When I write and talk about spiritual disciplines sometimes I get push-back. Believe it or not, Christians disagree with whether or not we should practice spiritual disciplines. Even within my own community these are not all accepted or practiced or even agreed upon as useful. But, I believe they are and I want to share them with you.
What Spiritual Disciplines Aren’t
They aren’t a way to manipulate God
We move, God is the mover. If we are trying to get God to do something we think needs doing we will get nowhere fast. God doesn’t decide to do something because we act a certain way or follow a certain rule. God loves us whether we practice any spiritual discipline at all. No more, no less.
They aren’t a legalistic set of rules
No one has to do anything they don’t want. Spiritual disciplines are ways for us to open ourselves to God not hard fast rules that must be followed. Other than prayer and bible study no one can actually agree on how many there are, so they can’t be a set of rules.
They aren’t magic
God is always with us, closer than we are to ourselves. But, things we do and the world we live in makes Him feel distant. These disciplines can’t make you feel better or closer to God just because you do them. You have to examine your own heart and motives (James 4).
What Spiritual Discipline Are
They are a practice
We practice spiritual disciplines to put our lives before God. As I stated above, God is in us (John 14 and 16), we separate ourselves from Him by our actions, not His. When we meditate on scripture, pray in silence, or take the Eucharist we are putting ourselves in a place to connect with God. To be in His presence and let Him heal our lives.
They are biblical
If this matter to you, spiritual disciplines are talked about in the bible.
- Prayer (Matthew 6)
- Fasting (Matthew 6)
- Service (Acts 6)
- Scripture reading (2 Timothy 3)
- Confession (James 5)
- Simplicity (Acts 4)
While this is not an extensive list, if sticking to practices only found in the bible is important to you then this is a pretty good list to start with.
They are historical
The church has been practicing spiritual disciplines since it’s inception. Obviously, because some of them are listed in the bible. But, even if you take an overview look at early church they did everything they could to stamp out anything that looked like a heresy. Early Church Fathers:
- John Chrysostom
- John Cassian
And Later Teachers:
- St Francis
- Theresa of Avila
- John of the Cross
- Francis DeSales
The Take Away
Not every discipline is right for every person. While one person may spend hours just reading scripture another may spend hours sitting in silence before God. God has seen fit over the centuries to provide guidance so that every person on the earth can approach Him in a way that is right for that person. These disciplines give everyone an opportunity to find a way that is right for them.