Last month we posted the blog How Does God Speak? In which I interviewed various members of the 3dm Europe team to see how and where they personally hear from God. This month we are very excited to have a guest blogger, Anna Burgess, who has written this blog about her experience with prophetic dreams.
Does God talk to us in dreams today?
Definitely! What’s more, in both Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17 we are told to expect God to speak in dreams as part of the Holy Spirit being poured out onto His people:
And afterwards, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. – Joel 2:28
But what if you never remember your dreams? How do you know if the dreams you do remember are from God or just a result of some funny cheese you ate last night?
Here are four keys for receiving and interpreting dreams from God:
1. Pray for dreams from God and believe!
‘How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’ – Luke 11:13
Maybe you already dream lots. Or perhaps, like my husband, you rarely remember one. I always dreamed a lot as a child, but I rarely remembered dreams beyond the first few moments of waking. As an adult I received a prophecy that God would speak to me in dreams. My husband wanted to take hold of that too, so we began praying that God would speak to us in dreams and that we would remember them! Suddenly, Mark began remembering a dream or two! There is definitely a correlation between the nights we pray for dreams and the nights we get dreams! Another part of believing is getting ready to…
2. Write them down
Ever woken up remembering a dream and five minutes later totally forgotten it? Not only does writing down a dream help you remember it, I have also found that it has helped me remember more of the dream, or other dreams I had that night. It has also helped me interpret the dream. If you don’t have time to write the whole dream down, just jot down a few key words to help remember it later.
I think we assume that the dreams that are mentioned in the Bible were all incredibly vivid, accompanied by angels, a fanfare and lots of fuss to mark them as special dreams, but we don’t know that that was actually the case. Some of them may have just been ‘normal’ dreams that the receiver took seriously, even though they were rather weird.
Although I have had some particularly clear and vivid dreams, I have found God has spoken to me powerfully through ‘here-one-minute, gone-the-next’ dreams too, so writing them down has been very helpful in being able to discern whether a dream is from God or not and working out the interpretation. Which leads us onto…
3. Discerning the source of the dream:
‘Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God’ – 1 John 4:1
Just as prophecies can come from one of three sources – ourselves, God and the enemy, so can dreams.
DREAMS FROM THE ENEMY BRING FEAR; ARE OFTEN DARK, HOPELESS; AND MAY BE FULL OF TEMPTATION:
Nightmares are obvious examples, but I have also found the enemy send dreams about things going wrong or dreams to unsettle me about upcoming events which could easily be mistaken as ‘prophetic dreams’ until I look at the spirit of fear and hopelessness in them. Others may seem like they are from God, suggesting that you do something you want to do, but when you look at the spirit behind them, you realize they are a temptation to please yourself not God.
In contrast to the enemy’s dreams which are full of fear, I have had dreams where God has shown or told me about negative things that are going to happen, but there has always been a message of hope within the dream. For example, in one dream, God spoke to me and said ‘a time of persecution is coming, but I am going to use it to unite the team in prayer.’ I shared the dream with the team and we prayed together, and during that week several attacks occurred, including two of our team members being robbed at gunpoint. That week was obviously not pleasant, but it did unite us as a team in prayer and our team daily prayers are now central to our daily life.
DREAMS FROM OURSELVES CAN BE PROCESSING OF EVENTS AND TRAUMA, AS WELL AS REACTIONS TO THE ENVIRONMENT. THEY CAN HIGHLIGHT OUR OWN DESIRES AND FEARS:
Dreams can be our mind’s and spirit’s way of processing events and trauma, and can equally be stimulated by our environment. One night, for example, I dreamed about going to buy a thick winter coat, only to wake up and discover that Mark had taken all the bedcovers!
Although dreams that contain levels of stress and processing could be defined as soul dreams rather than dreams from God, they do often highlight areas of worry that I need to bring to God and process with Him, so they can also be helpful to look at too.
DREAMS FROM GOD MAY BE BRIGHT, FULL OF COLOUR, BRING HOPE, ACCOMPANIED BY A SENSE OF PEACE AND MAYBE WONDER:
I have had dreams where I have seen amazing scenery or flowers in vivid colours I have never seen before – and those dreams have left me with a sense of wonder and longing for heaven, but they have been rare. Most of the dreams I have had from God have been opportunities for God to speak into situations I am currently facing, to bring fresh strategy to our team or to highlight bad attitudes in me. God has also used dreams to move me to pray.
I woke up one night after a dream about women trapped in sex trafficking against their will and had a real burden to pray for them. God used the dream to help me identify with their plight and pray for them.
4. Ask the Giver of Dreams to help you interpret and apply your dreams:
‘Do not interpretations belong to God?’– Genesis 40:8
Our teammates Lili and Rosa both dream ‘literally’- God often shows them things that later take place. I am struggling to think of even one occasion where I have had a dream like that. Even the dreams where God has talked to me about things that are going to happen, an element of interpretation has been necessary.
So, as is often the case with God’s voice, we need to be aware of the elements of Revelation, Interpretation and Application. Firstly, God gives a revelation (a dream, picture, Bible verse, thought, feeling, etc.) and then comes the process of interpreting the revelation; finally we have to work out the application.
Interpreting dreams is a process which requires relationship with God. There is not a formula or a set dream dictionary that will tell you what your dream means. God desires to be in relationship with you and to help you interpret your dreams.
I have found, however, that God does seem to use a personal dream vocabulary that I understand more over time. My earthly father in my dreams, for example, sometimes represents my Heavenly Father. Who is driving a car in my dream is often important and connected with my family or ministry. The people in my dreams are often symbolic for the meaning of their name. Numbers and colours have been important at times too – a spring green having represented a new thing, and numbers having represented days.
But things can change, and asking God to show you the interpretation and what you are meant to do with the interpretation (the application) is a process that requires a dialogue with God which may take some time, accountability and help from others.
When you next have a dream, why don’t you ask God first what it means before sharing it with a friend over lunch?
You might like to pray this prayer:
Anna Burgess lives in Lima, Peru with her husband Mark and three sons, Daniel (7), Joel (5) and Kaleb (2). Together they lead Oikos Ministries. Anna blogs at AnnaCBurgess.com