When I speak to and pray with people who have come to me seeking a word of comfort, strength or guidance from God, I first plead with God to give me his wisdom. Because I believe that God can speak to our hearts and guide us in our counseling and prayer, I try to remain open to God’s promptings while exercising this ministry. If I sense a thought coming to me, I try to follow that lead. For example, when I pray with someone, a thought may suddenly comes to me that this person needs to forgive someone. Then I pray that, if this person needs to forgive someone, he or she would do it. If a promise of Scripture comes to mind I will give that. Over the years many have said that God has used some of my words and prayers to do some significant thing in their lives. Sometimes I find I have said something in a sermon that was not in my notes, which clearly spoke to a specific situation in the life of a person in the audience. In each of these cases I believe God has acted to use me. Some would say that prophecy took place in this situation. But I did not have the authority to say, “Thus says the Lord,” as if I was giving an infallible prophecy from God, because I do not believe that I have the gift of prophecy.
The only time I will say something like, “Thus says the Lord,” is when I am directly quoting a scripture that unambiguously applies to the situation being addressed. When directly quoting scripture, I can become a conduit of the authority of the infallible Word of God. For example, if a boy tells me that he cannot forgive his mother, I can say on the authority of God’s Word that he must forgive her.
Those who have the gift of prophecy can speak when prophesying with an authority similar to the OT prophets. But the church must ensure that these persons really have this gift before permitting them to minister in public. I think if a person known to be a godly and prudent person wishes to say something which he feels God is telling the group he should be given the opportunity. I have seen situations where the persons who are leading the service moderate and decide which messages are to be given publicly and usually announces the messages themselves.
The problem comes when this word is presented as a predictive prophecy and that prediction does not come to pass. Then a disciplinary process needs to be initiated. We note that most of what the prophets said was not prediction but a clear word for the contemporary situation. 1 Corinthians 14:29-33 gives some guidelines of what to do when the gift of prophecy appears in the church.