The Most Rev Justin Welby said the heir to the throne had shown his "prophetic instincts" in his championing of the environment and his early warnings of the threat posed by plastic pollution.
The leader of the Anglican church was speaking as peers in the House of Lords hailed the Prince of Wales' "outstanding service to the nation" and wished him "many happy returns" on turning 70.
Referring to accusations levelled at the prince of "meddling" in public affairs, the Archbishop said: "In the Church we politely say 'being prophetic'.
"To some extent, his Royal Highness is a prophet.
"A prophet in the Old Testament is someone who sees slightly further into things than other people and, perhaps to some people's discomfort at times, may bring them out and is then proved to be right.
"He has shown his prophetic instincts, not least in his welcome advocacy of the critical need to protect the environment and ... his instincts around plastics pollution.
"Those efforts have been well ahead of most of us in this chamber."
The tributes in the upper chamber had been due to be led by Lords leader Baroness Evans of Bowes Park, but as a member of the Cabinet she was involved in the lengthy talks in Downing Street on the draft Brexit deal.
In her absence, deputy leader Earl Howe moved what is known as the humble address to mark the royal birthday.
The Tory frontbencher said the prince had "set an extraordinary example of hard work and stamina in the cause of public service".
Lord Howe said: "At times, he has been accused of meddling, but he has raised important issues, such as the impact of climate change and the effect of waste and plastics on the environment, well before they became political priorities."
Labour leader in the Lords Baroness Smith of Basildon pointed out it was on environmental issues that Charles had at times "ruffled a few feathers".
She said: "There is no doubt, however, that what in the 1970s were regarded as somewhat eccentric issues are today's problems that we are all trying to grapple with, having failed to heed past warnings.
Lady Smith added: "Perhaps we should re-examine a few more of those so-called 'eccentric' issues."
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