What’s it like to meet with a spiritual director?

I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.

– Isaiah 48:17

Spiritual direction is not like counseling or therapy. It’s not coaching or mentoring. A spiritual director is not a guru or spiritual authority. He or she is simply a spiritual companion—someone who comes alongside you in life’s journey to help you discern more clearly the Lord’s presence and activity.

Typically a director and directee meet once a month to talk and pray and listen to the Lord together. Their focus each time varies depending upon the interests and needs of the directee. He or she may have a question or a problem or simply a growing spiritual hunger to share with the director. The director listens and usually asks a few clarifying questions. Then they turn the matter over to God in prayer, inviting the Lord to speak and allowing times of silence for Him to do so. Afterward they share and reflect together.

This kind of prayerful listening will often lead to new spiritual insights. The insights may come directly from God through memories that come to mind, reminders of pertinent Scriptures or biblical stories, mental images, or even inaudible “words.” Insights may also come through the director’s observations and questions as someone coming to the situation from a different perspective.

The session’s outcome may be discernment about a course of action. Or clarity about a pressing question. Or simply a deepened awareness of the Lord’s presence and a renewed trust in His care as the issue continues to work itself out. 

Every spiritual direction session is different because the participants are not setting the agenda. They are turning toward the Lord, seeking to be Spirit led. The Holy Spirit is the real spiritual director.

Our confidence from Scripture is that God is always speaking to us. Yet it can be hard to be quiet and still long enough to listen. Working with a trained and experienced spiritual director can help. And with practice, we can grow in our ability to see and hear the Lord more clearly in all the moments of our lives.

Frequently Asked Questions

The practice of (spiritual direction) is not at all like many other important and worthwhile practices. It’s not counseling or therapy; it’s not coaching or mentoring. A spiritual director is not a guru or spiritual authority but simply a spiritual companion traveling a similar road and called to help others.

The strict confidentiality needed to build an atmosphere of trust and safety is practiced in all spiritual direction relationships. This confidentiality is extends not only to the content of the sessions, but also to the identity of those served by My Inner Life. In group direction, participants are all asked to agree to a covenant, which includes a confidentiality commitment. Content of all conversations will be held in strict confidence unless reporting is required by law/court order or if the directee reveals.

Spiritual direction relationships always rely on prayerful discernment by both the directee and director. There’s no cost for the first meeting, which is needed for each to discern if continuing seems right. In addition, spiritual direction relationships seem to have a “lifespan.”  The directee and director prayerfully depend on the Lord for guidance and discernment about how long the relationship should last. The parties will schedule periodic conversations about the relationship and either may feel led to wrap things up.

Monthly meetings are about right for most directees. Some find it helpful to meet less often or less regularly.

Spiritual direction can be helpful to just about anybody.  You may benefit if you are . . .

  • Longing to draw closer to God

  • Facing a life transition (voluntary or involuntary)

  • Feeling uncertain about your faith

  • Feeling spiritually stuck

  • Needing help discerning next steps in life

  • Wanting a safe spiritual companion in an atmosphere disconnected from regular roles and responsibilities (This is essential for clergy and others employed in ministry.)

  • Someone who is trying to figure out who God is and if they want to be a follower of Jesus Christ

  • Someone who is longing for something more but can’t quite put their finger on what that is

  • Someone who needs someone to listen with unbiased care and compassion

  • Someone who is trying to discern his or her God-given purpose by getting beneath surface desires

Sessions are one hour.

Spiritual direction isn’t new. Although it’s not labeled as such, examples of what amounts to spiritual direction can be found in Scripture. Examples include Paul’s relational ministry described in 1 Thessalonians 2:8, 11-12; and frequently in the soul-searching questions of Jesus (e.g., John 5:1-15, Mark 10:17-22). In church history, the practice pre-dates the 16th century Protestant Reformation.  In recent years, more and more Protestants are finding a deeper connection with God through the practice. The Rev. David Brannen is a member of the Evangelical Spiritual Director’s Association.

You may very well have a minister or other person on the church staff who can offer you spiritual direction. Very few ministers are trained in spiritual direction through the typical seminary preparation they receive.  Unless offering spiritual direction is a defined role or responsibility for them, most local church ministers do not have the “bandwidth” to commit to an ongoing direction relationship.  A spiritual director who is not part of your local church can also offer a different and valuable perspective that can be hard to find if both are in the same church community.