So you’re intrigued by your night dreams and you’ve tried to understand them – but they seem very confusing. What should you do?
Maybe you’ve come across people who are ‘experts’ in dream interpretation and are trying to sell you their services; or maybe you have found a Facebook group where you can ‘get interpretations’.
Is it best to go to those places, or should you just ‘do it yourself’? In this article, we will examine the pros and cons of each, and then discover a happy way forward!
This article is primarily aimed at Christians, and those who want a biblical model of dream interpretation. Having said that, many of the principles apply to dreams in general.
Note: This article is based on my own experiences, and covers the normal, everyday process of understanding dreams as part of a relationship with God. It does not cover situations where professional help is needed. Please seek the relevant help where necessary.
Is dream interpretation just for prophets?
In recent years, dream interpretation has become more generally accepted in the church, which is great news for people like us. But, in Christian circles, for the most part, it has been prophetic ministries that have been at the forefront of this movement.
It is common these days for Christians with prophetic ministries to share dreams as part of prophetic words. It is also common to see dream interpretation courses offered by such ministries, and to come across people who offer dream interpretation services.
This is great. In fact the bible says that God speaks to prophets through dreams, so we would expect this to happen:
But we are living in the days of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2 tells us that – since the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – we can all expect to hear God in these ways.
So we should all be listening to His voice in our dreams. It’s no longer just the experience of a favoured few (see Everybody dreams: Could they be messages from Heaven?).
We can all hear God through our dreams.
So what implications does this have for regular Christians like you or me?
- Do I need someone to interpret my dreams for me?
- Or can I just interpret my dreams myself?
Let’s examine the pros and cons of each!
Asking someone else to interpret your dream
- If you ask someone with more experience than you in the language of dreams, they may be able to very quickly give you some good insight into what your dream could mean. This could save you a lot of time!
- A mature Christian may well be able to help you find the God-given (and bible-inspired) meaning of your dream, and may also be able to impart some wisdom to help you apply the dream to your life.
- Someone with a spiritual gift of prophecy may be able to give you some prophetic input in addition to the interpretation of the dream.
- Someone else may be able to see things in the dream that you can’t see yourself, and give a more objective interpretation of your dream than you can.
- In particular, if the person knows you, they may be able to see how the dream addresses some of your blind spots, or relates to an area of your life.
- You could be given a false/ ungodly/ unhelpful interpretation. So you need to make sure that you ask the right people: ask ministries with a good track record, or people who you trust from personal relationship.
- In particular, I would avoid social media groups that are ‘free for all’ for giving dream interpretations. In those groups anybody can give an opinion – whether they have lots of experience, or none. Many of the comments are totally off-track, and can be very unhelpful!
- It could be easy to start relying on other people for interpretations rather than growing in maturity in the area of dreams yourself. In other words, it could make you lazy!
- Another person won’t know the situations that you’re facing in life, or the personal meaning of some of the symbols to you. Therefore, they may jump to a wrong interpretation based on their own understanding of the dream elements.
- If you remember your dreams regularly, there is no way you could ask other people about all of your dreams. It would be too much. So you could only get interpretations for a few dreams that way.
Dreams are ultimately part of our relationship with God. If we continually go to someone else to ask for help, we are denying ourselves the wonderful opportunity of being mentored by the Holy Spirit in this area.
The bottom line here, is that it can be helpful to get a suggested interpretation from a friend or expert, but we cannot rely on it totally! Just as with any prophetic word or advice that we are given, we should take it to God and weigh it up ourselves. It is our own responsibility to steward what we receive.
If an interpretation is from God, it should resonate with your own spirit, and you should usually be able to identify the message with a real-life situation, or something that has been on your mind and in your prayers.
An exception is when God is giving you some new information, trying to shift your understanding, or speaking about a calling that you are unaware of yet. In those cases you may have to ‘put it on the shelf’ for a while. If the interpretation is from God, you will get other confirmations in due time.
Interpreting your own dreams
So, is it OK to just interpret your own dreams?
My basic answer is – yes – it is perfectly possible to interpret your own dreams. I have done this myself for around 15 years now. But there are some pitfalls, which I have learnt from bitter experience. Here are some pros and cons:
- Only you know the personal meaning of some of the symbols in your dreams.
- Only you know all the subtle details and feelings in the dream. Those things can provide so much insight if you engage with them.
- Only you know the situations that you are facing in life, and the things that are important to you at a deep level. You alone know what you have cried out to God about in the darkest moments, or your secret hopes and fears. Those things are often addressed in dreams, and if you always ask someone else for an interpretation, you may never follow through and grapple with them. If you do engage with the process then you have the opportunity to discover God’s glorious heart for your life.
- In learning to interpret your own dreams, you will inevitably become more skilled at dream interpretation. You will have testimonies and experience to help and encourage others in their journeys, just like I am doing.
- If you build dreams into your regular time with God, you can pray over all your dreams, not just a few.
- Your relationship with God will grow hugely, as you pray and seek His interpretation for your dreams. You will start to learn more about His ways and how He sees you. This is something that is worth pursuing!
- It’s very easy to make a dream say what you want it to say; to jump to a quick conclusion about what a dream means based on what you think is true. Therefore, you may be missing out on the true message, and just reaffirming your own opinions. I know, because I have done it countless times!
- Your blind spots can get in the way. You might simply be unable to see the true meaning. (This problem can be overcome with practice and a humble attitude – and your dreams can then help you overcome your blind spots).
- You may not have enough experience in dreams at first, and therefore get frustrated and give up. It takes time and perseverance to grow in the art of dream interpretation. If you start feeling like that, it’s a good time to get some help.
As we have seen, dream interpretation is part of our relationship with God. Therefore, we should take ownership of the process. It is our responsibility alone to hear God’s voice for our life – and to steward what he gives us. And that includes dreams.
But there are certainly advantages in asking for help from time to time. And, wonderfully, we can agree with each other when, together, we acknowledge the true interpretation. There is power in agreement and unity.
- Matthew 18:19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.
Personally, I think a balanced approach is best.
When should I ask for help with a dream?
So, how do you know when you need to ask for help with a dream? Here are some suggestions, based on my own experience:
- When you are first learning to interpret dreams: Asking more mature and experienced Christians for help is a great way to learn quickly. (Getting some good teaching/training is also vital at that stage).
- When you want some encouragement: Because talking about dreams with others (who also interpret dreams) is great fun – and helps you improve!
- When you have got stuck with a dream: An outside opinion can expand your thinking, help you understand the symbolism, and give you new ideas.
- When you think a dream is prompting you to take an unusual path, or make a big decision: In those times it is good to get an opinion from a mature friend or mentor for confirmation.
- When you feel like giving up on understanding your dreams: Give yourself a break! Get some help and encouragement to spur you on your way.
- When you are feeling fearful, anxious, or condemned about the meaning: God never condemns; He always brings hope. So if you are feeling that way, talk about the dream with someone more experienced.
- When you need someone to support you in your situation: For example, maybe you need someone to pray with you about your dreams, or to talk things through with you.
- When professional help is needed. This article covers the normal, everyday process of understanding dreams as part of a relationship with God. Please seek the relevant professional help in situations where it is needed.
We have examined the pros and cons of interpreting your own dreams vs getting an outside interpretation; and we have seen that there is a time and a place for both.
Everyday dream interpretation is essentially your responsibility as the dreamer, as part of your ongoing relationship with God.
But all of us need help sometimes; we need to support each other along the way. And sometimes our situation is more than we can handle alone.
So it is helpful at times to get some outside input; and it is a beautiful thing when two or more people can agree together – and witness with each other about what the dream is saying – and all the glory goes to God!