The phrase “God spoke to me” can mean a lot of things depending on the hearer. The most common misconception is that for Him to speak it needs to be an audible voice like when God called Samuel the prophet in 1 Samuel 3. This has not often been my experience. Most of the time it has not been such a spectacular moment as an audible voice (not to say that it doesn’t happen because I know it does). I have just never personally experienced God in that way.
The fact is, God speaks to us all through His Holy Spirit in so many ways. Many of us will have ways that come very naturally such as an inward knowing in our heart or words that pass through our spirit. Just like anything, the more we test and steward what we hear, the more we attune ourselves to understand his voice more clearly.
Since I was young I think I have always had an inner knowing when it came to hearing God and I would definitely hear Him through the Bible, but I didn’t know how to recognize other ways of communication until recent years. I would love to touch on two of the ways that God speaks to us today that have been a bit misunderstood or perhaps even neglected: Dreams and Visions. I’ll do this in two parts, first dreams, then visions.
I think one reason that this topic can make some people uneasy is the thought that anyone could say they dreamed a dream or saw a vision and add God’s reinforcement to it. Honestly I think people add “God said” to all kinds of things and we have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater out of fear that people may abuse something. We don’t have to be afraid of the spiritual realm, after all, we are spirit beings that have a body, not the other way around. What we need is more discernment, not more fear. This is a particular area where the enemy has taken much ground from the church and now so many people believe the lie that if they want a spiritual experience or understanding regarding the spiritual realm they need to pursue transcendental meditation or a psychic experience. We need to reclaim our spiritual territory that satan is counterfeiting to manipulate and enslave so many people!
Here are some basic thoughts and points on how God speaks to us through dreams. I would encourage you to do your own research as well and I will include some trusted resources that have been helpful to me and my friends in our efforts to understand this subject.
1. Who does God give dreams to?
Everyone dreams: believers and non-believers. This is a very common way that God has always spoken to his people. There are so many biblical examples of God communicating in this way to believers and unbelievers and often times the dreams were so significant that they carried national implications and directives. Dreams are actually one of the most common ways that God speaks to people that don’t yet know him. This is not something only for the “olden days” but is a very active tool of God today. Currently, dreams and visions are considered by many to be the primary way that Muslims are converting to Christ by the thousands. (An article on the topic can be read here.)
I’ve often heard people comment that they never remember their dreams or don’t dream at all. I would encourage you to ask God why this is the case in your prayer time and ask the Holy Spirit to once again speak to you in this way. I have heard several testimonies of people having a dream that very night, not to mention that this happened to me after years of not dreaming.
2. Where do dreams come from?
Contrary to popular belief they are not usually from the pizza you ate last night. I think in the past I heard comments like this so often that I never paid attention and eventually stopped dreaming altogether. Just because we don’t understand the content or symbolism of a dream doesn’t mean we should be dismissive. Most dreams would have one of two sources: They can come out of an overflow of our own heart (and the things we have allowed to have access there) or directly from God. If our heart is not healthy (because of strongholds in our lives, wounding, offenses etc.), there’s a good chance that our dream-life will likewise be unhealthy. When we have a dream that reflects these things (a pornographic dream or what would be considered a nightmare, for example), it can often be God giving us insight into things we may not even know are buried in our heart so that we can deal with that area of our life. I have found that the more we clean out our heart and get ourselves into a healthy place, the more our dreams become an amazing gateway to hear directly from God. Also, just like any other form of communication from the Holy Spirit, a God-dream will never violate the scriptures or the revealed nature of God.
Note 1: I also know many people who have experienced dreams that seemed to be as a result of the spiritual atmosphere they are in and not necessarily things from their own heart, which the Holy Spirit can clarify for you as you are praying through the meaning.
Note 2: Just because a dream seems like it has a morbid vibe doesn’t mean it’s a nightmare (example: God speaking to Ezekiel about the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37). If it is in fact a nightmare, as mentioned above, there is a really good chance that God is allowing us to see an area of our life that has an open door to demonic influence, such as lust or hatred for example. We don’t need to respond with fear, instead we are empowered to find out why that door is open and close off the enemy’s access to us.
3. What should I do when I have a dream?
Be a good steward, just like with anything, the more you pay attention to it and care what God is saying the more this can become a profound way of hearing from him. Personally, I choose to record all the dreams I can remember instead of discriminating based on what makes sense to me upfront. It’s been an often occurrence that I have only understood a meaning later and am glad that I didn’t brush off the dreams with unicorns and gingerbread houses…
Pay attention to everything in what you record. How you felt, names, numbers, colors etc. Again, write it down immediately even if it seems weird. Most dreams will seem weird…
4. How do I know what it means?
Dreams can be symbolic or literal (or a combination of both), although most tend to be symbolic.
God is into symbolism… like really into it. In fact, the Bible is filled with it from front to back. For example Jesus is represented symbolically all throughout the Old Testament: He is the rock, the bread from heaven (manna), the lamb, the lion etc. The Holy Spirit is symbolized as oil, water, fire, wind etc. I heard an amazing teaching recently that really brings this point home. Remember in Exodus 17:6 when Moses hits the rock and it gushes out water for the Israelites (the people of God) to drink…fast forward to when Jesus is crucified and releases the Holy Spirit to all who are spiritually thirsty! Then in Numbers 20:11 Moses hits the rock again when God tells him to only speak to the rock. Why does God get so furious with Moses? Because the rock (Jesus) only needs to be struck once to release water, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, forever. After his death we only need to ask for the Spirit, there is nothing else that needs to be done. In my opinion, Moses, in his disobedience, was messing with God’s symbolism of the coming messiah, which is why He was so upset to the point where Moses could no longer bring the people into the Promised Land.
After having a dream you can follow these steps to interpret it:
Step 1-Ask the Holy Spirit if the dream is literal or symbolic and what it means.
Just because a certain symbol usually means a certain thing doesn’t necessarily mean that God can’t communicate something that means something specific only to you. For example the number 3 typically means completion, but to you maybe it’s literal, as in you have 3 choices to make or perhaps that number has special significance to you. So always ask first before just applying a particular meaning.
Step 2-If symbolic, look in the Bible for comparable symbols or situations.
Knowledge of Scripture is so important!!! We must know what God has already said to understand what he is saying now. The Holy Spirit brings specific things we’ve read to our memory and there are also great online search tools you can use to search for keywords or specific stories.
Step 3– Utilize resources, such as a biblical metaphor dictionary.
There are many books and websites on dream interpretation, but we must be sure that any reference we are using is grounded firmly in biblical symbolism with scriptural reference and not in the occult! If you are unsure of the source just don’t use that resource.
I’ll give you an example of why it’s so important that we are only referencing biblical symbolism:
I had a dream that I was walking down the street and saw a house for sale. Meanwhile I noticed the same property also had a back house for sale. When I inquired about the price of the back house it was listed for $600,000 and the main house was listed for $15,000,000. I liked the main house better but decided to buy the back house because it was more affordable and I didn’t have a way to pay $15 million dollars.
When I asked God what this dream meant I felt the numbers 6 and 15 were important. Six is the biblical number for human labor or effort, 15 is the number for divine grace. Through this specific dream God was speaking to me about a specific situation and instructing me to look to him for what seemed impossible for me to obtain on my own (allow his grace or enablement to do the work) and to refrain from pursuing what I could make happen easily on my own (human effort).
If I did not have a biblical source and just used Google I could have accidentally taken an occult interpretation of those numbers and would have completely misunderstood what God was trying to communicate with me.
Once we feel like we understand what the dream means write it down.
Step 4– Ask God what he wants you to do (if anything) in response to what he has shown you.
Often dreams are in relation to our own lives but just as often they can be about someone else or depending on your gifts, they can be regarding the church corporately or possibly world leaders or entire countries. If your dream is not about you, I would especially recommend asking God why he has revealed this information and what he wants you to do with it. He may want you to tell the person about it, or maybe he is showing you something so that you know how to pray or maybe he just wants you to record the information and he will tell you what to do later with it.
I hope I’ve convinced you that dreams are an important way that God speaks to us! There’s so much more that can be said on this topic, however, I hope this is helpful in your journey of learning and growing in how to hear God in a way you might not have considered before.
Here’s a few great resources that you may find useful:
The Divinity Code to Understanding Dreams and Visions by Adam Thompson & Adrian Beale
Growing in the Prophetic by Mike Bickle
Understanding the Dreams you Dream by Ira Milligan
The School of the Seers by Jonathan Welton
Illustrated Dictionary of Dream Symbols by Dr. Joe Ibojie