Holy Listening: What is Spiritual Direction

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What is Spiritual Direction?

Spiritual direction is the practice of being with people as they attempt to deepen their relationship with God, a prayerful ministry by which one Christian accompanies another as they discern the place and work of God in their life.

The writers William Barry and William Connolly describe it as the “help given by one Christian to another which enables that person to pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of the relationship.” (The Practice of Spiritual Direction). Or, as someone put it more pithily, “spiritual direction is a relationship that is going somewhere.”

A spiritual director does not lead or decide for another; the ‘direction’ in the term ‘spiritual direction’ is more about helping to direct or focus a person’s attention on God’s grace at work in their life and God’s call on their future. Some people prefer to use terms such as spiritual accompaniment or soul friendship to make this clearer.

In practice, people receiving spiritual direction usually meet with their director for an hour or so every two to three months. Their conversations may be quite wide-ranging, looking at past or recent experiences, patterns or problems with prayer, difficult decisions, complex relationships and so much more. But the focus is always on the person’s relationship with God and how that touches on the experiences of life.

The spiritual director is, above all, a listener: listening to the other person, listening for the whisper of God’s voice, listening for all that is being left unsaid. Through gentle questions and reflection, the director will seek to help the other person deepen that relationship with God for themselves. Spiritual direction is not mentoring, or counselling, or therapy – all good things, but with a different goal.

More information about the Holy Listening course can be downloaded in a single, printable PDF brochure by clicking here.