Why dream work is a healthy spiritual discipline, and how to include it in your time alone with God.
Are you becoming dissatisfied with your daily prayer time, and suspect God is calling you to try something different?
Is dream work a spiritual discipline? If so, what does that look like?
This article draws from my own experience of learning to interpret dreams, and how that became part of my morning prayer routine – to explore what that could look like in practice.
I approach dream interpretation from a biblical perspective. My belief is that our dreams can come from God, and understanding them is best understood within the context of an ongoing relationship with Him.
If you have just come across this post and are new to dream interpretation, it is worth mentioning that dreams are symbolic in nature. You might find it helpful to read Understand your dreams: A bible-based introduction to dream language and my 3 step dream interpretation method to give you a foundation.
What is time alone with God?
If you have been a Christian for a while, or been part of a church, you will have probably heard people talking about having time alone with God. This can be called various names, such as:
- Quiet time
- Time alone with God
- Daily devotional time
- Morning prayer time
Basically, this is a spiritual discipline, and means having a regular set time for meeting with God. It is often in the morning, but doesn’t have to be. It may involve activities such as prayer, worship, reading the bible, using a devotional, and journaling.
Having a daily time with God is the bedrock of getting to know Him better. I have been a Christian for more than 40 years, and have always spent time with Him in the morning. When I was in my teens I would rise before school, read my bible and pray; when I had children I would use the time while I was eating breakfast. Now I have the privilege of being able to spend longer each morning, as my children have left home.
Daily time with God is the bedrock of getting to know Him better.
These quiet times have been the place where I have learnt about God though the bible, and received guidance for my life. My maturity as a Christian stems from that daily discipline.
If you’re reading this blog post, I guess you probably know what I’m talking about.
But despite all the benefits, even in my teenage years, it often felt like I was hearing about God, whereas I wanted to speak to God, like a friend. When I prayed, I never seemed to get clear answers. I hungered for more.
This went on for many years, and came to a head at a Christian conference. I spent an afternoon crying out to God, saying, “l just want to hear from you!” On the back of that, I signed up for a Streams Ministries course, called The Art of Hearing God, which led on to Understanding Dreams and Visions… and my dream journey began!
When we start to feel dissatisfied, it is often a sign that God is moving us on to new things. Maybe, like me, you are hungering for more of God? Maybe you are feeling dissatisfied with your current experience? If you are, it could be a sign that God is calling you to go deeper with Him, or to do something different.
Dream work as a spiritual discipline
The key moment for me came when I realized that God was speaking though my dreams, i.e. that they could be messages from heaven. I went on to put God to the test – to see if it was really Him speaking – and He came through for me.
You can read that story here:
The result of my experiment was conclusive enough: I was certain that God was speaking through my dreams!
For me, that was enough motivation to reorganise my life. I began to write my dreams down and spend time working on them. It was hard work at first, because it was like learning a whole new language! But as I learnt more and grew in experience, I began to understand what God was saying. I could ask Him questions and get real answers!
I quickly realised that dreams – and Holy Spirit led interpretation- was a whole spiritual discipline in itself! I call this discipline dream work.
Dream work is a whole spiritual discipline in itself!
Dream work includes many aspects, e.g., recording dreams, interpreting dreams, praying about dreams, researching dream symbols, organising dream records, and reviewing dreams.
How can I make time for dreams?
Now here’s the crunch: It can be a struggle for most of us to make time alone with God every day – and the busyness of life can crowd it out, particularly if we are feeling dissatisfied with the experience.
We can fall behind with our bible reading plan, or spend days without praying – and feel like we are failing at the first hurdle. So it is a daunting prospect to consider adding dreams into the mix!
When you are already busy, it is a daunting prospect to add dreams into the mix.
It came to the point where I had to make a decision: Could I incorporate dream work into my normal devotional time? It would mean sometimes cutting out other things that filled that time.
This is what I decided to do: I gave myself permission to put aside my normal program on the days I had dreams. On those days I would spend time talking to God about my dreams and listening to what He had to say. On the days when I didn’t have dreams, I would follow my normal routine.
The surprising result was that I started to enjoy my times with God again! When I awoke with a dream, I was excited to get up and discover what God was saying to me. Those times would often lead onto prayer or researching topics in the bible.
I started to look forward to my morning times with God again.
I realised that I was allowing God’s Spirit to determine our daily time together and set the agenda – rather than following a man-made programme. It was right for me at that time, and I loved it!
As my life is less busy now, I don’t have to make those difficult choices anymore: I have time for dreams in addition to the other things. But I still start with my dreams (on the days I can remember them), and then move on from there.
The key, for me, was embracing dreams as a valid spiritual discipline. Fortunately, dreams are well supported by the bible, and there are some good examples to inspire us.
I have listed many examples here:
Daniel’s dream work in the bible
The biblical prophet, Daniel, is a great example of someone who was very disciplined and spent time with God daily. He was a man of regular prayer, even when it was difficult to maintain and his life was under threat.
- Daniel 6:10, NIV Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.
But did you know that he also treated his dream work very seriously?
Daniel 7:1 tells us that he wrote down the dreams recorded in that chapter. We also know he wrote down other dreams and visions – because we have them recorded in the rest of his book!
And I’m sure (given Daniel’s diligent character) that he recorded plenty more personal dreams that didn’t make it into the official records, because only the nationally significant ones would have been passed on in the scriptures.
We also know that he was diligent in reviewing old dreams and prophecies. Daniel 9:1 tells us that one time he was busy reviewing the words of Jeremiah the prophet, when he discovered something important God had said and began to pray about it.
Daniel was diligent in recording, reviewing, and praying about dreams and prophecies.
Daniel was probably one of the busiest men in the Babylonian kingdom, because he was promoted to a position of great responsibility. Yet, he still made time for his dream work and for reviewing the things God had said – as well as prayer and studying God’s word.
He is a great inspiration to us.
How to include dream work in a quiet time
By definition, dreams happen while we sleep, so we are most likely to remember them in the morning when we first wake up. It is in that moment between sleeping and waking that God’s voice can often get through.
Therefore, our morning prayer time is a great opportunity to incorporate dream work. I like to think of it as reading my morning ‘emails from heaven’, before I get distracted by other events of the day. As the prophet Isaiah says:
- Isaiah 50:4, NIV He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.
If you would like to incorporate dream work into your morning quiet time, here is an example of what it could look like:
- On waking, record your dream as quickly as possible.
(You may wish to use the downloadable template in this article).
- Put the dream aside for a moment.
- Find your usual quiet place and invite God’s presence.
(Use whatever way you find helpful, e.g. quiet prayer or worship).
- Ask God to help you understand the dream.
- Follow the dream interpretation process
(You may wish to use use my 3-step dream interpretation method).
- Journal your thoughts and anything you think God is saying.
- Read and reflect on any bible passages that arise from your dream work.
- Respond in prayer.
- Plan any actions that arise from this time.
You can then continue onto other activities such as following a bible reading plan, or other types of prayer. You could also come back to those things later in the day.
It is also necessary to come back to dreams and review them at a future date. This is all part of the dream work discipline but happens at another dedicated time, not normally during the morning quiet time. An exception is when the Holy Spirit specifically reminds us of an old dream and wants to speak to us through it.
Some wisdom in the process
Know when to move on: If your time is limited, it might be wise to set a time limit on the dream work section of your prayer time. Some dreams will be useful at the time of dreaming, but others will need to be stored up for future reference. There is wisdom in knowing when you have spent long enough on a dream, and when it is time to move on to other things.
There is wisdom in knowing when you have spent long enough on a dream.
Know what season you are in: At different times of life God draws us into different ways of meeting with Him, and we find different disciplines helpful. For example, new Christians may find it prudent to focus on reading the bible, or using devotional material for new believers. I read the bible daily for many years before I introduced dream work into the mix. But it might be different for you.
Be Spirit-led: Listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. If you are still reading this article, there is a good chance you feel something stirring, and He might be calling you to pursue your dreams as part of your relationship with Him.
Don’t make it another burden: My prayer is that dreams would not become another burden or ‘thing to do’, but rather a joy: May it be a tree of life, i.e. a blessing which brings life and strength – flowing from heaven to you and your family.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,Jeremiah 17:7-8
And whose trust is the Lord.
For he will be like a tree planted by the water
That extends its roots by a stream,
And does not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought,
Nor cease to yield fruit.
Real dream example
One of my blog readers (who has recently started out on their dream journey) was struggling with the same issues as me: i.e. how to make time for dream work without compromising family life and other responsibilities.
They shared the following dream with me, which contains some heavenly wisdom which can be applied to many of us with similar situations. If you ponder the illustration, it might encourage you to press on.
Dream: Fitting in the new armchair
Scene 1: A family member called Jo had acquired a large gold and red armchair to fit in our home. It was large, but only big enough for one person; I thought it would be good for quiet times with the Lord. I was wondering where the best place would be for it: Not the hall where there was space, but rather we could swap it for one of the sandy coloured ones in the sitting room.
Scene 2: A friend of ours had been slowly changing the furniture in her room over time. She had a tall dresser and other pieces in the room. She had a beautiful, white and gold ornate organ which was a 40th birthday gift from her husband. Jo started to play it.
The context of this dream was learning to interpret dreams, and trying to fit dream work into their life and relationship with God (i.e. fitting in the new chair).
- A house can represent our life.
- The name Jo is often linked to dream interpretation.
- Red is God’s enabling power.
- Gold is the presence of God. It also represents something of great value.
- Sandy colour represents our natural ideas (rather than heavenly). So these were things that seemed important but weren’t essential – like building on sand rather than rock.
The armchair symbolised dream work as valuable time spent with God. So, the message from scene 1 was that they shouldn’t try and add it to everything else they were doing, but rather consider what things it could replace at that time.
Scene 2 was an encouragement to persevere – by giving them a picture of the outcome to hold onto.
- White is God’s Spirit.
- Something tall (i.e. long) can indicate a long time.
- 40 is a period of testing/preparation.
If they continued their dream work with God over time, eventually they would become a gifted, confident, Spirit-led, dream interpreter: Just like playing the beautiful organ!
God sometimes sends a holy dissatisfaction when He is drawing us on to new things. If you have read all the way to the end of this article, God may be calling you to explore your dreams further with Him.
The good news is that dream work is a valid spiritual discipline, and we can take inspiration from the biblical example of Daniel to encourage us to press on.
We have explored some practical steps for incorporating dream work into our morning prayer time, and some wisdom for keeping a balanced approach.
If you feel prompted to explore dreams with God, then I encourage you not to delay; make a start today! Get some good bible-based training, get ready to write your dreams down, and then have a go!
If you are already on the journey but struggle to make time for dreams, consider whether you need to give yourself permission to incorporate dreams into your quiet time. Leave a comment below if you do!
I hope you have found this article helpful. If you want to know more, do subscribe to my emails below to receive regular dream interpretation tips.
The purpose of this blog is to provide solid biblical foundations for interpreting dreams, change mindsets in the church, and encourage others to make their own dream journey with God. I am primarily a writer and bible teacher – who loves dreams, and I hope you will be inspired to learn to interpret your own dreams.
It is not currently my aim to routinely engage in dream interpretations or provide training, except through writing blog posts. You can read my most up to date position on interpreting dreams here: Requests for dream interpretations.
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How God uses dreams to teach us about dream interpretation, and what that looks like – with real dream examples.
7 tips for getting started with dreams – when your life is already busy: for Christians.
Taking inspiration from the bible to understand the symbolic language of dreams, plus real dream examples.
- Beginner’s guide to biblical dream interpretation
- How dream work can revitalise your morning prayer time
- Requests for dream interpretations
- Biblical meaning of colours in dreams
- The importance of background colour and atmosphere in dreams