Does God Use Dreams to Speak to Christians Today?

Does God use dreams to speak to Christians today?

Many years ago, I would have immediately replied with a vehement and emphatic “No!” My fervor for protecting the place of Scripture as God’s revelation of Himself demanded it. Or so I thought.

Now, I’m not so sure that dreams have no place alongside my continued insistence on the rightful place of Scripture as “the only rule to direct how we may glorify and enjoy Him.” As I read Scripture, I see God using dreams to guide His people, not just for giving special revelation, but for directing them in life.

Can God guide a Christian's decision through dreams?

I think of the times we read, “and being warned in a dream…” and similar phrases and ask why the Spirit can’t use dreams to speak to Christians today? Granted, any dreams we may have must be measured by the Word of God, by wisdom God has given His Church over the ages, and a healthy dose of common sense. But do they have a place in our relationship with God?

As I’ve Pondered My Own Dreams

The last two nights, I’ve had vivid dreams that I suspect God may have used to awaken me to issues in my own faith walk and family. So I find myself asking these questions not just as an academic exercise.

In the first dream, my children were leaping from an extremely high platform above a large body of water. When I say high I mean well over 1,000 feet — and I seemed to be okay with it. They seemed to be enjoying it even though everything in me told me that they were at great risk. There was more to it that I can’t really recall now, but I awoke quite disturbed.

When I considered what it might have meant, I immediately thought of two real-world situations involving my children in which I think I have been negligent. I’d been standing by, as it were, while they “leaped” in directions that may put them at risk. No, I’m not necessarily talking about their running over baby copperhead snakes with bicycles – although that’s not behavior I want to encourage them to continue.

The second dream reminded me of how awesome my wife truly is. I don’t even remember all the details of it, quite frankly. Only that I awoke with a renewed appreciation for her, a reminder of how beautiful she is, a thankfulness for how blessed I am to have her as a partner in this faith journey, and more than a little guilt that I’ve not been diligent in communicating to her how much I love her. (Maybe she was prompting me with subliminal messages as I slept. If so, it worked. Fortunately, she’s too busy being awesome to read my blog, so I’m good.)

So Did God Speak through My Dreams?

First, let me be clear that I am not approaching this question as a theologian. If I were, I know that words like speak and dream have precise theological definitions about which many books have been written. And, yes, the distinctions are valid, especially when determining infallible revelation from God.

But I’m not arguing for any infallible revelation being delivered today through dreams. Quite the opposite. I think we should approach dreams with great caution these days as God works primarily through the Spirit applying His Word. (Hebrews 1:1-2)

I am also not approaching the question as a dream specialist, neurologist, or therapist with expertise in dreams. I’ve studied a little about the nature of dreams, enough to know they are still largely a mystery to us in spite of all our study. One thing common to all the research I’ve seen is that dreams are essentially the result of our own subconscious efforts to make sense of life.

But can God use dreams, a phenomenon He created within us, to speak to us, not as a means of dispensing new revelation of any private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20), but to alert us to danger we’ve been ignoring, to convict us of sin, to remind us of obligations, or sharpen our focus on problems we’ve been trying to suppress? If not, why not?

I’ve seen a wide range of perspectives on dreams in Evangelical circles. Some say that dreams are nothing more than the byproducts of indigestion and should be ignored as dangerous thing that could easily lead us into heresy (Jeremiah 23:25-27). Others seem disappointed when not receiving dreams, as if God had forgotten to send the singing telegram that would direct their daily work. I think most of us see them as what the writer of Ecclesiastes calls them – the natural result of much business.

I have a reason for asking this question beyond just my own recent dreams. As some of you may be aware, my next book will unpack what it means to walk by faith. I’d welcome your input in the process. Comments left on these posts over the next few months may well find a place in the book with your user name attached, so leave some good comments. Besides, I’d really like to know what you think about whether or not God uses dreams to speak to Christians today.

And I’m looking for stories of faith that might be a fit in the book. They don’t have to involve dreams, of course, but as I ask for input in the weeks to come, don’t hesitate to share your story with a comment. Who knows, it may end up being a great help to others struggling on the same journey.

Now, about those dreams, should the Christian pay attention to dreams and, if so, to what extent? Share your thoughts, story, or perspective with a comment below.

Photo by Laenulfean

About Bill Blankschaen

Bill Blankschaen is a writer, author, and communicator who empowers people to live a story worth telling. As the founder of FaithWalkers, he equips Christians to think, live, and lead with abundant faith.

His next book entitled Live a Story Worth Telling: A FaithWalker's Guide is scheduled for release in May 2015 from Abingdon Press. His writing has been featured with Michael Hyatt, Ron Edmondson, Skip Prichard, Jeff Goins, Blueprint for Life, Catalyst Leaders, Faith Village, and many others who shall remain nameless.

Bill is a blessed husband and the father of six children with an extensive background in education and organizational leadership. He serves as VP of Content & Operations for Polymath Innovations in partnership with Patheos Labs. He is the Junior Scholar of Cultural Theology and Director of Development for the Center for Cultural Leadership. He works with a variety of ministries including Equip Leadership (founded by John C. Maxwell) when he's not visiting his second home -- Walt Disney World.

  • Galen

    Bill: can He? Yes! That being said, I suspect that much of what is passed off as “God told me in a dream” may not have been God any more than a man who says, “God told me to leave my wife for this other woman.” Our fleshly nature gets in the way and, as Jeremiah so aptly noted, our hearts are deceitful above all things. As you note in your post, whatever we THINK we are hearing in dreams in terms of instruction from God must be filtered through the lens of Scripture, or we are nothing but fools. But what of warnings as opposed to instruction? It seems to me that most of the time, God used dreams to provide warnings and not specific spiritual instruction (I’d have to look at that some more to see if that’s an accurate assessment or not). I think God gives us warnings all the time: through counsel of friends, through street signs, sounds, the miracle of sight and perception, and I suspect, through dreams.

    I have known people who have tried to make “Christian” dream interpretation into a scientific, precise discipline. Quite frankly, what I have heard from them smacks too much of human intellectualism and the like. I don’t see that Daniel or anyone else in Scripture who had the gift of being able to interpret dreams had to go to school to learn how to do it, any more than anyone in Scripture had to be “taught” how to speak in tongues. So, those who are taught by “dream experts” about how to interpret dreams…suffice it to say I’m highly skeptical.

    Have I had an instance where God gave me a warning in a dream? Can’t recall one off hand, but it might happen tonight! Who knows the mind of the Lord? He works in mysterious ways with thoughts that are far above ours.

    Interesting question. Your book should be interesting!

    • http://www.BillintheBlank.com/ Bill Blankschaen

      Agreed as to the norm for God’s use of dreams. I’m referring more to His using our subconsciousness to alert us to issues we need to deal with. Good thoughts! Thanks,

      • Galen

        I absolutely believe He uses our “subconscious” to alert us. The challenge is discerning His use of it, our own subconscious proclivities and the influence of Satan to affect our subconscious, too. It would be interesting to try to figure out how one can tell when the Spirit is whispering into our subconscious thinking. I suspect is is not so different as being able to discern God’s “voice” that speaks to our conscious heart and mind.

  • Marsha Brouard

    So funny I came across this article. When I tell you ALL year long I have had the mentality that God was being “stingy” (for lack of a better term) with sending me a dream, I grew frustrated. Lol like you said, I wanted those dreams to guide my life when I should have instead been spending more time reading the Word than wishing for dreams. Haha. Thanks!

    • http://www.BillintheBlank.com/ Bill Blankschaen

      So true, Marsha! Thanks for the good word yourself.

  • Sandra Saunders Traw

    This is just my first impression in reading this. My first thought is that yes, god can. But I also believe those dreams will somehow stand out in a persons spirit as something different than an ordinary dream. I think a person should “ponder that dream” in their heart and seek God for the meaning but I also believe there is wisdom in mature spiritual council..”especially if this dream is felt to be a dream of instruction.

  • Cat Henry

    why do we limit God in how he wants to convey his truths in our lives such that its only in the Bible or in Church or In prayer…why not dreams? Cat

    • David Manhart

      The reason you limit god is the same reason science fiction fans engage in debates of whether Star Wars or Star Trek is better. All religions are fiction. You, and all other believers in religion know this deep down and keep trying to come up with some explanations which will quell the doubts your intelligence constantly brings up. You are doomed to never be fulfilled while living this lie.

      • Meagan Alexander

        David, the explanation you’ve given is an example of what you were trying prove in your response. You believe that “confused” people create gods in their heads, and yes, you’re correct in thinking that. But you obviously haven’t come to realize or understand that the God that truly exists meets my every need and prayer! You have come up with an explanation for why you think believing in God is a bad thing to do, and I know you think religion is stupid, but choosing to put your life in Jesus’ hands is SO MUCH MORE than “just” religion. If you would take the time to sit down with God and have a conversation with him as a person (he’s not a thing), he would provide the explanations “which will quell the doubts your intelligence constantly brings up”. The love that the Holy Spirit feels for us is like nothing you’ve EVER felt- it’s truly something that one can’t describe in detail to another person, because you have to feel it in your spirit for yourself. I haven’t written this response to say you’re wrong, or even to offer you a complementary Get-Out-of-Hell-Free-Card – rather, God’s letting you in on a special Live-Life-To-The-Fullest-Invitation. I promise, if you decide to accept the fact that Jesus really does care for you as his own son, you’ll be headed for a whole other level of life quality. Just know that all he wants is a relationship with you on a PERSONAL level. God bless you David.
        And just in case you were wondering, Star Trek is SO much better than Star Wars…… Live long and prosper!

  • Daniel McDonald

    I may not have believed this one except that I can confirm it. My mother and sister had a rocky relationship. My Mom had a heart attack at age 72 and was in the hospital. She remained in the hospital several days later. My sister called me a bit before 10 PM and told me they had moved my Mom from one hospital to another. Then my sister told me how she had awakened from a dream early in the AM hours. In the dream, she related Mom had said she was going home today. My sister in the dream asked “Are you getting out of the hospital?” In the dream my Mom said, “No, I am going home.” So my sister told me, she left it at that. The next morning my Dad called us to tell us that my Mom had died the night before at about 11:30 PM. It was definitely something that helped give my sister comfort in those days following my Mom’s passing.

    • http://www.BillintheBlank.com/ Bill Blankschaen

      Compelling story, Daniel. Thanks for sharing,

  • Patricia Likakis

    Definitely, Christians should pay attention to their dreams, particularly the predominant emotion in them. I had a dream several years ago about seeing a harp. I had no idea what it meant so I googled it. Much to my surprise, the harp represented healing from emotional scars which is exactly what I was going thru at the time. We do have to be careful to interpret them correctly, I would caution. God is not going to tell us anything that goes against His Word.

  • Anna

    I suppose I think it is possible. I generally remember all my dreams very well and there have been 2 maybe 3 that have been entirely “different” from the rest. One in particular seemed to have no visual at all. I just was surrounded by something I thought a few beings but it felt like one surround presence and was repeatedly told something. I was even told to write it down and not to forget. The phrase was “Speak love into life.” Knowing my own thoughts and words, this doesn’t seem like it came from my own doing at all.

    • http://www.BillintheBlank.com/ Bill Blankschaen

      Hmmm. Fascinating. Thanks for the comment!


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