Seven Foundational Principles for Interpreting Dreams
We all dream. I believe that dreams can contain valid messages from God. In order for us to understand these messages, we must interpret our dreams. Below are seven foundational principles for interpreting dreams.
1. Most dreams are symbolic (including biblical dreams), so view them the same way you would view a political cartoon. Throw the switch in your brain that says, “Look at this symbolically.”
You can learn the art of communicating symbolically by playing the game “Pictionary” or “Bible Pictionary.”
2. The symbols will come from the dreamer’s life, so ask, “What does this symbol mean to me?” or, if working on another’s dream, ask, “What does this symbol mean to you?”
For example, Joseph was a shepherd, and he dreamed of sheaves and sun, moon and stars bowing down (Gen. 37:1-11). These images surround a shepherd boy who lives in the fields. Nebuchadnezzar, a king, dreamed of statues of gold (Dan 2:31ff), which surround kings who live in palaces.
3. The dream generally speaks of the concerns which your heart is currently facing. So ask, “What issues was I processing the day before I had the dream?”
For example, Paul was wondering where to go next on his missionary journey and had a dream of a Macedonian man motioning for him to come on over (Acts 16:6-11). Nebuchadnezzar was thinking his kingdom would go on forever (Dan. 4:28-33) and he had a dream of a tree being chopped off at the roots (Dan. 4:9-27). Once you know the thoughts that were on the dreamer’s heart when he fell asleep, it is much easier to draw out the meaning of the dream.
4. The meaning of the dream must be drawn from the dreamer. Realize you know nothing about the dream, but through dependence upon the Holy Spirit and the skillful use of questions, you can draw the meaning of the dream out from the heart of the dreamer.
As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams (Dan. 1:17).
Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out (Prov. 20:5).
5. The dreamer’s heart will leap and “witness” and say, “Aha!” when it hears the right interpretation, so never accept an interpretation that does not bear witness in the dreamer’s heart.
6. Dreams reveal but do not condemn. Their goal is to preserve life, not to destroy it (Job 33:13-18).
7. Never make a major decision in your life based only on a dream without receiving additional confirmation from the other ways that God speaks to us and guides us (peace in our hearts, the counsel of others, illumined Scriptures, God’s still small voice, prophecy, anointed reasoning, etc.).
As I discuss in the classes of the Christian University and Online Bible College where I teach, dreams can help us to understand certain aspects of our lives, gain direction and guidance for decisions, and contain messages from God. So, it is good to take the time to recall and interpret our dreams.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Virkler is with Christian Leadership University. CLU is a Christian University and Online Bible College offering Christian education including Christian counseling and Christian theology seminaries and offers certificates, undergrad, Masters, and Doctorates in the various Christian colleges of CLU.