Dreams. Do they have meaning and purpose? Does God still speak to people through them?
Technically speaking, dreams are the right or creative side of the brain communicating to the left or logical side of the brain. They are often visual symbols of what we are feeling deep inside. Clinical tests have shown that we all dream every night even if we don't remember what we have dreamed.
Dreaming is a natural way to relieve tension. In one test, sleepers were monitored with electronic equipment to show when they were dreaming. As soon as they started to dream, they were awakened and the dream stopped. The test had to be discontinued after several nights as the people in the test were becoming too emotionally distressed.
Repeated dreams that follow a theme - such as when we are trying to run from something but can't move, or when we are being chased but can't get away, or falling and can't catch ourselves - may indicate an unresolved fear or conflict from the past. It's a way of notifying us that we need to resolve some long forgotten memory.
But does God ever speak to us today through dreams as he did in Bible times?
On one occasion when my organization (ACTS International) was facing a severe financial crisis, I was feeling very afraid and discouraged, and fell asleep during my morning devotional time when I had a fascinating dream. In the dream I heard a voice that said very clearly, "Philippians 4:18 makes sense to me."
Immediately I woke up, opened my Bible to that passage and read the following: "I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied!" I had never memorized that Scripture verse so it didn't come from my memory bank! That certainly encouraged me and, by way of interest, we did survive that crisis.
Some dreams may be from God. Most aren't. However, the ability to dream is. And we have been given them for a purpose - at least to relieve stress and to gain insights for personal and spiritual growth. The difficulty can be in interpreting them correctly. However, through prayer and practice we can learn to do this and use them creatively.
And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. Joel 2:28,29
Dreams not only give valuable personal insights but also have given many creative insights. Some inventors, for example, have received profound ideas from dreams. I recall reading how the inventor, Elias Howe, designed the first sewing machine. He was having great difficulty in conceiving a workable needle. When he was close to running out of money, he had an unusual dream. He dreamt that he was about to be executed because he failed to design a sewing machine for the king of a strange country.
In his dream he was surrounded by guards, all of whom held spears that had been pierced with holes near the tip. Howe woke up and immediately rushed to his workshop. The perfect concept for the sewing machine needle came to him in this dream. Within a few hours the first sewing machine design was well on the way to being completed.
. . .Whatever we think about dreams . . . They are a God-given gift in that He gave us the ability to dream. Whether we repress them as many do, ignore them as most do, or use them for creative purposes as some do is entirely up to each individual.
If you want to remember your dreams, keep a pen and pad at your bedside and record any dream that makes a strong impression on your mind. Speaking personally, dreams have given me some valuable insights for growth and recovery.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you for the God-given ability to dream. Whenever I have a dream that is meant to help me grow, resolve an issue, do a good deed, help someone in need, or gain a valuable insight, please help me to interpret it correctly and use it for the purpose for which it was given. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus' name, amen."
Excerpted with slight modification fromACTS International.