My husband and I were invited to attend a Sunday evening worship and prayer service in the home of an old friend from high school with whom I’d just reconnected after ten years. As we drove to the meeting, I tried to prepare my mind for meditation on the Lord, but I was distracted with anxiety. A couple months earlier, I’d lost my first pregnancy in miscarriage, and this was dominating my thoughts.
Shortly after the service, a young woman whom I’d never seen before in my life hurried past me, chasing after one of her children. As she was within a few feet of me, she called over her shoulder, “Hey, I saw you sitting there and the word ‘babies’ came to mind.”
In disbelief, I literally chased her out the door as she sprinted after her preschooler.
“What did you say?” I asked breathlessly. By now we were standing outside in the driveway.
She looked surprised. “I don’t know you,” she repeated, swinging her child onto her hip. “But I saw you sitting there talking to someone about your job, and the word ‘babies’ came into my head.”
Less than one month later I was pregnant. A short time later, before we’d announced the pregnancy to anyone, God gave me one more prophetic word of encouragement through one of my senior high youth. A shy, soft-spoken girl approached me after I had finished teaching the lesson one evening, and nervously explained to me that God had told her during her devotions that week that I was expecting. She added, “God says for you not to worry. You will have a healthy pregnancy.”
The solid assurance that came through those prophecies during the long weeks and months until the arrival of my baby can’t be measured. (And the word “babies” was accurate as well – a second child was born to us three years after that first prophecy).
Prophecy is the speaking forth of God’s word into a specific situation, whether to an individual, to the church body, or even to a nation. The Apostle Paul lists three main purposes of prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14:3: “But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation” (NASB).
Edification is translated from the Greek word oikodome, which means to build or construct. To edify is to promote another’s growth in Christian wisdom, piety, and holiness.
Exhortation in this passage is translated from the Greek word paraklesis, which is defined as a summons, entreaty, supplication, or admonition. And admonition means “mild, kind, yet earnest reproof; cautionary advice or warning.” In other words, prophetic exhortation may be used to entreat a brother or sister or church body to do – or not do – some action.
Consolation is translated from the Greek word paramuthia, which carries with it our English definition of comfort and consolation, but it also implies encouragement, admonition, and persuasion.
In the case of my pregnancy, prophecy was administered for consolation, and to strengthen my faith. While I’d read my Bible many times for comfort, a specific word from a stranger who had no idea what was on my heart gave me a tremendous burst of hope.
God is so kind. He wants His children to know how intricately involved He is in all the details of our lives, and that He is not removed from our situations or indifferent, or even just casually interested. He cares far more about our welfare than even we ourselves.
One of the hallmarks of a church that is moving in the power of the Spirit is the confidence and victorious living demonstrated in the lives of its members despite very difficult personal circumstances or a grim-looking political climate. The free administration of prophecy to individuals within the church, as well as for the corporate body as a whole, is a wellspring of God’s encouragement and instruction.
“The Lord longs to be gracious to us, and waits on high to show us compassion,” according to Isaiah 30:18. Prophecy is a means of relaying His compassion and grace and guidance to our specific spiritual, physical, and emotional needs.