What is Spiritual Direction?
Choice descriptions from published authors

Here's a short collection of descriptions of spiritual direction which I've found to helpful in orienting to the field. For those who are unfamiliar with this form of soul care, these quotes offer a definition and an answer to the question What is spiritual direction? The quotes are excerpted from some excellent books in the field, so this page also provides a beginning reference list for those who would like to dig in and explore spiritual direction.


"Spiritual direction is simply the process of helping another person recognize the activity of God in his or her life and respond appropriately. Much emphasis is traditionally given to what one must "do" to grow in Christ. However, scripture teaches that God is even more at work in a person's spiritual development than he or she is, committed to completing an individual's transformation through Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6 and 1 Thess 5:23-24). Every day, through every moment and circumstance, God is present to shape and nurture [each person] in Jesus.

Spiritual direction involves entering a special relationship with a mature believer who will help the caregiver discern and respond to what God is doing. Many Christians are so busy that they do not see the movement of God in the events of their own lives. They have lost attentiveness to and awareness of His presence and work and, as a result, fail to cooperate with what the Lord is doing. That is tragic, for the wonder of the Kingdom is the commitment God has made to invest in a person's spiritual growth every day. God uses the people who come along the person's way, the circustances he faces, and the deep desires God has placed within his life. The moments that come, be they good or bad, happy or sad, are pregnant with God's presence. A spiritual director serves as a kind of midwife, helping the person say yes to spiritual growth through the circumstance and situations of life."

Terry Wardle, Healing Care, Healing Prayer

"What exactly do spiritual directors do? The simple and most direct answer I can give is that they help others attend to God's presence and revelation and prepare to respond to him. In other words, they help people attune themselves to God."

David Benner, Sacred Companions

"Something broken in me keeps telling me if I just work harder, read more Scripture, and become a better pray-er, God will be pleased and perhaps my life will be easier. This misconception and the myriad of other false beliefs that not-so-occasionally wreak havoc in my body and brain are called out into the light when I seek spiritual direction. I notice God at work in places I hadn't considered and in ways I hadn't imagined....What started as curiosity, then pure discipline, has become a tender resting place in my journey through this world. [Meeting with a spiritual director] has become like a wayside chapel on a pilgrimage route where the weary pilgrim seeks sustenance and rest for body and soul."

Beth Slevcove, quoted in The Sacred Way by Tony Jones

"Soul care searches out hindrances to prayer, obstacles to intimacy with Christ, and responsiveness to the Spirit's leading. Spiritual helpers allow the life of Christ in them to flow into other Christians to bless, empower, and release the good seed of faith and love. Some discipleship programs strive to form the Christian from the outside in. Soul care, on the other hand, seeks to form the life from the inside out."

Bruce Demarest, Satisfy Your Soul

"We define Christian spiritual direction as 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 focus of this type of spiritual direction is on experience, not ideas, and specifically on religious experience, ie., any experience of the mysterious Other whom we call God."

William Barry & William Connolly,

The Practice of Spiritual Direction

"Seeking guidance and direction will not necessarily yield an easy solution or an answer to the inner quest for meaning. Any teacher or director can only be a mirror reflecting a view, or sometimes an arrow pointing beyond itself.... To receive spiritual direction is to recognize that God does not solve our problems or answer all our questions, but leads us closer to the mystery of our existence where all questions cease."

Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Direction


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