From a Christian perspective, the call to serve as God’s chosen representative to His children is remarkably consistent in the scriptural record. God chooses the man whom He wants, either directly or through an existing prophet or spiritual leader. The newly called prophet is given authority to act in his new role, and sometimes a miracle accompanies the call, especially for a dispensation head or founding prophet.
Prophets come from all walks of life: shepherds, priestly lineages, simple pastoral upbringings, sophisticated city and court traditions, even carpenter shops. Some are but lads when they are anointed to become prophets, while some do not receive the call until late in their lives. Some may be alone, without family; for others, marriage and family life hold a close parallel symbolically to the peoples and cultures they are called to serve or call to repentance. Some are deeply involved in politics, even leading military action or holding simultaneous political-religious posts; others distance themselves from anything to do with political powers.
Prophets are rarely perfect people; in fact, almost all have some type of significant weakness or terrible trial to endure. Consider, for example, Peter’s impetuousness, Moses‘ slowness of speech, David’s passion and fondness for beautiful women, Paul’s physical trials, and Abraham’s consistent pattern of God never quite allowing him to receive his promised blessings.
In addition to overcoming weaknesses and trials, true prophets also have other commonalities. They often are called to address specific social issues or spiritual downfalls. Indeed, it is more common for a prophet to be a “forthteller” than a “foreteller,” that is, to speak boldly to the needs of the day and warn against trends and habits than to prophesy about events many years to come.
Where Have All the Prophets Gone? Scott R. Petersen
Oxford Companion to the Bible, Bruce M. Metzger, Michael D. Coogan
Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Mircea Eliade