannot prophesy without the unction of the Spirit. If you are prophesying without God then you're not prophesying from the correct source. The difference between psychics and prophets in the Kingdom of God is the source of their revelation. We get our source directly from the Holy Spirit. Biblical prophecy is speaking the words of God by the unction of the Holy Spirit.

Who can prophesy?

1 Corinthians 12 talks about the list of spiritual gifts that are available to us when we have the Holy Spirit, so I believe that everybody has the ability to prophesy but not all people will choose to prophesy. Because it's the Holy Spirit that gives us revelation in the first place, all believers can do it. Even if it's a simple picture that is coming directly from God, that can be a profound moment in someone's life.

The scripture also says that there is grace given by the Holy Spirit as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11). You get a measure of grace upon your life to operate in that gift. So for some people, it comes really naturally and other people have to work at it.

So, what’s the difference between someone who can prophesy and someone who’s a prophet?

We can all operate in the gift of prophecy like we can operate in the gift of healing and wisdom and discernment. If someone is called as a prophet then you're looking at a different function. The prophet function in Ephesians 4 is more of a life call. Which is God-given. It's part of who you are, you kind of can't escape it.

I believe true prophets who are walking in the fullness of their call have angelic encounters, they have visions or dreams or both. I'm more of a visions person, I've got a woman on our team, who has more of a dream gift. Prophets will have angelic encounters and the supernatural will be flowing through their life. Not everyone who prophesies accurately is a Prophet.

Prophets should be positioned in the body of Christ, in the local church and operate from being part of a family. I don't believe they should be functioning outside of the local church. It's really good to be commissioned into your call by leadership who recognize the call and anointing in your life.

The other thing to consider is the prophet's realm of influence. Is it a local church influence, or is it a city-wide influence, or is it a global influence? Prophets like Cindy Jacobs, Sharon Stone, Rick Joyner and Bobby Conner are all global influence. That level of influence is definitely decided by God, not by us.

How can a Christian learn to prophesy?

I would first say, “Holy Spirit, this is a gift that you've given me. I believe in faith that you have given me this gift, so would you teach me how to do this? Would you start to give me pictures or words or scriptures for the people around me?” You've got to start with those that are around you. You don't go from zero to prophesying over the nations in five minutes. Scripture says to prophesy in proportion to your faith, so when you start off, you've got a little bit of faith to prophesy and that faith can grow. You also have to build trust in the Holy Spirit that He will speak to you, and you also have to build your trust in yourself that you hear correctly.

Then get some training, read some books, go to a prophetic training course, get activated, have somebody lay hands on you, to impart the gift of faith to prophesy. That would be the starting point.

How should someone respond to a personal prophetic word?

In the exchange of a prophetic word being delivered, there are two powerful people involved. There's the person that is delivering the prophetic word and there's the person that is receiving the prophetic word. You have the choice to accept or not accept the word. Just because somebody has delivered a word to you, you don't have to take it on. The scripture says judge it, sift it, eat what's good and spit out the bones (1 Thessalonians 5:21). In other words, there may be a mix of God and the person's soul or flesh in the word. It's up to us now to learn how to judge it.

A prophetic word is an invitation for a conversation.

I like to listen over and over to the word if it's recorded, or write it out and read it over and over, pray over it, and ask questions. I ask "Holy Spirit, what is 100% you? What is the fluff or the filler?" When you eat a vitamin pill, you know that in the pill there it's not all pure vitamins, there are fillers as well that they add. So when you eat the prophetic word, you want to filter out the fluff.

Then I ask, “What is for now, what's for soon, and what's for 10 years down the track?” Discerning the timing of the fulfillment of it is important. Get a sense also on the meaning of metaphors, and ask Holy Spirit to unpack it even more.

How about responding to a prophecy over a group or church?

If it's over a church, and you're not in leadership, you don't really have to do anything. It's the leadership's responsibility to take that word and to discuss within the leadership whether they believe that it is the word of the Lord or not, and if they believe that it is the word of the Lord then they go through the same process as what I've just said: What bits are great? What bits have spiritual weight? Is this a word for now? Where are we feeling God leading us?

It's about praying, Lord, is this of you, does this witness? The Holy Spirit is so faithful, He'll give you a strong witness if this is definitely God speaking. And he'll give you a strong witness if it's not. He doesn't want you to live in deception, that's not His will, it's not who He is. So if you ask Him for discernment, He's going to give it to you. He wants us to have understanding. So pray for wisdom and understanding to know what to do with that word.

That's for a church and for a nation. I think if a national word comes in, then the prophets of that nation have a responsibility to weigh and judge it.

What else is important to know about the prophetic?

I think it's really important that we prophesy from the foundation that God is good. That we prophesy God’s redemptive purpose for people, cities, churches and for organizations. If we are called to prophesy, we may also discern issues, we may discern things that are not right. But if we sit in the place of judging people, then our prophetic utterance will not outwork the purpose to seed in God's will, heart, and word to build, to unlock destiny and set the captives free. We must understand the difference between the discernment gift and the prophecy gift. Just because you discern something, doesn't mean that God gave you that revelation. We must look to the heart of the Father for what He wants to say about that situation.

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If you’re interested in digging deeper in the prophetic, check out books from Shawn Bolz, Bill Hamon, Cindy Jacobs, Kris Vallotton, James Goll, Graeme Cooke.