Even today observant Jews take divine dreams and dream language very seriously. They even have a well-established tradition of ritual bedtime prayers designed to prepare the heart and mind for sleep and to be open to God’s visitation through dreams. Many Jews learn these prayers and principles in an abbreviated form early in childhood as they hear their parents recite them each night. “For both adults and children, this bedtime ritual expresses gratitude for the day that has passed and creates a passageway from the waking state into a meaningful dream life.”
Certain dream practices can be added to the traditional prayers to enhance one’s spiritual preparation for dreaming. These include the use of a sefer chalomot, or “dream book,” and a time of cheshbon hanefesh, or reflection where one takes a soul inventory. Before we can understand our dreams we must reflect on them and before we can reflect on them must be able to remember them. That is the purpose of the sefer chalomot. (Photo via pixabay)
Keeping a diary or journal by our bedside can aid us in remembering dreams. It makes it easy for us to record our dreams as soon as we wake up, even if it is the middle of the night. Even a folder or binder of blank loose-leaf paper will do—anything that will provide a comfortable format for recording dreams.
Sometimes all it takes to recall your dreams is to make a personal commitment to yourself to remember them. If you are not in the habit of remembering or recording your dreams, be patient. It will probably take a little time to develop this ability.
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Three Simple Steps
So here we have three basic principles for handling dream language that have come down to us from Hebrew tradition. First, we expect God to speak. Second, we expect God to enable us to remember what He has given us. Third, we keep a dream book on hand to record our dreams. Isn’t that simple?
The second step in Jewish bedtime dream preparation, the cheshbon hanefesh, is a reflective activity where we take the time to review our day and take an inventory of our soul. Reviewing our day just before we go to sleep can help center our thoughts and encourage enlightening, productive dreams. This nightly cheshbon hanefesh is a smaller version of the self-inspection that Jews do on the days between Rosh Hashanah (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). It is during this time that Jews reflect on their life over the past year and review it analytically before moving into a new year.
If you have never tried a regular self-inspection such as this you may be wondering how to go about it. Here are some questions to help you get started. As you begin your personal reflection, consider the following:
—What happened today?
—Whom did you encounter?
—What were some of the different feelings you experienced?
—What did you feel proud of?
—What do you wish you could improve upon?
—Whom would you like to forgive? Could you give someone who annoyed you the benefit of the doubt?
—Whom would you wish to apologize to for any mistakes you have made? Whom would you like to ask for forgiveness?
—How would you wish God to forgive you?
—Would you like to pray for someone’s health or happiness?
—What are your hopes for tomorrow? (Photo via James Goll)
Questions such as these can help put our minds in a reflective state more conducive to receiving dreams. They also help connect our hearts to the heart of our Father and set our minds to look to the Rock, Jesus Christ, from which we are hewn.
Jewish Bedtime Prayers
The cheshbon hanefesh prepares the heart and mind for the tefilah, the bedtime prayers themselves. These actually constitute one prayer in three parts. The first part is the Ha’mapil (‘The One who casts’) prayer, in which we ask God for a night of good dreams and the secure feeling of protection as we sleep:
“Blessed are You, our God, gracious One, Keeper of the World,
Who makes my eyes sleepy and causes my eyelids to close.
God of those who came before me,
Help me to lie down peacefully and rise up peacefully.
While I sleep, may I not be disturbed by troubling ideas,
bad dreams, or scary thoughts that come to me in the night.
May my sleep bring both rest and insight.
Blessed are You, God, for illuminating the whole world in glorious ways.”
Part two of the prayer is the familiar Sh’ma that is known to many, Jews and non-Jews alike. Taken from Deuteronomy 6:4, the Sh’ma is the core statement of Jewish belief and loyalty:
“Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.”
The third and final part of the bedtime prayer is referred to as the Angels’ Prayer, which calls upon God to send God’s angels to protect us in the night and enable us to feel the security of their presence… On your right side is Michael, the angel of love; on your left is Gabriel, the angel of power; before you is Uriel, the angel of light; behind you is Raphael, the angel of healing; and over you is the Shekhinah, God’s immanent presence.
This prayer goes as follows: “In the name of the Lord, God of Israel: Made the angel Michael be at my right side, and at my left side, Gabriel, before me Uriel, behind me Raphael, and above my head, Shekhinah El, God’s presence.”
There is great wisdom—and centuries of experience—behind these prayers, as simple and even childlike as they may seem. But remember, Jesus said, “Whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it. Childlike faith is God-pleasing faith; the kind of faith that gives us access to His presence.
This is part of our heritage; something that has been lost to the Body of Christ. It is time for us as followers of Christ to return to our Hebraic roots and expect to receive even in our sleep. Let’s make the shift from the Greek practice of over-emphasizing the mind and return to a heart to heart, spirit to spirit encounter with the living God!
The Power of Dreams
Dreams are powerful things. They can reach us, touch us and change our lives in a way that no other form of communication can. Don’t despise dreams. Don’t turn your back on them as so many in the Church did for so many centuries. Open yourself to the world of dream language and, in the tradition of the Jews, expect God to speak to you through dreams, expect to remember what He says, and expect your life to be changed as you respond to what God says to you. (Photo via James Goll)
Like our Jewish forerunners, let’s create a culture where the spirit of revelation not only exists but flourishes. It’s time to take back our spiritual birthright and be sons and daughters who walk an illumined path by the One who is the author of dreams.
May Dreams Be Multiplied to You!
James W. Goll
Founder of Encounters Network • Prayer Storm • God Encounters Training e-School