- First of all, are there any denominations that believe in modern-day prophets?
- If so, what do they understand by 'prophet'? Is it the same as having the gift of prophecy? What exactly is a modern-day prophet capable of doing, according to these denominations?
- Lastly, how can a Christian know if they have the gift of prophecy (or are called to be a prophet), according to these denominations? Illustrative examples of people who are believed to be modern-day prophets would be a plus.
I will give a Lutheran continuationist non Pentecostal perspective on this question. The word for προφητεῖαι does not necessarily have a "gee whiz" or "thus saith the Lord" connotation. It can be a general word for speaking forth what God is revealing. In other words, it can be preaching or sharing in an applied manner what one believes God is bringing to mind for others to hear about from Scripture.
In the Lutheran tradition, the prophetic office continues in the form of the office of preaching (lay or clergy). A priest (i.e. pastor) prays and discerns God's guidance on what to preach about each Sunday. This practice can be traced to its devotional roots in the 16th century and long before that in catholic Lectio Divina (Latin for Divine Reading) traditions. For example, C. F. W. Walther in an article for “The Lutheran” back in 1847 wrote about a pastor friend of Martin Luther’s who observed him trying to hear from God on what to preach about:
...in the early years he had encountered Luther’s being so much in prayer the hour before he preached that he forgot about the preaching itself, and that on one occasion he had climbed into the pulpit with the words, “Don’t be surprised dear friends, I was delayed by God, with whom I have just had long discussion about the church, the university the city (of Wittenberg) and all of Christianity.
In Lutheran theology, prophetic hearing from God happens in, with and under the authority of the objective Word of Scripture. That is why Luther in his little book, "A Simple Way to Pray," speaks of prophetic gifts in the context of a discussion on the Third Commandment (i.e. don't take the Lord's name in vain). In the book "Simple Way to Pray" Luther also writes about a two way process of communication that can often occur in the context of praying through the theological themes found in the Lord's Prayer. He writes:
If such an abundance of good thoughts comes to us we ought to disregard the other petitions, make room for such thoughts, listen in silence, and under no circumstances obstruct them. The Holy Spirit himself preaches here, and one word of his sermon is far better than a thousand of our prayers. Many times I have learned more from one prayer than I might have learned from much reading and speculation.
What Luther writes about is very parallel to what the Christian philosopher Dallas Willard writes out in his book, "Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God." See especially pages 134-135.
The ultimate test is whether those claiming prophetic words in preaching help others by illuminating a Biblical Law/Gospel (faith, hope and love) Kingdom ethic of righteousness, peace (shalom) and joy - all under the authority of Scripture.