How To Make the Most of Spiritual Direction

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Prepare

Pray for the grace to listen to and respond to God’s invitations. Seek to bring an attitude of openness to spiritual direction, so that Jesus can “shape” you and draw you more deeply into his love

Approach spiritual direction with reverence. Your relationship with God is sacred; this time that you are taking for your relationship with God is also sacred.

Prepare by noting/journaling about your recent prayer experiences.

  • If you are praying Lectio Divina or another meditative or contemplative prayer, you will find it helpful to reflect on your feelings, inspirations, and the fruit of your prayer immediately after praying. Review these reflections before you go for spiritual direction.
  • If you pray the examen prayer, you will probably find your first meeting for spiritual direction easier, as the examen prayer includes reflection as part of the prayer.

Also, note any questions you wish to ask regarding your spiritual life.

Spiritual Direction Session

When you arrive, the spiritual director may begin with a prayer, then will most likely invite you to talk about your spiritual journey and what has brought you to direction. In your conversation, you will want to focus above all on your spiritual life—that is, your prayer, your relationship with God, and how you live your relationship with God in your day to day life. Because your whole life is the context of your relationship with God, you will want to tell your spiritual director briefly about the important things that are happening in your life and how they are affecting you.

Spiritual direction is different than a counseling session or a conversation between friends. Your time is limited, so you will want to keep the focus on your spiritual life. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to do that, but the spiritual director will help to focus the conversation around your relationship with God. He or she may ask you questions so that they understand the context of what you are saying. Feel free to answer, but also feel free not to answer, saying something like, “I have to think about that.”

Also feel free to acknowledge that you don’t know exactly what to talk about or how to speak about something. The spiritual director can then help guide the conversation.

Don’t be afraid of the silence that may arise—the silence may give both you and the spiritual director an opportunity to reflect and listen together to God’s invitation to you.

At first, you may feel a bit uncomfortable or uneasy speaking about your prayer and your relationship with Jesus. This is natural because you don’t know your spiritual director and also  because it’s not something that you usually do. Speaking about your prayer life takes practice. Finding the words to describe a spiritual experience can be challenging, which is why it is helpful to reflect on it ahead of time, and bring those notes to your spiritual direction session.

During the session, the spiritual director’s role is to:

  • Listen attentively (to the point that you feel understood)
  • Help to focus the conversation around your relationship with God
  • Offer insight into what you shared so that you can reflect more deeply on your relationship with God
  • Direct you back to your relationship with God
  • Occasionally, offer advice on spiritual matters or on how to pray
  • Address any questions you have

If a director offers advice on spiritual matters, this is important to listen to and receive thoughtfully.

If you feel that the spiritual direction session was helpful or went fairly well, you can arrange for another appointment. Typically, someone in spiritual direction would see their director about once a month, although it can certainly be more or less frequent.

Don’t expect too much from any one session of spiritual direction. The spiritual director is not there to “fix” your problems, but to help you recognize God’s action in your life. Sometimes spiritual matters take time to unfold. As the spiritual director gets to know you, their insights and advice will become more specific to you and your situation.

Follow Up

Immediately or as soon as you are able to, take some time to pray about what came up during spiritual direction. Journaling or noting down what the spiritual director said may also be helpful. If the spiritual director offered advice that seems helpful to you, give it a try. If you’re not sure that it would be helpful, pray about the advice that was offered, as the spiritual director is speaking from the wisdom of prayer and experience. If you decide not to take the spiritual director’s advice, is there something else that you can do that will address the area that the spiritual director’s advice was directed towards?

Follow up your spiritual direction appointment with prayer: this is the best way to help it bear fruit in your life.

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