The bible is God’s word for our whole lives. Personal prophecy is God’s word for now.
What is the relationship between personal prophecy and the bible?
I believe that the bible speaks into the whole of our lives. Whereas prophecy and in particular, personal prophecy, usually speaks into today.
This goes against the grain of how we usually view prophecy. Typically, our perception of prophecy is that it’s exclusively about the future.
A specific prophecy may well have its focus in the future, but it always has an application for the present. This is prophecy for today, what I like to call, “the ‘now’ word of the Lord”.
A couple of months ago, I was feeling a bit depressed. I’d been going through a real rollercoaster of emotions related to my calling.
I fervently believe that God has called me to teach people how to hear his voice and how to prophesy. He has called me to “raise up a prophetic generation”, as my website home page has it. It’s just that sometimes, that calling seems impossible!
I’ve heard before that God’s call on our lives needs to seem impossible, because that means you have to rely on him. After all, if we only did the things that were easy, we’d have no need for God, would we?
However, sometimes things seem so impossible that they feel totally out of reach, even with the Lord’s help. And this was one of those days.
Of course, the Lord has a way of stepping into these situations, just when we need it. And this proved to be the case.
A mission team from Eastgate church in Kent was coming to help us reach out to our town.
One of the events was a prophecy clinic, where the team would pray for people and share personal prophecy with them.
I jumped at the chance to do what I love best. I booked my place with the team, so I could help pray for people. And I also made sure to get my own “turn”, so I could both give and receive.
On the evening, I was first to be prayed for, and the team were absolutely spot on. In just a few minutes, three people I had never met before shared words, pictures and bible verses with me.
Several of these words were exactly what God has spoken directly to me, over many years. One or two of those words were so personal to my relationship with the Lord that I have never told anyone else about them.
My spirits were lifted and I was empowered to pray for others that evening. Beyond that, several of those words have been consolidated in my mind since then. Consequently, I have begun to see new growth in areas that felt dead before.
Little did I know that I was about to be made redundant from my job (still an ongoing process, at the time of this post). I now believe this is part of the Lord’s intervention, commissioning me into my calling!
This is what I mean by the “now” word of the Lord, and it’s an important concept to grasp. Let me explain.
In the famous passage on “the armour of God” in Ephesians 6:13, reference is made to the “sword of the spirit” and the “belt of truth”.
Here’s a shortened version:
“Therefore put on the full armor of God… Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist… Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:13-17, NIV, bold italics my emphasis)
In the past, I always thought that both these expressions referred to God’s word, as it is contained in the bible. I reasoned that they were simply showing us different ways in which the written word of the bible speaks to, and through us.
There is an element of truth to that, but I have come to understand that the Lord has more for us to discover here.
Both expressions refer to God’s word, but I now believe that:
Here I refer to prophecy in all its forms. I also include the overlapping spiritual gifts, such as words of knowledge and words of wisdom.
In a broader sense, the sword of the spirit is the direct working and intervention of Holy Spirit himself.
For my purposes here, the belt of truth is the objective eternal word of God, while prophecy is the present day application. As we’ll see shortly, the two are intimately related.
“The bible is the objective word of God. Prophecy is the present day application.”
Prophecy gives us hope for the future. But it also gives us focus, revelation and understanding for the here and now.
I believe this is true for prophecy in general. I also think it is particularly relevant for personal prophecy.
This Now word of God has several characteristics:
Prophecy must align with the bible to be worthy of consideration.
Every prophecy should be tested and the first port of call should always be the bible itself.
We may trust our thoughts and feelings about a given prophecy, and the wisdom of others. But unless the prophecy makes sense in the light of biblical revelation, then in truth, it makes no sense whatsoever.
We have to ask the questions:
If the prophecy directly references a bible verse as justification for itself, then we can also ask this question:
Once we are happy that a given prophecy does indeed align with the bible, we can think about the other characteristics.
This is such a crucial point, that I think it bears repeating.
The first thing most people would say about prophecy, is that it’s about the future. However, as we have seen, that’s not necessarily the case.
It’s true that prophecy often contains a future element, or a promise. The promise gives us something to look forward to, work towards, and pray into.
But if you take away only one thing from this post, it should be this: the most important aspect of a prophecy is how it affects us today.
The Lord tests our hearts. He looks to see if we will seek him for the outworking of prophecy, with the eyes of faith. We must not assume that destiny foretold will automatically be destiny realised.
“Destiny foretold is not automatically destiny realised.”
If the Lord makes a promise to you about your future, how will you react to it?
Will you just assume that it will happen “if it’s God’s will”, or will you follow hard after him? Will you pray into that word and find out how you can play your part in cooperating with him?
On first glance, it may seem self evident to say that prophecy is not about the past.
However, many prophecies reference the past in some way or another. They often allude to previous situations that we have experienced, perhaps in our youth or childhood.
There is a biblical pattern here. Many prophecies given to the Israelites spoke of past, present and future, in the same breath.
Conceptually, many prophecies in the bible were along the lines of:
When he gave the law to the Israelites, Moses warned them about the future and told them he had “set before you life and death, blessings and curses”. They had a choice to obey the Lord, or not. They would reap the consequences, whichever way they went.
Here are Moses’ words:
“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19, italics mine)
However, God’s people often spent too much time thinking about “the good old days” back in Egypt. They consequently missed much of the Lord’s destiny for them.
It’s the same for us. We live in an age of God’s grace, but we run the same risks. So, the past may be our reference point, but it is not the focus.
We must be careful not to get too hung up on our history. Otherwise, we may place barriers in the way of the future the Lord wants to bring to us.
The Lord himself is present in every true prophecy.
Like every gift of the Spirit, prophecy involves Holy Spirit as the active agent. We cooperate with him and this results in an experience of God.
In a sense, the true purpose of prophecy is to lead others into an encounter with the Lord. This may be true for the prophet, as well as the person prayed for.
As I said in my post Learn How To Prophesy:
“God is the originator, the destination and the active agent of any prophetic message.”
When these four characteristics come together in the Now word, personal prophecy becomes truly powerful.
There is an immediacy to the prophecy, which has an impact in the here and now.
Barriers to progress are torn down, everyone involved is encouraged, and lives are changed.
There’s nothing quite like receiving (or giving) such a word. This is where prophecy truly is a gift to the church. Let’s seek the Lord for more!
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