As I write this post, we are approaching the Christian festival of Pentecost. This is the time of year when we celebrate the events that are recorded in Acts 2: the day the Holy Spirit was poured out, and the church was born.
The early disciples’ experience of the Holy Spirit dramatically changed their lives. But what about us? Can we meet the Holy Spirit? What would that even look like?
Discover how you can encounter God’s Spirit in your dreams, and expore biblical symbols that could represent the Holy Spirit.
Meeting the Holy Spirit
I don’t know about you, but I find it fairly easy to imagine meeting Jesus. He did, after all, live as a man, and walk among us. He was the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15); God in human form – here to help us relate to God. In our imagination we can fairly easily picture Him in some way (even if we start with someone’s drawing, or envisioning an actor who has played Jesus).
But meeting the Holy Spirit is harder to imagine or grasp hold of. What does the Holy Spirit even look like?
Jesus summed it up pretty well in John 3:8. He likened His Spirit to the wind: something you can feel but not see or touch. Because of this difficulty, I have found that the Holy Spirit meets us in dreams – in the form of people, symbols and images that we can engage with.
The Holy Spirit meets us in dreams – in the form of people, symbols and images that we can grasp.
Who is the Holy Spirit?
When we talk about the Holy Spirit, we mean the Spirit of God. In the bible we meet God revealed in three distinct personalities: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So we are basically talking about meeting the person of God.
The Hebrew word for spirit is rûaḥ (Strongs H7307), meaning breath or wind.
Rûaḥ is actually a feminine noun. We know that God is the source of both male and female attributes (Genesis 2), but traditionally we tend to use the word He to refer to God. It’s natural to use the word He when thinking of God as Father and as Jesus. But, to redress the balance slightly, and for a change, in this post I’m going to refer to the Holy Spirit as She or Her.
Of course the Holy Spirit could appear symbolically as a man or a woman in our dreams – I’ve had both. But for me, the Holy Spirit most often appears as a female character.
Holy Spirit encounters in the bible
Let’s take a brief tour of some of the biblical encounters with the Holy Spirit, to build up a picture of what meeting Her could potentially be like for us:
Old testament encounters with the Holy Spirit
The first recorded encounter with God’s Spirit was in Genesis 2, at the time when God breathed life into Adam and Eve.
We then find multiple encounters throughout the old testament, where the Holy Spirit enabled various people to do specific things for specific purposes:
- To interpret dreams (Joseph in Genesis 41:38) and Daniel in Daniel 4:18)
- To have creative skill (The Israelites in Exodus 28:3)
- To lead (Joshua in Numbers 27:18 and Gideon in Judges 6:34)
- To prophesy (Balaam in Numbers 24:2 and Saul in 1 Samuel 10:6)
- To have physical strength (Samson in Judges 14:6)
- To lead worship and write psalms (David as noted in Psalm 51:11)
- To have heavenly visions and translocate (Ezekiel in Ezekiel 8:3)
King David sums up his experience of the Holy Spirit in Psalm 139:7:
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
So the Holy Spirit is the way we can experience the presence of God with us all the time.
New testament encounters with the Holy Spirit
God’s Spirit was involved right from the conception of Jesus Christ:
- Luke 1:35 The angel answered and said to [Mary], “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; for that reason also the holy Child will be called the Son of God
Jesus Himself was led by the Spirit:
- Luke 4:1 Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness.
After his resurrection, Jesus breathed on the disciples to receive the Holy Spirit:
- John 20:22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
And at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out, and many were filled with the Spirit (Acts 2).
In fact, the book of Acts in its entirity is a testimony of how the Holy Spirit guided and enabled the first Christians to fulfil the task they had been given: to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and plant churches all over the known world. If you’ve never read Acts before, I recommend it; it’s an inspiring book.
The promise of being filled with the Spirit extends to us today.
- Romans 5:5 …and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Meeting the Holy Spirit today
As we can see from our bible tour, the Holy Spirit is the way that God is with us all the time.
She is God who lives in our hearts; God whom we can connect with – deep within ourselves. She is our source of guidance, creativity, power, and much more.
Many Christians know what it feels like to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit (it can sometimes even be a physical feeling). Others have learnt to hear Her voice and promptings. But often those feelings can be vague and hard to pin down.
Our awareness of the Holy Spirit can be hard to pin down.
The beauty of dreams is that, within them, the Holy Spirit can meet us in more concrete ways – ways that we can appreciate and interact with!
Within dreams we can encounter the Holy Spirit in more concrete ways.
Meeting the Holy Spirit in dreams
There are many ways that we can experience the Holy Spirit in our dreams, and it is hard to define – because there are multiple possibilities. It can be as diverse as drinking a cup of tea (receiving refreshment) to talking with a person.
Only once have I met the Holy Spirit literally (in the sense that I knew it was Her in the dream):
I dreamed I was walking down the road near my home with a mature white haired lady. I knew it was the Holy Spirit, and we were chatting about some things in my life while we were walking.
I loved this dream, and it encouraged me that I was connected to the Holy Spirit – even if I wasn’t aware of it when I was awake. But this type of encounter is pretty unusual. Mostly we don’t realise it was Her until after we wake up (at least I don’t – maybe you do!). It is much more common to meet Her disguised in symbolic form.
It is much more common to meet Her disguised in symbolic form.
Dream symbols can represent the Holy Spirit
Any of the terms/symbols which describe God’s roles can also apply to the Holy Spirit (e.g. Healer, Teacher, Creator, Shepherd, Guide, Light). She can appear in our dreams as any of the people/symbols that we normally associate with God (such as the colour white). But there are some images that particularly point to the presence of the Holy Spirit.
There are some images that specifically point to the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Some of these symbols have other potential meanings as well as the Holy Spirit. You will need to look for clues in the dream to decide whether it is in fact the Holy Spirit, or whether it means something else. You can ask yourself:
- How does the symbol fit into the context of the dream?
- Is it positive or negative in the dream?
- What’s the atmosphere / feeling of the symbol?
- Do you recognise it as being the same God who inspired the bible?
- Do you recognise it as being the same God you know personally?
So these things might not necessarily be the Holy Spirit, but at least you can keep a lookout for Her in your dreams – once you know what to look for!
Biblical symbols that can represent the Holy Spirit
Here is a table of biblical symbols that can represent the Holy Spirit:
|Biblical symbol||Bible passage||Examples and comments|
|Wind||Acts 2:2 And suddenly a noise like a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.||I dreamed I was walking along but it was hard going against the wind. So I decided to ride the wind instead – and whizzed along, but then it just meant I had further to go again afterwards. This should have given me a clue that I was working against the Holy Spirit in part of my life; it actyally took me ages to realise!|
|Breath / air||John 20:22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit”.||I dreamed I was getting ready to go up in a balloon. A balloon is filled with air, which is like breath (it’s also powered by fire/heat!). So this was preparing me that I was about to start something, and I would be inspired/led by the Holy Spirit.|
|Fire||Acts 2:3 And tongues that looked like fire appeared to them, distributing themselves, and a tongue rested on each one of them.||I dreamed a man was training his dog to not be afraid of fire. He started with a small fire and gradually increased the size. This meant that in the same way, God was going to gradually help me get used to the Holy Spirit working in me – by starting small and building up.|
|Dove||Luke 3:21-22 …while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove…||I don’t remember ever dreaming of a dove. If you have, and you think it might be the Holy Spirit, leave a comment!|
|Oil||1 Samuel 16:13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward.||I dreamed I was cooking eggs for my son’s friends. By now the oil was very hot so I put the egg in and started cooking. This was when I was thinking about starting a blog. The eggs were potential posts. The oil being hot meant that God’s Spirit was in this – and it was time to do it!|
|Water / drinks||John 4:14 …but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never be thirsty…||I dreamed I was getting ready for a journey, and was told to drink two glasses of water so as not to get dehydrated. This was when I had plenty of time to listen to God. It was an alert to make the most of it, because something new was going to start soon (which would presumably be busier and give me less time).|
|Rain / snow||Hosea 6:3 And He will come to us like the rain, As the spring rain waters the earth.||Rain and snow are forms of water that comes from the sky (heaven). A nice refreshing rain (e.g. watering the earth) or peaceful snow falling could represent the Holy Spirit. But they could also represent difficult times – depending on the context.|
|River / stream||John 7:38 The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’||The presence of wholesome, clear flowing water in a dream is one of the clearest indications of the presence/work of the Holy Spirit. A river represents the flow of the Spirit or a move of God. Fountains and waterfalls are usually God’s Spirit too.|
|Wine||Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, in which there is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit…||I saw two half-empty wine bottles in my kitchen. I placed my hand on each one and they filled up and became brand new wine bottles. This was a promise that my husband and I would both be renewed through being filled with the Spirit – and an encouragement to cooperate with the process.|
|Clothes||Luke 24:49 And behold, I am sending the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”||I dreamed I was struggling to do something. Then I was given a white glove to put on, and using that on my hand I started to improve. The colour white is often the Holy Spirit. So this dream was indicating that, in an area of my life, God was going to enable me to do this thing in the power of the Holy Spirit – so I should receive it.|
Notice how these are symbols we interact with rather than people we can talk to. That’s because the Holy Spirit is a person to be engaged and experienced – often at a very deep level, but very real nevertheless. Often we are receiving something (like power, refreshing, revelation, or enabling).
Encountering the Holy Spirit in these forms in our dreams, enables us to better grasp what the Holy Spirit is doing in our life at any given time.
Modern symbols that can represent the Holy Spirit
Most modern symbols for the Holy Spirit are just variations on the traditional biblical ones. But I’ve included a few common ones to get you thinking!
|Dream symbol||Explanation||Examples and comments|
|Electricity (or any form of power)||Electricity is power you can experience the effect of – but can’t see. Just like the Holy Spirit! Includes: plugging things in, switching things on, etc.||I dreamed my bread-maker wasn’t plugged in. Breadmaking represented me teaching. So this was telling me I needed to connect with the Holy Spirit to receive Her power for teaching.|
|Any alcoholic drink (e.g. from a bar)||Drinking any kind of alcoholic drink or ‘spirit’ can symbolise being filled with the Spirit, or receiving from the Holy Spirit.||I dreamed that some difficult things happened, then I was given a ‘Bailey’s with ice’. This is one of my favourite drinks – and I really enjoyed it. This indicated that a time of me enjoying being refreshed by the Spirit was coming, so I should persevere through the hard times I was experiencing at the time of dreaming.|
|Taps and water dispensers||Any modern kitchen appliances used to supply water can relate to the Holy Spirit. Mains water is similar to Living Water that Jesus talked about.||I dreamed I couldn’t turn the water dispenser off from my fridge, and water went all over the floor. The fridge represented knowledge I had stored up. The Holy Spirit was about to cause a holy havoc and disrupt my thinking!|
|Gas stove / cannisters, or a barbecue||This relates to the Holy Spirit as fire. Gas is also a fuel source. These are great images of the power of the Holy Spirit.||I dreamed I had been given a lovely new gas barbecue, which was pretty impressive compared to the old one I had been cooking on. For me, cooking represents writing and teaching. So the Holy Spirit was going to upgrade the way I operated, so I could flow better from the Spirit’s power.|
|Coat||This links into the clothing idea: being clothed with power. This could be a ‘mantle’: i.e. something you have the Spirit’s anointing to do.||I dreamed I nearly flushed my coat down the toilet while I was flushing some other things away. This was an alert: There was a danger of me abandoning what I was anointed to do (this blog!) while I was getting rid of some other unhelpful stuff.|
Hopefully you can see that numerous modern day objects link into the traditional biblical forms that the Holy Spirit can take. I’m sure that there are many more!
If you bear these in mind and keep a look out, you might discover the Holy Spirit disguised in some of your dream symbols.
People that can represent the Holy Spirit in dreams
Sometimes we can actually have conversations with the Holy Spirit, and receive instructions or insight from Her. It is very helpful when that happens.
This generally happens when She takes the form of a person in our dream. (Remember – the Holy Spirit is ‘God within us’ – so we are simply talking about having conversations with God.)
Here are some examples:
|Dream symbol||Bible verse||Examples and comments|
|Helper||John 14:16 [Jesus said] I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, so that He may be with you forever;||My friend dreamed that she was in a boat in a storm, and someone who seemed familiar was in the boat, helping her. This person was the Holy Spirit, who was helping her through some difficult times!|
|Mother||Isaiah 66:14 “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; And you will be comforted in Jerusalem.”||God often takes a female form in my dreams, and commonly appears as my mum; as God who is with me, comforting me, and never leaves me. That’s what the Holy Spirit does! However, sometimes my mum represents the part of me that is trying to ‘hold it together’ and organise my life; a mum could also be a mentor figure or spiritual parent. So always consider the context.|
|Teacher, tutor, mentor||John 14:26 But…the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things…||I dreamed my teacher was giving out the papers for a test I had done. I hadn’t done very well and was quite upset. He had written ‘come and see me’ on my paper, so we went to sit in the teacher’s garden area to talk. This was the Holy Spirit calling me to spend time out with Him, because I had misunderstood something. It prompted me to go back to God and find the right path.|
|Unknown person who is with you||John 14:17 …the world cannot…see Him or know Him; but you know Him because He remains with you and will be in you.||This verse gives us the primary identifier of the Holy Spirit: someone who is always with us and in us, whom we know but can’t see. She often appears as someone just out of sight or behind us; or someone vaguely familiar; or an unknown companion. See the real dream example below.|
I’m sure there are many more examples! Here are a few more possibilities:
- A white-haired person
- A warden or caretaker
- A guide
- Our wife or girlfriend (God is the lover of our soul)
Remember to always check the atmosphere and context to discern whether the person is representing God – or something else.
I have found that She always sounds authoritative, in the sense that you don’t argue! You just know in the dream that what the person says is the truth. But you need to learn to recognise Her for yourself through practice – and the Holy Spirit will surely mentor you in that if you are willing.
Real dream example
Here is a dream I had a few months ago. The interesting thing is that I was speaking to a ‘companion’. This person was a voice of authority in my dream. I knew they were talking to me but I couldn’t see them; they were just ‘with’ me – maybe beside me or just behind me. Who do you think that was?
Dream: Watering the plants
I had this dream in early spring, and in real life I hadn’t been in our garden since the previous autumn.
I was standing at the bottom of our current garden looking at all my plant pots. There were some quite big plants which I was watering.
My companion told me that those plants needed watering every day. I replied that I hadn’t watered anything since last year!! I explained that I’d not really been spending any time in the garden, otherwise I would have tended them.
My ‘companion’ was the Holy Spirit of course, which is why their voice was authoritative! My house was my current life situation, and my garden represented intimacy (or time spent) with God.
The image of watering plants was also a classic symbol of the Holy Spirit. The plants were me, and areas of my life that needed input.
I had just been through a busy patch, and hadn’t had much time for praying through my dreams or spending time with God. I felt that was ok at the time; God carried me through and there was no condemnation – just the reality of it.
But this dream told me that the season was changing: I now needed to make time with God every day and listen to my dreams, in order to be flowing in the power of the Holy Spirit and succeed.
Encountering the Holy Spirit is not exclusively for the early church, gifted individuals, or certain ‘special’ people. You and I can meet the Holy Spirit regularly in our dreams – mostly disguised in symbolic form.
Meeting the Holy Spirit is often something to be experienced rather than a logical conversation – although both are valid. Dreams can help make this experience more real, and in this article we have explored some of the symbolic forms She could take.
Some of you will already have experienced the presence and help of the Holy Spirit while awake. That’s awesome. But if not, why not start right now by consciously welcoming Her into your life? Actually, I suspect you might have already encountered Her and not known it.
Try asking the Holy Spirit to meet you in a dream. Then:
- Expect to dream and put a pen and paper by your bed
- Write down any dreams you have
- Look and see whether you can indentify the Holy Spirit in the dream
For those who long to encounter the Holy Spirit but find it difficult to grasp, maybe dreams could be a doorway for you to a new level of relationship. So why not start writing your dreams down today, and learn how to interpret them within the framework of your relationship with God?
So, to conclude: keep pressing on with dreams, and keep a lookout for the Holy Spirit as you do!
Do get in touch if you want to know more. Make a start today!
Here is a little nature video that I love! When I watch it I can sometimes feel the Holy Spirit bubbling up within me like that stream of living water that Jesus spoke about. Maybe it could help you get into a symbolic and experiential mindset. Enjoy!
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