Dreams can come from three sources: God, human imagination and demonic influence. You do not have to be a believer in God to receive a dream from Him. There are several examples of unbelievers receiving dreams from God (Genesis 20:3-7; Genesis 41:1-7; Daniel 2; Judges 7:13; Matthew 27:19).
How to discern godly dreams
1. Write it down in a secure place.
Keep a permanent and full record of all your dreams. Be diligent to note all the minute details of your dream.
How you felt, what you saw and who was there. All these add up to give you the full message of what is being said or revealed to you.
Be careful whom you share your dreams with. Remember our dear brother Joseph and the trouble he got himself into (Genesis 37). Some people will scorn and others will dismiss them as wild imaginations. This could be true, but most of us know when we have a dream that carries real meaning.
2. Literal dreams
Some dreams are literal and need little interpretation. For example, God could warn you about making a journey or about making a certain decision. Joseph and the Wise Men had dreams like this in Matthew 2. The dreams were clear and needed no interpretation.
3. Reoccurring dreams
These often contain pictures or symbols that we can interpret. The reoccurring of water (or cars, open doors e.t.c) could all be stressing opportunities, or God given assignments.
Recording your dreams will help you spot the reoccurring symbols which could otherwise go unnoticed. What happens to you in real life after these dreams may also help you, in hindsight, to understand the symbols better.
It is however important to note that symbols in your dream might have an entirely different meaning from the same symbols in another persons dream.
4. Were you part of the dream or an observer
Read the dream in Genesis 41:1-7. Notice that Pharaoh was an observer in the dream. This dream was bigger than the person having the dream. Often, when our dreams portray us as an observer they are giving us a bigger picture than ourselves and may involve other people or circumstances around us.
5. How does it line up with God's word
Consider and ponder on your dream in the light of God's written word. Dreams, which direct us to do things, which are openly against God?s word, should be discerned as originating from satan.
For example, if as a married person you have a dream telling you to marry someone else, you can safely consider the fact that your dream comes either from your lust or satan, or both.
6. Note the obvious things in your dreams
Read Genesis 37: 9-14. You might be tempted to think that the moon in this dream represents Joseph's mother. However, a close read of the stories before will show that she had died while giving birth to Benjamin (Genesis 35).
Joseph's dream, as we now know, were accurate, but not all the details were exact.
If you are a Christian and know how to pray, ask God to reveal the real meaning of your dreams to you. Even if you are not a Christian God will still answer or prayer if you ask him with a sincere heart. He loves you and wants to talk to you.
7. Note all the details
Dreams from God often contain enough details in them to reveal their meaning. Several times we will need to ask God to bring these details to our remembrance. Other times we can meditate on these dreams and the Holy Spirit will bring their meaning to us.
For example; many of our dreams contain emphasis that we can easily miss. How we felt in the dream, the things that caught our attention in the dream or the things we knew in the dream are all clues towards our interpreting it. Don't make your assumptions of what the dream meant on the first things that are obvious.
You could have a dream where someone is talking to you and it is obvious in the dream that the person is telling lies. Or you find yourself standing in a room where all the windows are shut. Ponder on what the shut windows might represent. These little details that stand out are often very important.
Remember, dreams from God never come to leave us in the dark but to reveal something of God to us (Numbers 12:6). They are worth writing down.