About Dreams

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,



By Father John, a Russian Monk

I have heard that many laypeople are talking about dreams and making various conjectures about them. Some of our own respected father monks believe in dreams and make their interpretations.

On receiving letters from laymen about dreams, some monks, because of their inexperience in the spiritual life read these letters with approval and show them to their brother monks as something edifying. Such wrong notions about dreams prompted me to make notes for some of the holy fathers.

The demons of vainglory are prophets in dreams. Being sly, they guess the future from present circumstances and foretell it to us. When these visions come true we are amazed, and we are indeed elated with the thought that we are already near to the gift of foreknowledge. A demon is often a prophet to those who believe in him, but he is always a liar to those who despise him. Being a spirit, he sees what is happening in the air, and noticing that someone is dying, he foretells it to the more credulous types of people through dreams. But the demos know nothing about the future from foreknowledge, but it is known that even doctors can foretell death. He who believes in dreams is completely inexperienced, but he who distrusts all dreams is a wise person. Therefore he who believes in dreams is like a person running after his own shadow and trying to catch it" (Saint John of the Ladder on dreams, ch. 3:28). The blessed Diodochos writes: "However, let us rather observe as a great value the rule not to believe in any dreams. For dreams are for the most part nothing but idols of thoughts, the play of imagination, or again, as I have already said, demonic sneering and mockery of us" (ch. 38).

Saint Symeon the New Theologian writes: "Only those can have a true vision in sleep (they should not be called dreams but visions) whose mind has been made simple by the grace of the Holy Spirit and freed from the pressure of passions and from slavery to them. These are men whose only care is things Divine, whose only thought is of future rewards and blessings, whose life is above ordinary life, free of care, not dispersed, serene, pure, full of mercy, wisdom, heavenly knowledge, and other good fruits tended in them by the Holy Spirit. In people who are not like this, dreams ARE DISORDERLY AND FALSE, AND EVERYTHING IN THEM IS SHEER DECEIT AND ILLUSION."

The wise Sirach writes: "Vain hopes delude the senseless, and dreams give wings to a fool’s fancy. It is like clutching a shadow, or chasing the wind, to take notice of dreams. Divination, omens, and dreams are all futile" (Ecclesiastes 34). Dreams have led many astray and ruined those who built their hopes on them. There are many examples in the writings of the Holy Fathers, of people perishing through believing in dreams. The Optina staretz priest-monk Leonid said to his pupil: "One should not believe in dreams even though they may be real in their own way, for many have gone astray through belief in dreams. The philosopher staretz Theosterik, who wrote the canon of consolation to the Most Holy Mother of God, trusted in dreams and finally became so misled that he perished."

Saint Paisios wrote: "No, don’t pay any attention to dreams. Whether they are pleasant or unpleasant, you are not to pay any attention to them, because there is the danger of being deluded. Ninety-five percent of dreams ARE DECEPTIVE. This is why the Holy Fathers say that we should not pay any attention to them. Very few dreams are from God, but in order for someone to interpret even these, he must have PURITY AND OTHER PREREQUISITES, much like Righteous Joseph, and the Prophet David in the Bible, who both HAD THE GIFT FROM GOD. Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar, I will tell you what dream you had and what it means. But consider THE SPIRITUAL MATURITY HE HAD ATTAINED!

This is why you shouldn’t pay any attention to them. CROSS YOURSELF AND THE PILLOW, PLACE A CROSS AN ICON ON YOUR PILLOW AND SAY THE JESUS PRAYER UNTIL YOU FALL ASLEEP. The more importance you attach to such dreams, THE MORE THE ENEMY WILL COME TO DISTURB YOU. This is something that happens to children, too, even though they are little angels. The ENEMY (devil) comes and scares them in their sleep, and they wake up frightened, running into their mother’s arms. Other times, they are approached by Angels who make them smile in their sleep out of joy, or they may wake up from their great joy. As such, DREAMS BROUGHT ABOUT BY TEMPTATION AND EXTERNAL INFLUENCE OF THE ENEMY UPON MAN WHILE HE’S ASLEEP." (Source: "Spiritual Struggle").

Evening Prayers

In the Orthodox Christian home, the family members are usually able to be together, not only for the common evening meal but too for the offering of evening prayers before sleep. This is a wonderful opportunity for the ‘kat’ oikon ecclesia’ (‘home church’) to gather and pray together as a family. Every member of the family may pray privately as well. What it is commonly understood is how important and necessary prayers are and not to neglect to offer at any time of the day or night.

Knowing that we are constantly engaged in spiritual warfare we must be constantly vigilant and aware of the evil threats around us at all times. Prayers are very useful, they are weapons against evil thoughts, evil temptations, evil dreams, and evil practices. The Orthodox Christian must never let his/her guard down. We ought to realize how beneficial they can be in our daily struggle of the spiritual life, which it seeks the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Sleeping should be peaceful, however, the enemy, the evil one, never sleeps and uses this opportunity to trouble us. He uses dreams to frighten us, tempt us, scandalize us, and present us with ugly, and obscene images. It is therefore absolutely necessary that we prevent this occurrence through prayer before going to sleep. It is also important to note that if it is God’s will for us to die in our sleep to be prepared spiritually and to leave this world with a prayer of praise in our lips and hearts.

An Evening Prayer of Saint Basil the Great

+In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Blessed are You, O Lord God Almighty,
You have illumined the day with the light of the sun
And the night You have brightened with the rays of the fiery moon;
You have made us worthy to go through this day
And to approach the beginning of the night.
Hear our petitions and those of all Your people,
And forgive us all our voluntary and involuntary sins.
Receive our evening prayers,
And send down upon the people of Your inheritance
The multitude of Your mercy and compassionate love.
Encompass us with Your holy Angels.
Arm us with the weapons of Your Righteousness.
Outline us with the mark of Your truth.
Guard us by Your power.
Deliver us from every circumstance
and influence of the adversary.
Grant us once again, O Lord, that this present evening,
together with the approaching night,
and all the days of our life,
Will be perfect, holy, peaceful, sinless,
and without any scandalous imaginations.
We pray for this through the intercessions of the Holy Theotokos
and all the Saints who have pleased You through the ages.


Make us worthy, O Lord,
to be kept without sin this evening.
Blessed are You, O Lord, the God of our fathers,
And praised and glorified is Your name unto the ages. Amen.
Lord, let Your mercy be upon us,
Even as we have placed our hope in You.
Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your commandments;
Blessed are You, O Master, make me prudent by Your commandments;
Blessed are You, O Holy One, enlighten me with Your commandments;
Lord, Your mercy endures forever,
Do not overlook the creations of Your own hands,
To You belong praise, hymns, and glory,
To the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
Now and forever and to the ages of ages.

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