Many people today are asking the question, ‘is personal prophecy Biblical?’ This response is not surprising, given much of which is purported to be Christian personal prophecy in the world today.
I regularly receive reports from people who have been misled or hurt, or pastors who have experienced trauma in their churches through damaging ‘personal prophecy.’
However, as a member of a prophetic team that ministers throughout local churches, I constantly see the benefits of personal prophecy :
- Receivers of personal prophecy are encouraged and motivated in their relationship with God
- Individuals become aware of the Father’s love for them as they receive a personal word
- Churches are built in faith as the Holy Spirit reveals knowledge about one of their members that is known to them but not to the giver of the prophecy
- I frequently see people who have had a personal prophecy given to them during a church meeting rush to the altar at the close of the service, in a desire to recommit their lives to God
- Recently I gave a prophecy to a non-Christian in a meeting, and he came to the altar in tears and gave his life to Jesus.
Personal Prophecy in the Old Testament
God walked and talked personally with Adam and Eve in the garden. But when humanity became separated from Him through sin, God communicated to His people through the law and His prophets. (John 1:45)
Because people did not have a personal relationship with God, they relied on the prophets to convey God’s immediate instructions to them. In the Old Testament (OT), this included commissioning, warnings, commands, judgment, foretelling, and encouragement.
Some examples from the Old Testament include:
- In Judges 4:4 the prophet Deborah summons Barak and gives him God’s command to do battle against Sisera, commander of Jabin’s army
- In 1 Samuel 2, an unknown prophet shared a message of judgment against the priest Eli and his corrupt family. This was soon confirmed through the boy prophet Samuel
- In 1 Sam 22 the prophet Gad gave instructions to David concerning a warfare strategy
- The prophet Samuel commissioned both King Saul and King David. In 2 Kings 9: Elijah sent an unnamed prophet to commission Jehu
- Nathan the prophet shared God’s intentions with King David concerning his son Solomon’s building of the temple and his enduring dynasty (2 Sam 7)
- Isaiah prophesied to King Hezekiah of his recovery from illness (Is 38)
- Jeremiah prophesied to the scribe Baruch that his life would be spared (Jer 45)
- The prophet Haggai brought God’s instruction to Zechariah and Zerabbabel concerning the rebuilding of the temple
Personal Prophecy in the New Testament
Personal prophecy continues in the New Testament (NT); however circumstances have changed. Through faith in Jesus, people now have a personal relationship with God. They can hear from Him personally.
Prophecy is now one of many gifts in the church body, interdependent upon other gifts and ministries and subject to accountability and leadership. (1 Cor 12, 14)
Here are some examples of personal prophecy in the NT:
- Simeon blesses Joseph and Mary when they present Jesus in the temple and gives them a personal prophecy (Luke 2:25-35)
- In Acts 21, Agabus gives a personal prophecy to Paul concerning his upcoming arrest. Agabus is not a loner—he is one of a company of prophets from the church in Jerusalem. (Acts 11:27-28) This prophecy is confirmation of what God is already speaking to Paul—perhaps even through other prophecies (Acts 20:23)
- Paul exhorts Timothy to remember and follow personal prophecies that have been given to him (1 Tim 1:18-19)
- Paul also refers to special commissioning prophecy brought over Timothy when the church elders laid their hands on him. (1 Tim 4:14) Acts 13:1-3 also indicates that commissioning prophecy takes place with the participation and oversight of church leadership
- We see Jesus Himself giving personal prophecy to Nathanael (John 1:50-51) and Peter (John 21:18). The woman at the well is so taken with Jesus’ personal insights into her life that she says, “Sir, I can see you are a prophet.’ (John 4:19)
The Biblical Practice of Personal Prophecy
Personal prophecy is undoubtedly Biblical. However, the question remains, ‘What does the Biblical practice of personal prophecy look like for us today?’ 
Many of the damaging practices that have given personal prophecy a bad reputation are due to people modeling their ministry after that of the Old Testament prophets, and ignoring New Testament guidelines for prophecy. 
There are clear distinctions between the Old and New Testament roles of prophetic ministry, as I have mentioned above. These changes impact the practice of personal prophecy.
A Checklist for Personal Prophecy
Following is a checklist that includes NT guidelines for prophetic ministry in general—and personal prophecy in particular.
I encourage all of my readers to consider these things before giving a personal prophecy, or receiving personal prophecy from anyone.
These guidelines will also be helpful in weighing up personal prophecy that has already been received.
1. Accountability (1 Cor 14:29)
Paul states that prophecy should be weighed up—therefore it is vital that personal prophecy be given in an environment that facilitates this.
If a personal prophecy is not given in the context of a church meeting and goes beyond a general word of encouragement, it should be submitted to oversight. 
Both givers and receivers of prophecy should be in a place of accountability and members in a local church body (1 Cor 14).
A personal prophecy should be given in such a way that it allows room for the recipient to weigh up the prophecy and consider whether it is of God.
2. Love (1 Cor 13)
Personal prophecy should originate from a heart of love for God and for the person being ministered to. The prophecy should accurately reflect the Father’s heart towards the recipient of the word.
3. A Godly Life (2 Tim 2:20-26, 1 Tim 3)
A prophetic minister should demonstrate a lifestyle of integrity and righteousness. He or she should be commended, recognised and under leadership.
(See the illustration of Agabus, above)
Because Christian believers have a personal relationship with God, prophecy is a confirmation of what God is saying, or will say in the future, to them—it is not direct instruction, as in the OT.
Personal prophecy should not be sought after as a primary means of guidance.
5. Encouragement, Exhortation, Edification
Paul said that ‘those who prophesy speak to people for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.’ (1 Cor 14:3)
Personal prophecy should be encouraging and upbuilding. It should move a person towards God and His purposes, and motivate him or her to live a life pleasing to God.
6. Fruit of the Spirit
A personal prophecy should exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit in both its expression and outcome: ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’
It should promote unity and consideration for others. (James 3:13-18)
The fruit of the Spirit does include conviction leading to repentance—but not condemnation.
In the OT, prophecy included words of judgment, but this is not the case in the NT. We are in an era of grace, one in which the Father is giving every person an opportunity for redemption through His Son, Jesus.
7. Biblical Content
Finally and most importantly, a personal prophecy should be in harmony with God’s will as set out in scripture. A prophecy will not contradict Biblical principles.
Note that commissioning prophecy (prophecy that indicates appointment to a place of position in ministry) should not be a part of personal prophecy. In the NT, commissioning is done by the church oversight (1 Tim 4:14, Acts 13:1-3). A person who feels that he or she has a word that is in any way commissioning, should submit it to the person’s oversight and not directly to the individual.
 I am blessed to be on team with David McCracken Ministries.
 This article is limited to discussion on personal prophecy between Christians. These guidelines do also relate to prophetic evangelism—however this is a different topic altogether.
 For more discussion on this read my articles:
 We should be especially wary of prophecy given or received over the Internet (‘free personal prophecy’) where it is not possible to verify much of the above criteria.
More articles on personal prophecy from Enliven Blog:
© Helen Calder 2011
Enliven Ministries: In the David McCracken Ministries family