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24 October 2018

Prophetic dreams… and whether you had one.

Of course God can speak to us in dreams. But he hasn’t spoken to us in every dream.

When we sleep, we dream. Not all of us remember our dreams; I seldom do. Psychiatrists have all sorts of theories as to why, and a really popular one is that our brains are sorting out all the memories we haven’t yet processed… and because the brain is designed to recognize patterns and find meanings in the meaningless, it sorts the memories by turning them into a narrative. The narrative won’t always make sense. Doesn’t actually have to.

I believe (though I won’t claim this is infallibly true) the reason some of us hear God speak to us in our dreams, is because God’s voice is one of the unprocessed or under-processed memories we had during the day. We weren’t really giving him our full attention at the time. But we did hear him. Our subconscious picked it up, at least. And once we’re asleep, as every subconscious memory is getting dredged up and looked at, of course God’s voice is gonna be in the mix. If not take center stage, ’cause we know God should take center stage.

I’ve found many other Christians share this experience: “Prophetic dreams” are simply when God’s voice comes up in our usual dreams. That’s why whenever I have such a dream, I’m a little annoyed with myself: It implies I wasn’t paying enough attention to God during my waking hours. Gotta get better at that.

But that’s only one sort of prophetic dream. For some, prophetic dreams are full-on prophetic visions. Same as God would show you during the daytime, but instead he decided to interrupt your dreams and do it then. Because that’s what he prefers with certain people.

God said he’d speak to his prophets in their dreams, Nu 12.6) especially once he poured out his Spirit upon all Christians. Ac 2.17 Hence lots of Christians have dreams where God shows up and has a talk with you. Same as he did with Abraham, Ge 15.12-16 Abimelech, Ge 20.3 Jacob, Ge 28.10-15 Laban, Ge 31.24 Solomon, 1Ki 3.5 and Paul. Ac 18.9 Other prophets, like Daniel or Jesus’s father Joseph, spoke with angels.

And others had prophetic visions. This’d be like when the Egyptian pharaoh in Joseph’s day dreamed of fat and skinny cows, Ge 41.1-4 when a Midianite raider dreamed of a loaf of bread knocking a tent over, Jg 7.13 when Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon dreamed of an oddly-made statue knocked over by a rock, Da 2.31-35 or when Daniel dreamed of the End Times. Da 7 These dreams needed to be separately interpreted, so sometimes the dreamers called upon a prophet who could get the key to the dream from the Holy Spirit. Other times the dreamers had the dream explained by angels. Either way they recognized the messages in these visions came from God.

Here’s the problem: A lot of Christians wanna be prophets. (As we should!) The usual way we do this is by listening to God, then sharing with others what he told us. This takes the ability to tell the difference between God‘s voice, and any of the other voices (usually our own) in our heads. This especially takes faith and boldness. Not every Christian has the wisdom to pick out God’s voice, nor the backbone to share it.

So what’s the way easier way to try becoming a prophet? Remember your dreams, pick ’em apart, then try to play connect-the-dots interpretation with them. “I had a dream, and I think it means this. So… isn’t that amazing? Isn’t it profound?”

No. Stop that. It’s annoying.

No really. It’s annoying.

And whenever I say it’s annoying, people rapidly divide into two camps:

  1. Those people who’ve had to listen to Christians (sometimes all their lives) share what they dreamed, then claim it meant stuff. And they entirely agree with me: It’s SO ANNOYING.
  2. Those Christians who share their dreams. And now they’re kinda offended, or sometimes really offended, that I’ve so easily dismissed what they consider really profound.

But here’s the thing about people who share their dreams (and they’re not solely Christians!): Of course they consider them really profound. That’s why they share them. It was an eye-opening, emotional experience. Because that’s what dreams are. They’re your brain processing memories. Emotions and realizations are among those memories. You’re gonna feel stuff—sometimes much more intensely than you felt ’em before. These dreams are gonna have a really big effect on you.

And they’re not gonna have that same effect on anyone else. Because they’re your memories and emotions—not ours. They your realizations and insights—not ours. They’re not gonna hit us like a ton of bricks like they did you. Even though you might really think they should: They just won’t.

That’s how you know it wasn’t a prophecy: Nobody else is gonna care. If it was, they would. They don’t.

And no, it’s not because they lack faith. If it’s really God, he has a knack for really getting people’s attention. Where they’d ordinarily be rolling their eyes at you, suddenly they’re paying attention. Or staring at you in shock. Or weeping. Or more angry than they have any reason to be. If God’s really speaking through you to them, it’ll strike them like it struck you. Heck, usually it’ll strike them more.

When God’s grants us prophetic dreams, it’ll be just this obvious.

And it won’t be one of those typical dream narratives where we have to stretch to make the divine connections between this and that. It’ll be obvious. To everyone. Other people are gonna hear your dream and say, “Wow, you got a revelation.” Not groan inwardly, “Here we go again; she’s sharing another one.”

Certain Christians insist every dream can be prophetic when we connect the dots properly. They assume because an apocalyptic vision sounds like freaky dream imagery, maybe every dream is an apocalypse, and all they need do is find the key to the interpretation. No they don’t. Some dreams mean nothing. And other dreams definitely do mean something—to us personally—but they have nothing to do with divine revelation. Dreaming about sex is an obvious example. (And don’t you dare tell me they’re about Christ’s love for the church; you nasty.)

If you’re one of those people who insists on sharing their every dream, hoping one of ’em turns out prophetic, and you notice people around you sighing, groaning, rolling their eyes, leaving the room, or any other form of frustrated feedback: Practice a little discernment, wouldya? Take the hint. Your dreams are not prophecies. Stop trying to become another Joseph. Concentrate instead on becoming another Moses: Listen to God. Share what he tells you.

Is it prophecy? Confirm it.

When you dream of God speaking to you, how do you know it’s really God, and not just Freudian-style wish-fulfillment, where you wanna hear God so badly, you psyched yourself into dreaming of him?

Same way as usual: If it’s prophecy, we confirm it’s prophecy. 1Th 5.20-21 We make sure it really is God. We don’t just assume; we don’t claim, “I just knew it was God” without bouncing it off fellow Christians, particularly fellow prophets. We test everything.

Yeah, a lot of wannabe prophets skip this step. Because sometimes a “prophetic dream” is totally wish-fulfillment: They wanted to hear from God, and by golly they did!—and they’re so thrilled about this, they don’t wanna hear otherwise. They prematurely, and unwisely, act as if it’s a legitimate revelation.

And even pagans do this. Heck, pagans are known for doing it. A man might be trying to make a serious decision about his life, or he seeks some deep personal insight. And then one night he has a dream, interprets it himself, and acts on it: “I dreamed last night I quit my job and became a lumberjack, and it made me realize I wanna quit my job and become a lumberjack!”—and so he does. Did that dream come from God? Well he’s pretty sure it did. Because, as I said before, dreams are intense emotional experiences, and even Christians can’t tell the difference between emotion and the Holy Spirit sometimes. What chance does our hypothetical pagan have?—he’s figuring it out as he goes!

We Christians, at least, have been forewarned to test these things, for not every spirit comes from God. 1Jn 4.1 Never skip this step. Test your dreams same as you would any prophecy. Compare it with the scriptures. Compare it with other prophets. Ask God for some specific form of confirmation. Prove it before you act on it, lest you make the all-too-common mistake of jumping on it and going wrong.