The Spirit Meets Us in Our Sleep


Genesis 15:12a (NIV)

As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep . . .


Early on in the Old Testament, we find the creative Spirit of God speaking to people in unique and often remarkable ways, ways that can help us understand how the Spirit can speak to us. 

In Genesis 15:12, we find the Spirit of God speaking to the patriarch Abram in the nighttime hours. The story of Jesus, and the biblical imagination of the entire New Testament church, engaged the reality that the Holy Spirit speaks, at times, through dreams. God does this to further his New Creation story and our growth as mature disciples and awakening people.

In the biblical narrative, sleep time is regarded as a normal part of life (Jesus was sleeping in a boat), yet also as a unique venue for the Holy Spirit to speak to individuals about the Father’s heart for them and for the world (for example, Joseph’s dream about taking Mary to be his wife). Sure, these people are the Son of God and a biblical hero, respectively. But does the Spirit speak to us “normal” Christians during the roughly 33 years we spend in bed over an 80-ish year lifespan—or do we and the Trinity take those 3 ⅓ decades off?

In this story, Abram goes into a nap to end all naps (v. 12-16), and something very profound happens. The Spirit of God speaks. The future is told. Promises are made. Then (we’re not sure if Abram was asleep or awake for this part), a covenant is established through images familiar to Abram (15:17-21) that will connect all the way to the new covenant of Jesus and our faith in him today. 

Across awakening history, dreams have been one way God gets his people’s attention to pray at times and in ways we wouldn’t have otherwise. Dreams can also serve as a way for God to give us experiences of his love and wisdom that we may not have otherwise. I know that I and many others have been stirred in the middle of the night with a strong urge to pray for a person or a situation, with an awareness of God’s presence that is moving and restoring, or even with a song in the night that we find ourselves singing as we awake! 

While we always need discernment in understanding dreams due to their subjective nature (supported by ongoing maturity in our walk with Jesus, reflection on the Scriptures, and the counsel of wise, discerning guides) it is true that the Spirit has something to say to us in the nighttime hours.

A wise woman of God once told me to keep a journal by my bed to write down dreams that felt important, either just for me or for others. “The Spirit will begin to speak to you as you are going to sleep, through the night, and as you wake in the early morning hours . . . if you are expectant enough to keep a journal beside your bed. Read the Bible before you go to sleep to fill up your heart and mind with God’s truth. Both you and God will know that you are eager to hear his Spirit speak if you keep that journal at the ready.” 

How about you? How has the Holy Spirit spoken to you in the night?


Jesus, I receive your Holy Spirit. I recognize that my sleeping hours, as well as my waking hours, are yours for the speaking. Come, Holy Spirit, speak to me in ways that remind me of your covenant love for me, and use my hours of rest to continue to transform me into the likeness of Jesus.


  1. Are you open to the Holy Spirit speaking to you, as the biblical characters were, in your nighttime hours? Grab a journal, and ask the Lord to speak to you as you go off to sleep.

For the Awakening,
Dan Wilt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

4 Responses

  1. While I am open to the possibility for God to speak to me in a dream, so far this has not been my experience. I know that my wife, and daughter and other believers who I know have had this experience. I’m also aware that there are folks in places where missionary activities are next to impossible, who have had dreams that caused them to seek out the Gospel and eventually come to faith in Christ. I’m also aware that God still gifts individual believers with the ability to interpret other people’s dreams. Come Holy Spirit and manifest your presence in whatever way you choose.

  2. It is not uncommon that as I wake, something I have been wrestling with becomes clear. Before I go to sleep, I read the Bible , an excerpt from John Wesley and say two of Wesley’s prayers and finally recite the Lord’s Prayer.

    It has also not been unusual for me to wake up with a song banging around in my head.

  3. Does this also apply to when you wake up in the middle of the night praying even though you were t praying when you went to sleep??
    And in cases like that, what do you do, continue praying or just go back to sleep?

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