God is always talking to us. Prophecy is the word we use when we share things that God has said to us, with someone else. For some reason, many people seem to have a complicated relationship with prophecy, ranging from religious obligations that must be fulfilled in order to make sure the prophecy comes to pass, to claiming that God isn't speaking and declaring that all such "prophecies" must come from the devil, or our own minds. If God is good, and God is in everything, then it needn't be so complicated.
God is always speaking, because he loves us. Love flows out of God in a never-ending cascade of glory, bathing all of creation in his transforming love. Sometimes when he speaks, he speaks in words. Sometimes he speaks in tears. Sometimes he speaks in pictures.
Why does God speak? Because he wants us to know him. All communication that comes from God is designed to draw us into relationship with him. Relationship is God's major purpose. For that reason, all prophecy is best interpreted as an invitation to learn more about the character of God and respond to it.
It so happens that the Bible also does the same job. It's a collection of letters and stories that various people told various other people, in order to help them understand what God was like. Those people's children shared those stories, and their children, until eventually other people many years later found the stories to have a valuable and timeless quality, and so they kept them around. Today we have this collection called the Bible and it is all exceedingly useful in helping you understand the character of God, and thereby, to fall in love with him.
Your response to prophecy is likely going to be somewhat similar to your response to Scripture. If you follow it literally to the letter you'll run into problems (murder, among other things.). If you treat it all as metaphor then you'll run into other problems (nihilism, meaninglessness, etc.). But if you treat both prophecy and Scripture as an invitation to discover more of God, and you pursue that invitation, then you'll find yourself being transformed, matured, expanded, humbled, made beautiful and that's just the beginning.
Here's a handy cycle of prophecy for you to let God transform everything about your life:
- What does this prophetic word tell you about the character of God?
- How does it line up with the character of God as revealed progressively throughout Scripture, and ultimately in Jesus Christ?
- If you believed this about God, what sort of fruit would it produce in your life?
- What fears are stirred up in your heart when you think of all these things?
- What does God have to say about those fears?
I'm a father and I have dreams for my children's future, but I don't have a don't have a step-by-step, minute-by-minute plan for every moment of their lives, that would be absurd. Neither do I believe that God has a step-by-step, minute-by-minute plan for your life, or anyone else's life. I believe God's plans for this earth and for everyone on it involve getting to know him, being transformed into his likeness, and being freed to make the same kinds of decisions that he would make himself.
Prophecy is your invitation to wake up, listen up, stand up, and embrace the journey of transformation. The journey is bathed in love. If the prophetic word you have received doesn't smell, taste and feel like love, then have nothing to do with it because it actually is from the devil, or someone's else's mind.