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Practicing the Charism of Prophecy in the Charismatic Renewal

by: María José Cantos de Ortiz

Prophecy is a message from God, a manifestation of the Spirit to be used for the general good, because those who prophesy build up, exhort and comfort the community (1 Cor. 12:7; 14:3). It can be expressed through a sentence, a vision or a text from the Bible.

In the prayer groups in the CCR [Catholic Charismatic Renewal] there are many interventions that are inspired by the Holy Spirit: sometimes, some people feel moved by the Spirit to share an experience, to say a prayer or to read a text clearly guided by God; other times, an idea, a vision or an enlightenment received is communicated to the others. When we speak of prophecy we are referring to communications from the Lord. These can be expressed in a simple and direct way, for example:"I am with you, do not be afraid..." through a message in tongues and its interpretation, through a prophetic song or a vision received.

In the reception of the prophecy there are two aspects involved: feeling moved by God to speak, and the enlightenment of the mind to express the message, aspects that can be consecutive or simultaneous. To feel moved or driven by God to speak can be manifested in physical signs, like the increase of the heart beats, a weight that persists, or like a soft impulse to say something. In any case, we must always take into account that no divine impulse is neither disturbing nor uncontrollable:"the prophetic spirit is to be under the prophets' control" (1 Cor. 14:32). In its turn, the enlightenment of the mind happens through ideas, words, sentences that arise in the mind, visions or a sudden inspiration. Sometimes the person receives a complete message, but it is very common that the person receives the message as he/she expresses it. The contents of the prophecy is a message from God for that moment, and its purpose is to edify the community, to comfort giving peace and joy, to encourage, to strengthen, to correct or to exhort.

Even though the prophecy is a message from God, this is given through a person who speaks when moved by the Spirit. For the same reason, discernment is required to know if it is genuine. The more the person is surrendered to God, the purer and more transparent will the message be. That is why the prophecy must be discerned by the community: "Let two prophets, or three, speak while the rest weigh their words" (1 Cor. 14:29). The criteria for discernment can be grouped considering that the message from God must have the fragrance of Christ..., "the smell of life leading to life" (2 Cor. 2,14.16). Allan Panozza considers five criteria for the discernment of a genuine prophecy: it gives good fruit; it is according to the Holy Scriptures; it encourages, it edifies, it exhorts, it brings peace and not fear; it gives glory to God and the prophet is under God's anointing.

Through the discernment process may the true prophecy, the false prophecy and the pseudo prophecy be distinguished. The true one has the attributes previously expressed. The false prophecy does not often appear, it usually contradicts in some of its parts what the Word of God or the teaching of the Church express; it is expressed in aggressive or condemning words; its effects are negative and its fruit is uneasiness, anguish or anxiety. There are situations which favor false prophecy such as: people who have been in touch with the occult, divisions in the group, situations of sin or the desire for extraordinary charisms. Pseudo prophecy corresponds to a message which comes from the person, be it from his/her thoughts, feelings or emotions; without being harmful it lacks the power and anointing that come from God. Lastly, there are also messages given as prophecies where what comes from God and what comes from the person who says it, is mixed. This usually happens when a person begins to prophesy. In this case the people responsible for the group or community must help so that this gift is purified in the brother or sister who manifests it.

Prophecy is a gift which is very appreciated by Saint Paul. "Make love your aim; but be eager, too, for spiritual gifts, and especially for prophesying" (1 Cor. 14:1). Not to despise it is an insistence which he makes in his letters (Th. 5: 19.21), so we must appreciate it and promote it in the prayer groups giving appropriate teachings on the subject, supporting, guiding and helping the brothers and sisters who manifest to have this gift to grow, encouraging and teaching the group to welcome and express the prophecy which usually appears in moments of recollection, adoration, long silences or after singing in tongues.

Finally, we must consider that there has to be some kind of authority to which the prophecy yields; in the prayer group it is the leaders who discern it, in other events as retreats or meetings, the discernment is made by a team.

To sum up, as the prophecy is a message inspired by the Spirit it is a gift highly esteemed in the CCR [Catholic Charismatic Renewal] and in the prayer groups, and it should be conveniently encouraged. When a group prays and invokes the Spirit, He acts edifying, exhorting or comforting the community placing prophetic words in simple people who open themselves to His action. However, the discernment is essential to distinguish the real prophecy from other messages which do not come from God.

With Permission: ICCRS [International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services]
Leadership Formation Newsletter – March-April 2009.