Are you looking for help with understanding your dreams?
I have discovered that some of the tools that we use to understand the bible can also help us interpret our dreams.
Read on to discover some excellent reasons why the bible can help!
Why can the bible help?
If you are reading this article, I suspect you already have a respect and love for the bible, and need no convincing in that area. But if that’s not the case, maybe I can share some reasons why it could be beneficial.
I have always enjoyed reading the bible. Even when I was a young teenager I was fairly unusual in that I would get up early to read it before school, and I was always fascinated by the stories and the wisdom that I found therein.
Most of all I loved the fact that I encountered God Himself, as He seemed to step out of the pages to meet me as I read.
I like to imagine myself sitting with the Holy Spirit, and reading the bible in a companionable way together as I keep my spiritual ears open to learn.
More recently this passion of mine resulted in me taking a year off work to study the entire bible using the inductive study method. This approach aims to look at what the bible actually says and let that shape our understanding, rather than coming with preconceived ideas (as we often tend to do without realising it). This was undoubtedly one of the best years of my life, and during that time I learned some excellent principles to help me, and I continue to use the same tools today.
The best toolkit for dreams
What may be a new idea for some of you, is that after learning and applying these principles to my bible reading, I found that some of the same tools also started to help me to interpret my dreams. Without realising it, my whole approach to dreams had been shaped by studying the bible.
”My whole approach to dreams had been shaped by the bible.”
As I recognised the similarities in my approach between the bible and dreams, I started to realise that I was actually discovering something very helpful. That there should be similarities made a lot of sense to me, because if, as I believe, the God we meet in the bible is the same God we meet in our dreams, then it seems only logical to expect that the way He speaks would be similar in both.
If the God of the bible is the same God we meet in our dreams, then it is logical that the way He speaks would be similar in both.
In the rest of this article I have put together a few ways in which I think understanding the bible can help us with dreams.
The bible as a source of examples
The most obvious help that the bible provides us is in giving us some examples. There are a number of dreams recorded throughout its pages, maybe more than you might realise! Most people know the story of Joseph (the one with with the famous ‘technicolour dreamcoat’) and his dreams. Many have come across the dreams in the book of Daniel, such as King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams. But there are in fact lots more.
For example this infographic lists over 20 dreams in the bible.
Also I have personally summarised the dreams in the bible in a handy table format. Find it at: Biblical tools: Examples of dreams
As well as these clear examples, some of the Old Testament prophecies were described as coming as visions ‘at night’, for example Zechariah 1:8, and in the New Testament the apostle Paul had a ‘night vision‘ of a man calling from Macedonia in Acts 16:9. There are many more hints throughout the bible that communication from God was regularly received through dreams and night visions.
These examples can give us confidence that God does indeed speak through dreams, and give us clues about how to interpret dreams. They also inspire us to expect God to speak to us in similar ways.
A science and an art
I have heard the process of understanding the bible being described as both a science and an art. This is certainly true in my experience:
- A science because it assumes that there are logical and defined principles that can be used as a basis for reasoned interpretation. I use my mind to understand and think about what I am reading. I make observations, look up the meanings of words, and research the historical and cultural context.
- An art because we need the inspiration of the Holy Spirit combined with our intuition and imagination in order to fully engage with the text and appreciate the sense of what is being conveyed. I like to use tools such as meditating on scriptures, imagining the scene, and journaling what the Holy Spirit speaks to me about.
This is certainly also true for understanding dreams! We certainly need to use our knowledge and our reasoning ability. But we also need to use our intuition and our imagination to enter into the story. We also need the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, because only God knows the true interpretation of the dream.
“Do not interpretations belong to God?“ (Joseph in Genesis 40:8)
I approach dreams in a similar way to how I approach reading the bible:
- A SCIENCE: I follow some underlying principles and steps, which I have learnt through training and lots of practice. Working through a dream interpretation process helped me greatly when I was first learning, and still helps me when I get stuck on a dream.
- AN ART: I sit with the Holy Spirit and use my imagination to walk through the dream with Him ‘beside’ me. I take note of impressions and feelings that I get as I do so, and I journal what God speaks to me about.
Observe, Understand, Apply
When learning to use the inductive approach I was taught to observe, understand and apply what was in the bible. I actually use some of the same tools with my dreams, and find it quite helpful..
- BIBLE: I use various tools such as underlining and writing paragraph headings. I highlight and circle words that stand out, and make notes in the margin of my bible. All of this causes me to look closely at what the words actually say.
- DREAMS: In the same way with dreams I start by writing down the dream carefully. I give it a ‘paragraph heading’ or title using words from the dream itself. I might draw or diagram the dream. I circle or highlight any significant symbols. All of this helps me to look closely and note the important elements of the dream.
- BIBLE: I seek to interpret what I read in the light of what the passage would have meant to the original recipients. This means understanding the historical context and culture. From that basic foundation I can pull out the timeless principles that are useful for us today.
- DREAMS: I follow the interpretation process to help me gain insight into the context, storyline and the various elements and symbols in the dream. This might mean looking some word meanings up on Google, looking up potential number, colour and name meanings, and praying through the dream. This all hopefully results in a basic explanation of the main message of the dream.
- BIBLE: This is my favourite part! I seek God’s wisdom and pray about what it means for me. This is the point where the bible seems to come alive and becomes relevant, and the Holy Spirit highlights specific application in areas of my life.
- DREAMS: This is where we move beyond explanation to interpretation, and seek out the specific application to our life. It requires listening carefully to The Holy Spirit, combined with experience and Godly wisdom, to discern why God gave the dream, and what our response should be. I love it when it all comes together!
Having done all that, I regularly revisit my dreams to see whether my interpretations were accurate with the benefit of hindsight. I also review what I feel God is saying to me through the bible, and the things He speaks to me about through other means. We need to keep ourselves accountable, and learn from experience if we find we have misunderstood or misinterpreted things!
God’s character revealed
I believe that dreams from God are direct communications from God’s Spirit to our spirit while we sleep, and as such contain direct revelation from God. But after that the problem starts!
In the same way that we can misinterpret the bible through misunderstanding, we can also completely miss the point that God is trying to convey through our dreams. (The same applies to any type of prophecy, vision or revelation from God). Therefore it is essential for us to first understand God’s heart and His ways.
The bible documents God’s interactions with mankind over thousands of years, from creation, through the exploits of the nation of Israel, to the coming of Jesus and the establishing of the early church. Therefore I think that this is an excellent place to look to understand how God relates to us, His sons and daughters, and to glean wisdom in the ways we could expect Him to speak to us.
Understanding dreams goes way beyond interpreting an isolated dream, but also addresses the bigger picture of God’s character and ways, and how He relates to us through many dreams and other ways during the changing seasons of our lives.
Therefore the more we know God, His character, His ways, and His abounding love, the better equipped we will be to be good dream interpreters.
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.Psalm 103:8
Being familiar with the bible, and more importantly the God we meet through the pages of the bible, can help provide us with the foundation that we need.
In reality our relationship with God is an ongoing conversation. Reading the bible, listening to our dreams, plus all the other ways that God speaks, all interweave into a beautiful tapestry with a personal twist. This becomes the story of our life worked out with God, which develops over time.
If you don’t know God yet, or you’re not yet experiencing the joy of a relationship with Him, I encourage you to consider starting out on this journey. Prayer, reading the bible, and listening to your dreams are some good starting points. But do tell somebody and get some guidance and support.
If you would like to know more, then please do get in touch.
Next in series…
More articles in the biblical tools series
Introduction: Why the bible can help us understand dreams
- Examples of dreams
(includes a list of dreams)
- Dreams as parables
- Symbolic language in dreams
- Dream symbols and the law of first mention
- Puns and wordplay in dreams
- The bible as a dream dictionary
- Considering the context of a dream
- Start with the clear parts in your dreams
- Working around a Greek mindset
- Knowing God’s heart