Dream Interpretive Process #1
Why is it that God so often speaks the language of mystery?
Our Father wants to be understood when He speaks. However, He frequently communicates in "dark speech" (see Numbers 12:6). This means He speaks in ways that are veiled or mysterious, and we need revelation if we're going to understand what He's saying. Dreams fall into this category all the time.
"If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air." (1 Corinthians 14:7-9)
God sets a principle in 1 Corinthians 14 that He Himself abides by: You can't expect someone to respond to something they don't understand. We need understanding for our dreams—but how do we get it?
Where to Go for Dream Answers
As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:10-11, interpretation is a gift of the Spirit, not a process of human intelligence. Technically, this passage is talking about tongues and interpretations, but the principle holds true for all spiritual communication, including dreams. Only God can interpret spiritual communication. In other words, there is only one who can tell us what we need to know.
Because God Himself is the answer to the dream question, we can study principles of interpretation and develop a skill-set that will help us understand dreams, but we won't be able to grasp the full understanding God has for us if we depend solely on what we've learned. Joseph understood this concept when he asked, "Do not interpretations belong to God?" Yet he also understood he had a role to play in the process of interpretation, for he added, "Please tell the dreams to me" (Genesis 40:8, author's paraphrase).
The Difference Between Disciples and Crowds
Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables and veiled speech, and His disciples asked Him about it in Matthew 13:10: "Why do You speak to them in parables?" He told them the understanding belonged to them—but not to the crowds.
What set the disciples apart? Why did the understanding belong to a select few, but not to everyone? As we read the rest of the chapter, we realize the answer: It was their relationship with Jesus. The crowds would hear the parables and be entertained; they would go back to their lives feeling like they had an experience, but the disciples would return to Jesus and ask Him to explain what He meant.
The Key to Interpreting Dreams
The key to interpreting dreams is "relationship with the Author of dreams". When you have a dream or someone shares a dream with you, go back to God and ask Him what He was trying to say.
It can be helpful to ask questions like these:
"What did You mean by that?"
"What were You trying to say to this person?"
"What are You accomplishing in my life?"
As you engage with God about His revelation, He will speak to you in greater detail. Most revelation is an invitation to engage God for more.
Develop friendship with the Holy Spirit. Deepen your ongoing conversation with Him. Speak to Him constantly, and you will find He is already speaking constantly to you. Expect Him to clarify what He is saying. As Bill Johnson succinctly says, "He doesn't hide stuff from us. He hides stuff for us."
God's veiled speech reveals our hearts: Do we really want to understand, or do we just want to have an experience? Are we looking for relationship or entertainment?
Our response to dreams can reveal the kind of soil we're working with (see Matthew 13:3-23). We can treat dreams lightly, without paying much attention to them, or we can see them as invitations to seek God and listen for His voice.
And He answered them, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away." (Matthew 13:11-12) (To Subscribe to the Elijah List subscribe here.)
John and Dawna Thomas were radically saved out of the drug culture in 1996. Personally mentored by John Paul Jackson, they've been on staff with or have worked alongside Streams Ministries since 2004. John pastored The Bridge Metrowest (planted by John Paul) for five years before he and Dawna stepped out into full-time itinerant ministry. After John Paul passed away, John began to work more closely with the Streams leadership team and in 2016 was asked to become the president of Streams Ministries. John desires to see the Church rise up in her authority and in the full power of the Holy Spirit, and his passion for God's heart undergirds everything he does. John co-authored The Art of Praying the Scriptures: A Fresh Look at Lectio Divina with John Paul Jackson and has also written courses on prophetic ministry, dream interpretation, and the Kingdom of God. As president of Streams Ministries, he ministers internationally to help restore the awe of God to a world that has lost its wonder. He and Dawna live outside of Dallas, Texas.