The Art of Spiritual Conversation: Asking Good Questions

“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters.  But one who has insight draws them out.”  (Proverbs 20:5)

We are all ministers. We minister to one another in the church, and we minister to the broader world.

We want to grow the kingdom of Christ by inviting the people in our lives to take one simple step closer to Jesus, whatever that step may be.

However, before we make that invitation, we need to understand the other person. What is important to them? What are their goals and dreams? What scares them? What brings them delight and joy?

We need to listen with curiosity and lovingly learn about the people in our lives. After patiently seeking to understand, we may sense where God is at work and how we can invite them to take another step.  Conversation is an indispensable tool for understanding.

Conversation is a skill in which we can always grow and improve. As we improve our skill in conversation, we develop the insight that enables us to draw out the deep purposes of another’s heart.  Conversation is rooted in asking good questions that arise from genuine curiosity about the other person.  

Good questions are open ended rather than closed ended.   Closed end questions have either/or answers.   They also tend to be yes/no.   Open ended questions demand a little more thought, and don’t allow for the easy out.

“Can I do anything for you?”
vs.
“What can I do for you?”

“Are you feeling OK?”
vs.
“How are you feeling today?”

Also, consider that really good questions invite the other person to share beyond the usual pleasantries.  For example:

“How are you doing?”
vs.
“What are you doing to take care of yourself during this pandemic?”

“What’s new?”
vs.
“What are you reading these days?”

In both examples the first is a common question that is usually answered by a simple “Fine” or “Nothing much.” The second question is an invitation to share some specific particular things. It is rooted in the present moment and invites more concrete answers.

Note, however, that when asking good questions, we need to be prepared to go places we didn’t expect.  Asking good open ended questions also involves listening and following where the other person is leading the conversation.  Hopefully, this will open up a host of other questions.  These questions may take us to deeper places:

“How did that make you feel?”
“What was important about that?”
“What do your instincts tell you?”
“Where did you see God working?”

Be aware that the deeper we go with questioning, the more we are asking the other person to trust us. The more they entrust parts of the hidden place of their heart to us, the more we have to respect and reverence that trust in love.

Sometimes this means not reacting, even if something that they shared is bothersome.  Sometimes it means holding back our own opinions and analysis.  If we genuinely want to love the other person through spiritual conversation, then we need to sacrifice our need to be heard and give the other person the space to speak their mind and heart. Remember, this conversation isn’t about you … it’s about the ministry that Christ is doing in this person’s life.

Of course, there is much more that could be said about the Art Spiritual Conversation. But for this week, try to grow in asking good questions.

One thought on “The Art of Spiritual Conversation: Asking Good Questions

  1. Pingback: The Art of Spiritual Conversation: Speaking Encouragement | Horizons of the Possible

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