The Fine Art of Asking Excellent Questions

The Fine Art of Asking Excellent Questions

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

 “Who is your favorite literary character and why?” was the question that opened our online study – a weekly gathering of ten women from all over the country.

What ensued was a lively discussion of our childhood heroines, including insight into how those characters may have helped shape the course of our lives. Though we had known each other for many years, our answers were surprising and provocative.

That discussion question comes from a new Dutch parlor game called Vertellis. This name is derived from two Dutch words Vertel Eens. which loosely translate to “Tell Us More.”- which is what Vertellis revolves around! Not just by answering questions, but also by fully engaging. The creators’ mission is to bring people together at a time when we seem to be distracted by technology and ambition. The Vertellis team hopes to make a positive impact in the world by facilitating beautiful conversations and stimulate time offline. 

Questions have a way of doing that — good questions get right to the core. And in the answering of them we often learn about ourselves. 

Here are just a few examples of when Jesus used questions to help prompt people to identify their feelings, their needs and what to do next.

  • “Do you want to get well?”John 5.6  (to the man who had lain by the pool of Bethesda for 38 years, hoping to be healed.)
  • “Who do you say I am?”Matthew 16.15   (to Peter who answered “You are Messiah.” Then Jesus told Peter he would build the church on this rock.)
  • “Who touched me?”Luke 8.45  (in the crowd when the woman with an issue of blood reached out for healing and restoration.)
  • “What do you want me to do for you?”Luke 16.4  (asking Bartimaeus, who responded “I want to see” and immediately his sight was restored.)
  • “Do you love me?”John 21.5   (on the shore after the resurrection, Jesus gave Peter three times to answer and affirm his love and commitment to “Feed my sheep.”
  • “Which of these was a neighbor?”Luke 10.36    (after telling the parable of the man put upon by thieves and showing that only the Samaritan helped him.)

Are there ways you could use questions to improve your own relationships?

For instance, when a child first arrives home from school, don’t just ask “How was school?” or you run the risk of hearing a short, non-specific answer like, “Fine.” Instead, ask something which stimulates conversation, possibly revealing more about your child’s day. Questions such as:

  1. What made you smile today?
  2. Did you hear anything that surprised you?
  3. Who did you play with/talk to at recess?
  4. What new word did you learn?
  5. How were you helpful today?

Questions can also be a vehicle for our own spiritual growth. Do not hesitate to voice to God those things with which you are struggling. Look for answers in His Word, and through godly counsel. “We’re continually faced with questions that challenge our belief systems. This isn’t a bad thing, and much of Jesus’s ministry revolved around asking questions. In the end, thoughtfully examining our faith promotes a spirituality that is healthy, honest, genuine, and mature.” 

A treasured gift I received recently is the devotional book, “Sacred Questions” in which the author’s own spiritual journey began with questions — bringing them to God, not just to receive answers, but to also be changed. In the process, God used that questioning to allow her to know Him and herself even better, to break patterns of sin, grow in forgiveness and love, and join his work in the world.

“Asking sacred questions opens a holy dialogue with the loving, ever-present God who is at once holding all things together and dwelling within us. Instead of doing all the talking, we learn how to listen for what God is saying. We all long for space to hear him, to allow ourselves to receive his love, and yet we often either fail to make the time or are unsure how to do it (and maybe a little of both).” (Kellye Fabian, “Sacred Questions”)

God loves to answer our questions, so ask away!

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell 

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  1. Lillian Morley on February 20, 2019 at 7:54 am

    Good morning Lucinda, Thank you for your devotionals. This was especially interesting. As a former teacher who asked lots of questions, the importance of this skill was practiced. Jesus used it so well w/his interactions w/friends and seekers. I don’t think I ever thought of using it in prayer to ask God a question. That is an interesting idea. I will put it into use w/expectation that he’ll come back w/more questions to lead me in the path that he has provided. A good questioner looks to elicit answers that the ’student’ finds even if it means question upon question to get to the correct answer. May God continue to bless and use you in His service. Lillian Morley (Purdy volunteer)


  2. sarahkeepsgrowingdown on February 20, 2019 at 2:40 pm

    great thoughts, cindy. thanks for the insights and encouragement and help.

    • Lucinda Secrest McDowell on February 28, 2019 at 2:09 pm

      And thank YOU for the lovely overnight in Montreat last week – I love OUR connection!

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