How To Prayerfully Listen, Interpret, and Understand Your Dreams

When I saw my mother-in-law talking very loudly in a distant relatives’ funeral, I then remembered that she didn’t have her hearing aids in, and of course, this made perfect sense … in a dream.

Sleep is good and was made to be good. Within the world of our dreams, there are often invites to grow.

Some dreams are pleasant and interesting, while others can be of the horrific, nightmarish genre that leaves a dark shadow over the next day and invoke fear about the coming evening.

What if we had a method of debriefing the theatre of the night.  Perhaps if we had a simple way of thinking through our dreams, we might be able to accept them more and see them as something useful.

Dreams are not necessarily there to give us advice about what we should and shouldn’t do.  Instead, the dream is a way of offering a question to the self. What is God speaking to me about in this way?

Dreams are most useful in spiritual growth when we prayerfully listen to them rather than seek to interpret them. We should receive them as gifts from God, asking him what he wishes to draw to our attention through them. David Benner – Sacred Companions 

Dreams offer us an invite to know our innermost thoughts  (Daniel 2:30)

A few years ago, I learned a process to help me to understand my dreams from Dr. David Benner.

Understanding your dreams

 1. Write them down as soon as possible. In a journal and as much detail as possible. Colors, people involved, images, reactions, get it all down. Write it all down while it’s fresh in your mind.

2. Write down your initial reaction.
What feelings did it arouse in you?

3. Use T.T.A.Q. (Title, Theme, Affect, Questions)

    • Title.
      Always give it a title. It is a short story or movie and deserves a title. The act of choosing a title offers insight into the meaning of your dream.
    • Theme.
      What is it principally about?
      This is a short phrase that describes the topic.
      If it was a movie, would it be a thriller, a comedy, a romance?
      Ask God to help you identify the overall theme.
    • Affect.
      What was the emotional affect expressed in it
      ?
      What were the feelings felt by the principal character in the story or
      movie?
      Were there certain emotions expressed by others?
      What feelings did you experience when you awoke?
      Describe the emotional tone or impact of the dream.
    • Questions.
      What questions does the story seem to be asking of you?
      The 
      authors of this technique suggest you listen to the story as if it were a friend asking you a meaningful question. The act of formulating the question/s will give an interpretation.

4. Spend some time in reflection
Make opportunities for prayer, Scripture study, and reflection on the questions suggested by the story. You might like to discuss your dream with a trusted friend. Hold it gently. Don’t become fixated on it, instead treat it as but one way in which God may be speaking to you. 

For an introductory explanation of this technique, I would refer you to Care of Souls by David G. Benner

A final cautionary word. Don’t build your life around the dream. A dream is just that, a dream, it is only part of your life. For guidance and making wise decisions, you need to add in wise counsel from others, scripture study, etc.

Quotes to consider

  • Very often, dreams speak to us in specific detail. They show us what we need to do now to heal ourselves or better our lives.  Harold Klemp
  • Dreams are illustrations… from the book your soul is writing about you. Marsha Norman
  • A rich dessert of many layers, the realm of dreams will take you far beyond your daily life into levels of love and awareness that you have only dreamed possible. Debbie Johnson

Questions to answer and leave a comment below

  1. What has your experience with dreams been like? 
  2. Are you open to the idea of God speaking to you through your dreams?

Further Reading

7 Steps To Enable A Rhythm Of Rest

The First Step for a Great Day Is To Fall Into Sleep

Barry Pearman

Image cc:Rodolfo Sanches Carvalho