Should We Pray for the Gift of Prophecy?

It depends on whether St. Paul’s exhortation is still valid:

Pursue love, but strive eagerly for the spiritual gifts, above all that you may prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:1).

He was responding to reports that members of the Church in Corinth had elevated the spiritual charism of speaking in tongues at the expense of prophecy. He goes on to explain that speaking in tongues edifies the individual but prophecy is more important because it edifies the body of Christ:

For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to human beings but to God, for no one listens; he utters mysteries in spirit. On the other hand, one who prophesies does speak to human beings, for their building up, encouragement, and solace. Whoever speaks in a tongue builds himself up, but whoever prophesies builds up the church (1 Cor 14:2-4).

It is commonly believed among evangelical Christians that the spiritual gift of prophecy ended either when the last of the apostles died, or when the New Testament “had been written” (they rarely make reference to the closing of the canon by Pope St. Damasus I). The passage most often cited to claim that prophecy expired is 1 Corinthians 13:8-10:

Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

The “perfect” is not a reference to the New Testament, but the return of Christ. Verse 12 was meant to clarify the passage:

At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.

Mirrors in those days were sheets of metal; Paul compares our limited knowledge to the blurred image in the mirror. Full knowledge will occur when Christ returns, not before. In the meantime, we are instructed to be respectful of the prophetic gift:

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good (1 Thess. 5:19-21).

Consequently, St. Paul’s exhortation to “strive eagerly” to prophesy, including the ability to interpret and discern prophecy, remains valid until the return of Christ. Paul is urging us to pray for the gift of prophecy, implying that the charisms given by the Holy Spirit are not simply allotted out to the newly baptized, but should be sought by all Christians.

I wrote The Five Beasts of St. Hildegard: Prophetic symbols of Modern Society six years ago and much of what has transpired since has corresponded to Hildegard’s vision: growing wealth inequality, street violence, Church sex and financial scandals, persecution etc. Her series of visions have a high level of credibility with respect to Catholic literature: she is not only a Doctor of the Church but we have an original manuscript of her 12th-century visionary work, Scivias (Latin abbr. for “Know the Ways of God”). The book was approved and even regarded as inspired by her pope, Blessed Eugenius III, as well as St. Bernard and successive popes.

It appears that the era of the Grey Wolf as she described it has commenced, and her details of the period make the book a timely and compelling read.

…rjt

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