Your dreams can seem random and hard to understand. However, all your dreams connect your thoughts and emotions in patterns – and you can study those patterns to discover the wonder of God at work in your life. Taking a proactive approach to your dreams can help you find purpose in them. If you approach your dreams intentionally by using them to accomplish specific purposes with God’s help – such as making a decision, solving a problem, healing from something painful, finding encouragement, or coming up with a creative idea – you’ll connect your sleeping and waking lives. Dreaming with purpose cam help you reach whatever goals you’re hoping to reach.
Have you ever said that you’d like to “sleep on it” when you’d like a fresh perspective on something? Dreaming about a particular topic can reveal God’s wisdom about it. While writing Wake Up to Wonder, I regularly asked God to send inspiration through my dreams for the current chapter I was working on. God often answered those prayers. Each morning, I wrote notes soon after awakening – recording every detail I could remember of my dreams. My dreams clarified a lot that I had prayed for guidance about before going to sleep.
The process of choosing what to dream about is called dream incubation.
The word “incubation” comes from the Greek word “incubatio”, which means to keep something in a favorable condition for it to develop. Here’s how to incubate dreams with specific purposes:
Decide what you want to dream about, and why. What specific issue do you want to understand better and hopefully resolve as a result of dreaming about it? What questions do you have about a certain situation, about which a dream could help you find answers? Are you facing an important decision soon and want a dream to help you figure out what to do? Do you need healing or encouragement that you hope a dream will give you? Clarify what you’re hoping to accomplish. Choose just one purpose for each dream.
Create a relaxing atmosphere in your bedroom. Remove items from your bedroom that can distract you from sleeping (such as a television, cell phone, or laptop computer) and add whatever will help you relax so you can sleep well (like soothing music, a white noise machine, or soft blankets). Consider taking a relaxing bath or shower before you go to bed. Say goodnight to your family at least 15 minutes before you plan to go to sleep. Use that time to pray and reflect quietly in your bed.
Pray about your dream’s purpose before falling asleep. Reflect on the specific issue or situation you hope to address in your mind while you’re sleeping. Focus your mind on it before you fall asleep and start dreaming. Ask God to help you dream about that subject. Speak your prayer out loud, which reinforces it in your mind. You may want to follow the ancient tradition of writing down your prayer on paper that you then place underneath your pillow before going to sleep. (After you awaken, the piece of paper will serve as a tangible reminder of your goal for the dream, which should help you remember and record it.) As you drift off to sleep, remind yourself of the purpose you hope to fulfill through a dream that night. Meditate on what you’d like to dream about and imagine what the dream could be like. Then just relax and let go of your concerns, trusting that you’ll learn something from your dreams. Ease into sleep with an open mind and without any fear. Expect to experience dreams that will give you the wisdom you need.
Record whatever details you can remember from your dreams as soon as you wake up. Keep a dream journal, or simply paper and a pen or a voice recorder by your bedside so you can easily record everything that’s on your mind when you awaken. Then you can study those details and ask God to help you interpret them.
When you dream with purpose, you’ll see awe-inspiring patterns emerge that reveal how God is working in your life!