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    Growing up, my family was extremely talkative.

    I have so many fond memories of us— my mom, dad, and myself (an only child)—sitting around the dinner table telling stories and rolling in laughter. We would even act things out and be crazy together.

    Though we loved this fun and bonding time together every night, we definitely weren’t great at asking each other deep questions. In fact we would often cut each other off mid-story, excited to tell another related story that had just come to mind. 

    Instead of sharing one story or episode of the day and then delving deeper to understand or engage on a heart level, we moved on quickly to the next story or experience. This was just our family style of conversation and connection, and we were all very comfortable with it.

    Young Greg at the dinner table

    Now that my wife and I have been married for some 25 years and have boys in high school and college, I wish I had learned earlier in life to be a more inquisitve, active listener and not just an effusive talker. I can spin a tale with the best of them, but have struggled mightily over the years to develop in the question-asking and listening department in marriage and friendships.

    I’m learning as I go and getting much better, but it’s been a long haul and a constant learning curve, to say the least. 

    As I’ve had to learn the hard way in marriage and parenting, questions are powerful tools for delving deeper in friendships. 

    I love the example and impact of Jesus’ simple, repeated question to Peter in John 21:

    After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. [16] Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
    [17] A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.
    [18] “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 

    John 21:15-18 NLT

    With just one question repeated, Jesus was able to penetrate deeply into Peter’s heart and their friendship. Jesus asked these questions at a pivotal moment in Peter’s life. Peter, one of Jesus’ best friends, had stood back in self-protective fear as Jesus was led to the cross. Peter felt immense sorrow over this decision, and needed his relationship with Jesus restored. 

    Jesus’ conversation with Peter helped Peter spiritually. His repeated question helped Peter examine his own heart and understand what Jesus wanted him to do. This is the power of asking questions.

    Questions can draw out the deep waters of our hearts, help us understand ourselves better, and help us listen attentively to God. By pushing the conversation into uncomfortable territory with simply one repeated question, Jesus helped free Peter of his doubt and guilt so he could become who he was meant to be without being weighed down by his past.

    We see Jesus throughout the gospels asking key, timely questions to spark deeper conversation and consideration, and sometimes even controversy.

    Below are some helpful questions we can use to spark deeper spiritual conversations with our friends and family:

    What area of your faith are you feeling most challenged in currently?

    Sometimes talking about an area of unbelief with a friend can help us take it on. Discussing it can lead to new perspectives that we couldn’t see ourselves, in turn helping us attack it in a fresh way. 

    We can’t fight spiritual battles alone; everyone needs help in some area of their lives: 

    Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

    Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12 NLT

    As these verses tell us, two people are better off than one and can help each other succeed. Asking each other about areas we feel challenged to believe can help us know how to help and support each other.

    Who do you think we could encourage or serve together?

    Let us think about each other and help each other to show love and do good deeds.

    Hebrews 10:24 NCV

    How to serve someone else is a great topic of discussion among friends. It can get our minds off ourselves and our own problems, focusing us on how to help another person. 

    When you pool your ideas, you might come up with a really creative and unique way to meet a need in your community or brighten someone’s day together. You’ll also learn a lot about each other as you discover causes you are passionate about and special talents you might not have known you have.

    What are the areas you think I can grow in?

    It’s very easy to get insecure in our relationships and wonder what other people think of us. One way to head off this insecurity is to just ask. Initiate asking for your friends’ feedback about areas you could grow. They’ll appreciate you opening the door for them to be honest with you and might invite the same feedback themselves.

    This is a great question to get a pulse on the quality of your friendships. It’s an opportunity to learn and grow closer as you invite honesty into your conversations. No matter what you hear, see it as an adventure to grow.

    Like the Bible says in Ephesians 4, we grow when we speak the truth to one another in love:

    Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

    Ephesians 4:15 NLT

    Is there anything you are feeling guilty about?

    This question is a door-opener to lifting the burden of guilt from a friend. It also presents an opportunity to share your own areas of struggle so you can support each other in openness and change together.

    The Bible teaches us that everyone has sin (Romans 3:23), and if we tell ourselves we don’t have any sins we are lying to ourselves (1 John 1:7). So sharing guilt with each other doesn’t have to feel overly scary or dramatic, because we all experience it. Spiritual conversations help us identify guilt and get it out in the open so we can pray for each other and help each other talk to God about our guilt as well:

    Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

    James 5:16 NLT

    Just a note—if you feel guilty about something particularly sensitive or that might cause pain to the people you want to talk to, you might consider getting help from a trusted spiritual advisor first. Make sure your motive for talking about guilt is to be close, not to just relieve your conscience.

    What can I pray about for you?

    It’s great to know specific areas of need in friends’ and family members’ lives so we can pray specifically for them. I have found this always makes me feel closer to them and helps me keep my heart attached to how they’re doing. Plus I love it when I hear how things I’ve prayed for come to fruition!

    Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. He is always wrestling for you in his prayers, so that you can stand mature and fully assured in everything God wills.

    Colossians 4:12 – Christian Standard Bible

    Our prayers for each other matter, and one of the best ways we can be a good friend is by wrestling in prayer for one another.

    What in your life is most encouraging to your faith right now?

    When we talk about what’s encouraging us, it can help further build our faith. Often we may feel encouraged internally by something, but expressing it to someone else helps us keep it in the forefront, where it’s easier to let problems or challenges take center stage and hurt our faith.

    Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

    Romans 12:14 – The Message

    The Bible tells us to laugh with our happy friends when they’re happy, so make sure to share your “happy” moments with your friends and ask them about theirs!

    What’s something you really want, but are afraid to pray for?

    What a great way to enlist friends’ help in prayer for something you can be intimidated by! And friends can also give you courage to believe it can happen.

    “I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. [20] For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”

    Matthew 18:19-20 NLT

    Sometimes, asking for what you really want feels vulnerable. We get afraid of disappointment, and it’s easier sometimes just to not ask. But Jesus promises that there is great power in two or three of us praying for the same thing. 

    So try asking a friend what they really want but are afraid to even ask for. Then, decide to pray for these things together.

    What’s something you would do if you weren’t afraid of failure?

    Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God.

    1 Samuel 23:16 NLT

    A spiritual friend helps other people find strength and faith in God, even in situations that seem scary. One way we can do this is ask our friends what they would do if fear of failure wasn’t a factor.

    This can help us understand the dreams and desires God has put on our friends’ hearts and help them stay focused on what God can do when they are tempted to get afraid.

    What are some things that have been on your mind the most today? Why?

    The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.

    Proverbs 20:5 NIV

    Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.

    Proverbs 4:23

    Our thoughts matter a lot. They shape our lives. So if we are going to have a deep spiritual conversation, it’s important to share and get to know each others’ thoughts. Have your thoughts been running negative? Full of self-doubt? Or maybe unbelief or fear? These things matter, and we won’t be able to be close to each other if we don’t share them.

    Asking about each others thoughts is a great way to draw out the “deep waters” inside us. Sometimes these “waters” are so deep we aren’t even aware of what’s at the bottom of them ourselves. 

    This question will help us understand ourselves and each other and ultimately help us become aware of things we can talk to God about to deepen our friendship with him too.

    How are you doing? (and really listen to whatever comes out)

    Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others.

    Philippians 2:4 NCV

    This one may sound obvious, but sometimes the best conversations just start with being interested in how our friends are doing that day and listening to whatever comes out. What did they choose to share with you? What was on their mind? 

    No matter how big or small it seems, you will learn a lot about your friends when you ask this open-ended question and slow down enough to really be interested in their answer.

    I hope these ten questions lead to some great spiritual conversations this week with your friends and family!

    Share.

    Greg is the co-founder and director of E-Sports, an inclusive athletics program in the San Francisco Bay Area that enables kids with both typical and special needs to play alongside each other. He has led E-Sports to grow to over 1,000 kids participating annually in multiple sports programs around the Bay Area and internationally.

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