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10 Prompts for Spiritual Conversations

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When was the last time you had a conversation with real depth and meaning, a conversation that left your worldview broader, your heart stronger, or your step lighter? I love these conversations. Rather than regurgitating a litany of calendar appointments or the latest political annoyance, these conversations get to the heart of relationship.

In today’s political climate, even civil discourse is charged with tension. As soon as we meet someone, our antennas are up to try to figure out if the person is on “our side.” I don’t think a good spiritual conversation is about converting someone to our side, though. A good spiritual conversation in the Ignatian practice is about listening to the other:

  • Listening for the fear and pain that are dominating our conversation partner’s life or the joys that are giving lift to that person’s spirit
  • Listening not to convert, but to learn from the speaker
  • Listening in humility for the message the speaker has for us rather than assuming we have a message for the other

We listen by giving the other a safe space to speak and acknowledging his or her dignity and value.

On our part, a good conversation is also about self-disclosure, sharing how we feel before jumping to what we think. This requires a willingness to be vulnerable. Communication consultant Christopher Reed talks about spiritual conversations as just one form of sacred conversation, which he defines as “human interactions designed to help participants involved become better versions of themselves.”

St. Ignatius was a master at these conversations. They were essential to the development of his own spirituality. While he directed his companions and many others through what we know now as the Spiritual Exercises, his reputation came from his everyday conversations with people. While spiritual direction and faith-sharing each have their own processes, spiritual conversations don’t need a formal structure or a set time or place. They just require us to show up, fully present to another, not focused on our agenda but on finding what is shared between us. They just require a place to start and trust that the Holy Spirit is present and will take it from there.

In the interest of advancing a few good spiritual conversations, here are my top ten ideas for spiritual conversation-starters.

  1. How’s your heart?
  2. Tell me your story.
  3. What is coming down the road for you?
  4. I need your advice on [personal or spiritual dilemma].
  5. Where do you hope to go from here?
  6. How are you feeling about all this?
  7. Have you ever felt…?
  8. What do you most need right now?
  9. What do you dream about these days?
  10. Do you feel ready for…?

Following up with, “Tell me more about that,” or, “Why do you think that is?” can continue these conversations late into the night. Note we never even have to say the word “God,” but we may find we quickly feel safe enough to ask, “So where is God in all this for you?”

As you go through this day, consider what your heart is telling you right now about having more spiritual conversations with others. Do you feel ready?

Lisa Kelly
Lisa Kelly
Lisa Kelly is a wife, mother, and Ignatian Associate living in Omaha, Nebraska. She works to help organizations integrate spirituality into their planning and systems. She and her husband, Tom, completed the 19th Annotation in 2005, just prior to spending two years living in the Dominican Republic with their three young children, supporting the work of the Jesuit Institute for Latin American Concern. Additionally they have lived in El Salvador and Bolivia for extended periods.


  1. That’s a really good article, so good to approach people with sensitivity and a listening ear, and hear their heart while listening to the Spirit.

  2. They are also good tips for anyone working in Palliative care. It is also the kind of conversations they are having just now at the Synod in Rome

  3. Thanks. In a conversation one gives and receives. Giving and receiving respect is a healthy form of conversation. The process enhances the dignity of the participants.

  4. Very wise advice, Lisa! Thanks.
    Karl Rahner (and many others) suggests that God created us as having the capacity to be open to His message and Spirit. All people, even non-Christians. As such, in conversations with non-Christians, asking after their inner spiritual experiences is a good way to open this topic out. In our scientific and technology driven age, these experiences often go unrecognized. After all, most people are no longer raised in any Church. The means of recognizing their own inner promptings is missing; the vocabulary for this is missing. Preaching the Christian message right off the bat will always be off-putting and rejected in these situations. So yes, invite the other person to speak, and respond.

  5. Thank you for your explanation of the difference between faith sharing and a spiritual conversation, Lisa. It should have been obvious to me since a conversation is more give and take.
    I have learned much from my grown children, but when I’ve spoken with those who no longer see a need for organized religion, I now realize I was faith sharing with them, instead of listening and truly relying on the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
    Your conversation starters a such a welcome gift. Thank you, Lisa, and God bless you!


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