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The Art of Asking Spiritual Questions

August 4, 2019


I have a friend, Paul, who would go once a month to his spiritual mentor’s office for a conversation. After almost a year of these monthly hour-long visits, Paul noticed a beautiful wooden duck sitting on the bottom shelf of his mentor’s book case. The book case and the shelf with the duck on it were in plain view, directly behind where his mentor always sat. Paul said, “Oh, I see you have a wooden duck on your book shelf! Is it new? It looks so real.” His mentor replied, “No, it’s always been there. I received it several years ago as a gift.” Paul couldn’t believe that he hadn’t noticed it before.

He came to think of the duck as a metaphor for the task of spiritual direction. The task is to “notice the duck.” God’s activity in our lives is often masked by our busyness and nonreflective life style. The spiritual mentor, friend, director is looking over the book shelves of someone’s life searching for the duck. One of the ways to find the duck is to ask questions. Questions are a tool for helping people notice what is sometimes overlooked. However, asking spiritual questions is not always easy to do. Good questions are rare.
Many questions are leading, dead-end, abrupt, intrusive, or poorly asked. So, if a spiritual mentor or director is looking for the duck, what types of questions might be asked, and is there an etiquette to the practice of asking them?

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