Dreams that heal and seal
Then God said to
him in the dream . . .
Face-to-face encounters in which we meet the
Lord and hear His voice clearly are delightful if
relatively rare occurrences, but most of us will
have known occasions when He has guided us by means
of dreams, visions and other signs and pointers that
set us thinking and praying along particular lines.
Some of these are a direct call to action; others
require further prayer (and perhaps confirmation)
before we set out to act on them.
Those who have been brought up on “cerebral” forms
of the faith may feel somewhat wary of essentially
non-verbal ways of communicating. It is right to be
cautious but not sceptical; the Bible is full of
significant dreams,  and the Lord wants us to be
comfortable in discerning that which comes from Him.
Dreams and visions are relevant not just for
guidance but for outreach. Where preachers cannot
freely go, God can reach people’s deepest spirits.
Every year more and more people in Islamic countries
are coming to faith as a result of receiving dreams
from and about the Lord Jesus.
nothing new about this. Back in the fifth century,
pirates sailed up the River Clyde and seized a young
boy called Patrick. Seven grim years of slavery in
Ireland ensued. It was during this time that the
Lord drew him back to the faith of his fathers, and
set him on fire with love for Himself.
One night, Patrick had a dream, in which he saw how
he could cross the country and find a boat. The fact
that the Lord speaks, however, does not mean that
everything works out easily or immediately. It was
only with extreme difficulty that Patrick persuaded
the ship’s captain to take him on board.
The Lord’s purposes for Patrick in the land of his
captivity did not come to an end with his escape to
France. Some years later, he “heard” in his spirit
the voice of the Irish calling him to return. What
the Lord initiated as a rescue mission He developed
through this commissioning vision: a mission that
was destined to bring whole tribes to faith, to such
an extent that Ireland became a leading
Each one had their own story of how they were called
for love of God to forsake their homeland to share
the gospel message. Columba was the first of a
multitude of Irish Celtic missionaries who set out
to evangelize first Scotland and then, from their
island outposts of Iona and Lindisfarne, almost
every part of northern and western Europe.
This vital work might
never have developed had Patrick refused to return
to the country which had treated him so badly
saying, effectively, ‘I don’t do countries that
treat me badly!’ Mercifully, like Paul, he was more
concerned to obey the heavenly vision than to nurse
Not all our dreams have high-powered consequences
that send us to the far side of the world of course!
Most are more like broad strokes of the Father’s
brush, in which a few salient features stand out to
direct us towards some particular person, insight or
project. Because our memories are fickle, we are
wise if we jot down the details of dreams we believe
may be of spiritual significance as soon as possible
after we wake up.
The Lord uses dreams to keep us in the loop
Shortly after I became a Christian, I began to pray
for an old school friend. My clumsy attempts to tell
her about the Lord met with no response, and for the
next twelve years, I had no contact whatsoever with
her. One night, however, I saw in a dream that she
had become a Christian. I shared this with Ros, and
was amazed to receive a letter from her the very
next day. Not only had she given her life to the
Lord, she had already led a couple of others in her
village to Christ. I had felt led to pray and reach
out to one person, but the Lord was already thinking
of all the people He will bring to Himself through
her. It has been a joy to resume friendship on a
completely different level!
The Lord loves to keep us “in the loop” of what He
is doing, whether for really positive things like
this or concerning more challenging developments
that are unfolding behind the scenes. It has been a
joy to resume friendship with her on a completely
Dreams often require further confirmation and
It is important to bear in mind that whilst some
dreams are quite specific and literal, most supply a
vital portion of the guidance the Lord wishes to
impart. These “pointers” require further
clarification before we should accept them as
definitive guidance. As I came to the end of seven
exciting years of ministry in Oxford, I knew the
Lord was calling me to resign my post as an
evangelist with one particular church and move on –
but I had no idea where the Lord wanted me to move
on to. When I had a dream of black and white houses,
however, or some reason I felt convinced that the
Lord was speaking about Chester.
I needed more details! The following night, as I was
going to sleep, the names of two Anglican churches
came clearly to mind. I happened to be up north a
few weeks later, so I popped across to Chester (in
those pre-Internet days) to pursue the matter. The
churches did indeed exist, and, once the leadership
of the principal church confirmed the dream and
welcomed me into their fellowship, became fruitful
bases for the next eight years. It does not bear
thinking about all that would not have happened had
I not had – and responded – to those dreams and
subsequent words of knowledge!
The Lord uses dreams internally
‘All the things one has forgotten scream for help
in dreams.’ (Elias Canetti)
The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to
a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the
mind. (Sigmund Freud).
It is a shame that Freud was unacquainted with the
ways and workings of the Holy Spirit. God loves to
impart His perspectives to help us understand what
is going on in ourselves. If the examples quoted
above are examples of our Heavenly Father’s broad
brush strokes, more commonly He uses finer brushes
to highlight particular issues through our dreams
that we might otherwise never face. We may have done
our best to bury certain memories, for example, but
the dreams our subconscious throw up are there to
remind us of things we really do need to face.
Many of the specific details in our dreams may be of
no particular significance, but we should be alert
to themes and symbols that regularly recur in our
dreams. Time and again the Lord uses these as His
most discreet means of showing us things –
especially where we are out of balance in some way.
In other words, if the same theme is repeated more
than once, it is likely to be significant, and quite
possibly urgent. (cf Gen. 41:15-37)
As for those dreams which are more like X-rated
films, the Lord may be allowing us disturbing
glimpses into the strategies of hell as they plan
their attacks against God’s people. Rather than
accepting whatever dire scenarios these dreams are
predicting, it is wiser to see them effectively as a
call to pray that the very opposite of what we have
seen comes about. In other words, we can use and
“harness” the power of these horrible dreams as a
stimulus to pray more intensely and so thwart
whatever it was that the powers of darkness were
seeking to bring to pass and see something good
established instead. How much better is that than
merely being intimidated by them?
One step down from these “Gothic” dreams lie those
which are two parts psychological for one part
spiritual. Suppose, for example, you are organizing
a meeting, and dream of an empty auditorium. The
chances are that this may be nothing more than the
subconscious having a wobble. But there again, it
may also be the Lord alerting us to the fact that
the meeting (or whatever it was that we dreamt of)
will only fulfil all the Lord has in mind if we pray
a whole lot harder!
Likewise, unless the Lord confirms the warning in
other ways, we should not be in too much of a hurry
to change our ticket if we dream that the plane we
are due to catch is going to crash. If the meeting
and the journey are important to the Lord, then may
the meeting be well attended and fruitful – and the
journey be both safe and blessed!
For Reflection and Prayer
Father, dreams come
thick and fast in the course of the night, there is
nothing we can do to ward them off. Help us to
discard all that is merely random, but to identify
all You are seeking to highlight through them. Then
may we harness what they are pointing to in such a
way that we focus our prayers and release more of
Your power into these situations than would
otherwise have happened. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Visions that inform and direct
Where there is no
revelation, the people cast off restraint.
In the verse above, the word hazon (often translated
‘vision’) speaks of direct communication from God to
a prophetic people, rather than about people setting
their own goals.
night as I was falling asleep, I saw a girl of
student age crying out, ‘Lord, I’m so lonely.’ I
woke up and asked the Lord for details. He supplied
me with the address. We went to visit the house the
next day, but it was deserted. When we knocked on
the door of the neighbouring flat – there was the
young lady in question, just as I had seen her in
the vision – lonely, and ready to hear about the
Because our minds are
fully conscious when we receive visions from God,
there is usually less subliminal clutter to fillet
out than is the case with dreams. Whether the
emphasis is on words, (which we normally associate
with ‘prophecy’) or on pictures (‘visions’) there is
no limit to what the Lord may choose to speak about.
Visions can range from fleeting impressions and
steering touches on the screen of our minds to the
full-scale trance that Peter experienced on the
rooftop – a vision the Lord used to open his eyes to
His desire to reach the Gentile world.
What we need then is a different set of skills to
know what to do with what the Lord is showing us.
Sometimes it is wisest to keep the matter between
God and ourselves in prayer until we are sure we
know what to do next.
On other occasions we must seize the moment and
share what He has given us straight away. Never be
afraid to share what the Lord gives you, just
because it does not make much sense at the time. The
larger picture might be incomplete without your
For Reflection and Prayer
are so grateful for the many times
When You have given people ‘living words’
And they have had the courage to pass them on.
(Pause and remember such examples)
Make us open first to hear Your Still Small Voice –
And then to know what to do
With the words and visions that You give.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I want to celebrate
the way the Still Small Voice impacts the human
soul. Words that turn out to be pivotal often
originate in gentle whispers that come unheralded,
before crystallizing into powerful words that echo
across sea and land as if amplified by a megaphone.
When crosswinds blow, the words often appear to fade
from view, yet somehow, like frail saplings, they
survive the storm and emerge to fulfil all the Lord
had in mind.
God speaks not only because He wants us to know what
is going on, but because He wants to know what is
going on, but because He has already planned
solutions for the dilemmas that we face. Call them
‘nudges,’ ‘words of knowledge,’ or ‘prophecies’ –
may we be constantly open for the Holy Spirit to
sharpen our ability to know things we could not be
aware of without His direct impartation.
I am sure you can testify to many occasions when the
Lord’s promptings has opened doors and saved you
much time and expense. Moreover, following one of
God’s ‘love nudges’ often leads to other doors
There are two key principles to bear in mind:
‘Consult before Acting’ and ‘Obedience
of a man who was well into his seventies when the
Lord called him to serve the Church behind the Iron
Curtain. As he approached a border checkpoint on one
of his trips, carrying urgently needed supplies, the
Lord told him to move a package from its hiding
place, and to put it somewhere else. When the border
guards came into his can, the only place they
checked was the place where the package had been.
It reminds me of how
the Lord showed Elisha in great detail what the king
of Aram was planning to do to Israel. The
information was put to such good use that the king
was forced to conclude he must have a traitor in his
We are not psychic if we hear such things: we are
simply in touch with the Lord who loves to speak to
His children. It is not only about matters of state,
therefore, or when someone is going astray, that the
recent trip to London, I was delighted to find lunch
waiting on the table when I arrived at my hostess’s
house. ‘The Lord told me to have it ready for you,’
she explained. ‘He said that you are diabetic.’ I
was doubly grateful: for the food itself – and for
the reassurance that the Lord knows my need to eat
I can think of
various occasions when we have arrived on people’s
doorsteps having felt a clear check against
telephoning them first to see if they were free.
Since the people only returned home minutes before
we arrived, we would have assumed that they were out
– and something precious or important would have
been missed. (This is not to make a ‘doctrine’ out
of not phoning before visiting. It is normally only
courteous to do so.)
Likewise, when we were staying with some friends on
holiday, we had more or less promised to take them
out for a meal one evening, when the Lord told me to
stay in instead. At the risk of appearing stingy we
stayed put, only to have a most useful time with
someone who dropped by later that evening.
If we do not act on some nudges immediately, the
opportunity passes by and is gone forever. If we
pluck up courage and reach out to the people the
Lord directs us to, be sure to make a note of their
names and addresses. God can alert us at any time
then if He wants us to get in touch with them again.
Occasionally, something is sufficiently important
that He will give us a second chance. As a young
Christian, I was walking down the Metro one day in
Paris when He told me to go up and witness to a
beggar lady. I resisted, arguing that it would make
me late for church! (We can be very devious
sometimes in justifying our disobedience!) As I put
my ticket through the barrier, however, it refused
The Lord had been teaching me a lot about how He is
often saying something through these sorts of
things. Instead of pausing to inquire, however, I
went and bought another ticket.
This time it did work, but when the train stopped at
the next station the Lord caught up with me – and
there was no mistaking the displeasure in His voice.
‘I told you to go and do it!’ I made my way back and
found the woman still there, crying out for somebody
to come and talk to her. I had learned a valuable,
if not altogether comfortable, lesson concerning the
sovereignty of the Lord.
Never underestimate what God can accomplish through
even the briefest word. One day, a famous guru was
startled to hear the Lord say to him, ‘You are
not God!’ This simple but far-reaching word
began the process that led first to his conversion
and then to a wide-ranging ministry, alerting young
Westerners to the perils of eastern meditation
techniques, and to the parallels between them and
certain mind-altering drugs.
nudges that lead to long term fruit
On my return to England, I was walking briskly up
the High Street one evening, on my way to preach for
the first time at a particular church when the Lord
told me distinctly to go back and look at my car. It
sounded an odd thing to do. I protested that I did
not want to be late for the meeting, but the Lord
repeated the instruction, so I went back to look at
it. Clouds of acrid smoke were billowing into the
car through the heating ducts!
Feeling decidedly foolish, I asked the driver of a
car that had just pulled up, ‘Excuse me, are you as
expert at putting out car fires?’ To my
astonishment, he replied that he was! Taking out a
fire extinguisher he promptly saved my vehicle. Was
he, perhaps an angel?
On a recent trip to
Dresden, I scheduled an extra day at the end, really
just to give the Lord the chance to do the
unexpected. After completing my ministry
assignments, I heard that the Christian classical
musicians in Weimar were meeting on that day, three
hours’ drive away. Because I had spoken at their
inaugural weekend, five years previously, it felt
more right to go there than to spend the time with
friends in Dresden.
As soon as I arrived, I was introduced to a Canadian
opera singer. ‘What did you say your name was?’ she
exclaimed. To our mutual delight, she turned out to
be someone I had led to the Lord twenty-seven years
ago in Paris. I had long since lost touch with her –
but she had been praying that our paths would cross
The years rolled back as we made up for lost time.
One October Saturday, when I was spending a year
abroad as part of my French degree, I had planned to
attend a conference in Paris. For the first and only
time in its honorable career, however, my alarm
clock failed to go off. By the time I woke up it was
too late to bother going, so I decided to pay a
visit to a (supposedly retired) vicar, whose name I
had been given before going to France. I had no idea
that he was pasturing a thriving church, and was
most surprised to find him leading an afternoon
The vicar invited me to share my testimony. A young
Canadian au pair approached me at the end of the
meeting, asking me to pray with her to receive the
Lord Jesus into her heart. And here she was, all
these years later, still going strong in the Lord!
holds a special place in my heart. I returned for a
brief visit a year or two later and spoke at an
evening fellowship meeting. On the following
morning, I felt a nudge to visit an outstanding
musician who had participated in the meeting. I
trekked across the city, only to find that she was
out. I dithered at her door, before shoving a note
under her door: ‘If ever you are back in the UK,
this is my address.’
Three years passed without a word, and then, out of
the blue, I heard from her. By now, she was on the
committee of the Musicians’ Christian Fellowship,
and had been praying about whom to invite as speaker
for their annual conference. The Lord impressed on
her that she should invite the person who had cared
enough to visit her on that occasion three years
before, when she had been out.
I wrote back saying that I would have been delighted
to accept, but unfortunately had a prior commitment.
The following day brought news that I was no longer
needed for the other event. I was free to be with
I love telling this
story, because it illustrates that when God has a
purpose in mind, He is both resourceful and
determined in bringing it about. I had kicked my
self for getting my guidance so badly wrong that day
back in Paris – but God knew all along what He
intended to bring about through this briefest of
Many precious friendships and opportunities emerge
as the result of that conference, particularly in
terms of developing the blend of worship and
intercession which we have found to be such an
effective way of seeking the Lord for wider issues.
Effectively, it marked the beginning of an entirely
new phase of our ministry.
I wish I could say I always obeyed the Lord’s nudges
so successfully. There have been other occasions
when I have been far too slow in responding to what
God tells me to do.
I came home from church some months ago tired, but
aware of a prompting to give someone a ring. ‘I’m
sure it can wait,’ I rationalized and sat down to
watch TV. A few minutes later, I had a blazing row
with my son – over the matter of what we were
I will never know how urgently the other person
needed me to contact them that night, but at least I
would have been out of harm’s way, and a most
unfortunate confrontation would have been avoided.
For Reflection and Prayer
always has a reason for speaking to us.
Take some time out to consider specific ways the
Lord has spoken to you.
What fruit has there been as a result?
Line my heart up, Lord, to receive more of Your
and to be quicker to obey them.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Answers that pose further questions
Let him who walks
in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of
the Lord and rely on his God.
Much of our hearing comes when we ask God questions.
It sometimes feels, however, as though He answers
our questions at a tangent – or even sidesteps them
When Jesus told His country-dwelling disciples that
not one stone of Herod’s great Temple would be left
on top of each other, the disciples were puzzled and
asked Him what He meant.
Jesus embarked instead
on a wide-ranging overview of the end times. This
was no politician ducking an awkward question: this
was the Lord introducing His future leaders to
themes that would be crucial for the Body of Christ
to grapple with throughout the generations to come.
Remember how your math teachers used to insist that
the working out was as important as the answer? Long
ago, in the golden age of Greek philosophy, Socrates
recognized that people learn best by finding out
things for themselves. The ‘Socratic’ style of
teaching asks questions in such a way as to help
people see truth for themselves.
In the course of his intense suffering, Job asked
God many hard questions. The Lord wasted no time
justifying Himself, but when He ‘shows up’ at the
end of the book, He asked Job a harder set of
questions. I find it particularly striking how many
times He refers to animals that can be of no
possible use to mankind – indeed, which are often
hostile to us.
It is as though the Lord was saying through the
questions He asked, ‘Look Job, I made these
creatures. You cannot tame or harness them. You know
next to nothing about them, but they still have
their place in My overall scheme of things.’
The Lord often chooses to draw out our understanding
rather than telling us too quickly or too directly
how to proceed or what to believe – just as He asked
Philip a seemingly impossible question in John 6:5-6
in order to test him.
For Reflection and Prayer
There is a real need to search out ways of teaching
that draw out people’s understanding.
When we feel as though
circumstances are crowing and besetting us on all
sides, by all means seek the Lord as to what is
going on. He loaves it when we ask Him questions –
but may they stem more from a desire to be prophetic
than from anxiety or fretfulness. Be prepared, too,
for Him to ask some in return!
help me not to become discouraged
when You appear to be slow – reluctant even –
to give straightforward answers.
Thank You that You know exactly what steps to take,
and the right order in which to do them.
Teach me to trust Your character,
even when I cannot discern Your leading.