The writing on the wall
An oft-repeated idiom. It's from the book of Daniel (see chapter 5) and it refers to a prophecy that came to pass the very night it was written. The words of the prophet (in this case God, Himself) were written on the palace wall—as opposed to the subway or concert hall, I might add. Here's the thing though, the words written—"MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN" (5:25) were Aramaic in origin and each word means one thing. Mene means "numbered", as in "God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it." (5:26) Tekel means "weighed in the balance". Belshazzar, the king of Babylon, under whom Daniel served, as unto the Lord, had been audited by God and was "found wanting" (5:27). The final word, upharsin—or "Peres", meaning to "split up"—refers to his kingdom being divided among the Medes and Persians (5:28). A dark day for him, he was killed that very night.
Notice how so much information was funneled through three simple words. I find an interesting point herein. And while I don't have a fresh prophecy to help illustrate what I'm trying to say, I suppose it doesn't matter. When God speaks, through a vessel of His, a prophecy intended to bless and build up the Body of Christ, He is taking the wide-angle view, of time, season, culture, atmosphere, and channelling it through what is essentially akin to a press release. An official statement meant to buoy the individual or the church body through periods where it might look like exactly the opposite of what was spoken. Seen this way, a prophecy, in it's most elementary form is like faith dispensed. It should follow, if we believe God is real and He knows the future, that He is able to tell us what will happen.
"Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that He shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you." (John 16:13-15)
He will show you things to come...
Think about this for a second. Using Daniel as model, "in whom is the spirit of the holy gods" (Daniel 5:11), dial down the notion of what it takes to be a prophet and think about the pragmatic words of Jesus in the above statement. Daniel lived out his life in a selfless, yet determined way amidst the heavily pagan atmosphere of ancient Babylon. He had no problem interpreting dreams, speaking with angels, prophesying, etc. He was able to do it all. All because "the spirit of the holy gods" was in Him. This was a Babylonian declaration I might add. While they might have worshipped other gods, they had no choice but to acknowledge Daniel's Deity. God in him was more effective than the gods of their pantheon and He proved it time and again. Look again at what Jesus is offering us. He gives us the Holy Spirit, who, He says, will show us things to come. Be it a wide-angle, panned out view of the world at large or something simple intended to see our brother or sister through a dark night of the soul, God will show us what needs to be said—and say it through us. And remember, "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Revelation 19:10) If you want to skip ahead, just look at Jesus.
"Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men (and women) to edification, and exhortation, and comfort." (1 Corinthians 14:1-3)
Any prophecy from God will do those three things spoken of by Paul: edify, exhort, comfort. Again, it doesn't matter if you're speaking to one or to five-thousand. God aims to comfort the hearts of His children through prophecy and if you see this, you'll be well equipped to speak a few words that someone can in turn live and feed on as the days, weeks, months go by.
"Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets. The lion hath roared, who will not fear? The Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy? (Amos 3:7-8)