What is Spiritual Direction?
Christian Spiritual Direction is the practice whereby one person helps another to pay attention to God, and to God’s presence, voice, and sanctifying work in his or her life. As the two disciples on the road to Emmaus experienced (Luke 24), it is the shared noticing of Jesus, revealed in Scripture and the daily events of a walk and a meal, attended to in feelings of disappointment and hope, of joy and burning hearts.
Spiritual direction is God-oriented rather than goal-oriented–giving one’s attention to God rather than to a particular problem that needs to be fixed or behavior that needs to be modified. It is responsive rather than directive, listening together to the Holy Spirit’s presence and ways rather than the director telling the directee what to do. It is about listening with–together noticing senses of God’s voice and direction–rather than talking to. It occurs in an atmosphere of loving trust; trusting that God is for us (not against us), in love, and that God’s work over time is about transforming us into the image of Christ, through the loving shaping of his Holy Spirit, so that we might live life fully, and to the Father’s glory.
Spiritual direction meetings between a director and directee usually occur once a month, for an hour each time.
Spiritual direction occurs in an atmosphere of prayerful listening. Often beginning and ending in silent prayer, to create an awareness of God’s presence with the director and directee, it’s common for the director to ask a directee to return to a few moments of silence in the middle of a session, again to clear away the clutter of talk and notice more deeply what the Holy Spirit may be saying.
Spiritual Direction conversations include all the “stuff” of ordinary life–vocation, relationships, circumstances, health, the life of worship and prayer and service, joys and sorrows, boredoms and adventures–and seek to notice God’s presence, work, and invitations in the midst of those.
Begin by praying. God, who is stirring this desire in you, is also working to meet that desire!
Then prayerfully make contact with potential directors, by email and/ or by phone. Ask them about their theology of spiritual direction—how do they understand what happens in the direction session? How do they try to pay attention to God’s presence? What might regular times with them look like? As you listen to their answers, notice what goes in your own internal reactions. Is there a particular director with whom you feel a desire and freedom to share more deeply? Do you sense this as a relationship where already, in your back-and-forth conversation, there’s an awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence and leading?
Once you identify a potential director, set up a time to meet. (Although in-person direction is preferable, some directors do offer direction by phone or online.) Unless it’s clear right away that this isn’t what or who you want, you’ll meet a further one to two times, before together discerning if this is a direction relationship that the Lord is inviting you into. Then you’ll commit to a period of time together, usually a year, before further evaluation. We have added ‘denominations’ to our search listings. Many people value meeting with someone outside their own tradition, but if having someone with your same church affiliation is helpful to you, search specifically with that key word in our directory listing.
Clarify with the director where you will meet, how often, and how you will offer financial compensation for his or her ministry. (Some directors request a particular amount, others suggest a scale based on your ability and freedom to give, others are covered already by their ministry organization. Do be prepared to offer something, either to them or to their ministry organization, for this is a ministry for which people have invested time and money in training, and your contribution enables them to give time to it.)
For more information about spiritual direction, listen to Steve Macchia and Susan Currie, Director of Selah – LTI’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction training program, discuss spiritual direction in Episode 5 – “Spiritual Direction” of Season 13: Discerning God in Friendship and Direction of The Discerning Leader Podcast: