For a long time after I came to know Jesus, I didn’t expect to hear much from God in any personal way (except maybe through the scriptures in the Bible). So for years, I had to suppress the fact that I sometimes had dreams that came to pass in real life. I simply wrote them off as mere coincidences.
But as I grew in my faith and became more open to the Holy Spirit’s work in my life, I began to pay attention to these dreams. I remember on one occasion sitting bolt upright in bed after a particularly startling dream and asking aloud, “Was that you, Lord?” I couldn’t deny the forcefulness of the impression that what I had seen and heard was indeed from God — and that I needed to pray. I jumped out of bed and dropped to my knees right then and there, interceding for the situation I had seen in my dream. Turned out, I was spot on.
Since then, I’ve come to respond in faith when I sense God may be speaking to me in a dream. I realize such experiences are not weird or spooky. After all, dreams were one of God’s many methods of communication in Scripture (see Genesis 31:11-13, 37:5; Numbers 12:6; 1 Kings 3:5; Matthew 1:20, 2:13). Spiritual dreams were also a promise of what would happen when God poured out His Spirit on His people (see Joel 2:28-29 and Acts 2:16-17).
If He does choose to speak to us in dreams, it’s important to be able to recognize them and pay attention. Understanding why God might speak to us in a dream can help. God primarily uses dreams to :
- warn us
- give us direction
- encourage us or comfort us
- prepare us for something
- give us His perspective on something that is a blind spot for us
- call us to intercession
- give a specific supernatural insight about how to pray for a person or situation
I once experienced God’s comfort in a dream when I was going through a severe difficulty in a relationship. I knew I should be praying for reconciliation with this person, but I felt completely hopeless about the situation. Then God gave me a dream that reassured me and gave me hope that unity would be restored. The dream built my faith to commit to a season of intercession for the person and the relationship. It also gave me God’s grace to endure, forgive, and seek reconciliation. I don’t believe I could have held on without it, and I’m so glad I did. Today that relationship is not only restored, but strong.
How can you discern which of your dreams are from God? In my experience, God-dreams are sharper and more poignant than regular ones. When I’ve had one, I have the immediate sense that there was more to it than just too much pizza before bedtime. I feel compelled to ask, Was that you, Lord? If I’m not sure, I submit my dream to someone I trust (my husband, a friend, or a ministry leader) for confirmation.
If you’d like to tune into what God may be speaking to you through your dreams, it’s helpful to keep a pen and paper by your bed. If you have a dream that you sense may be from the Lord, record it immediately when you wake up. (Chances are you will forget it if you don’t write it down!) Try to remember how you felt in the dream and what details stood out to you. This information probably has some meaning that you will understand and appreciate as you reflect on it and pray about it.
Recently I stepped down from a ministry role that I loved. Six months earlier, I’d had a dream I thought might be related to this situation, but I wasn’t sure. At the time, the details of the dream didn’t mean a lot to me. So I wrote it in my journal, prayed for clarity, and set it aside. It was six months later, when I actually resigned the position and a replacement was appointed, that the Holy Spirit suddenly brought the dream to mind and all the details fell into place. I was elated! It was such an incredible confirmation that what was playing out was absolutely of the Lord—and that He had shown it to me six months earlier! I was able to move forward with the plans in absolute faith, confidence, and joy. What a gift!
I sometimes wonder how much I missed in those years when, through ignorance or fear, I didn’t tune into my dreams. Now, however, I agree with God’s Word that tells me, “For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in their beds” (Job 33:14-15). Like the prophet Samuel taught Eli to say to the Lord in the middle of the night, we can learn to say, too: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening” (1 Sam. 3:9)!
Have you ever thought that the Lord has spoken to you in a dream? What kind of dream was it? (e.g., warning, direction, call to intercession, encouragement, insight, etc.?) How did it help or encourage you?
(c) 2017 Arlyn J. Lawrence. All Rights Reserved.