I do not believe spiritual disciplines are rules to follow. They are only help to put us in the path of God. I use 1 Timothy 4:7 as a guide for the disciplines. Not all spiritual disciplines are for everyone and not one of these will make God love you more than he already does. That being said, here is the list.
Prayer is communicating with God. When we communicate, we talk and listen, and prayer should be no different. Praying allows us to enter the throne room of God. Many of us are nervous about this and are reluctant to do it, but Jesus has made a way and we can without hesitation. When we pray, we can use the Lord’s Prayer as a model, or pray the scriptures, and we can even journal our prayers. In my opinion, we should always be listening no matter what method we choose. See Managing Our Time With Prayer.
This may be the most controversial of the spiritual disciplines. Jesus did say, “When you fast.” in Matthew 6. Several times in my life I have fasted from food all together, but I have also fasted from certain types of food, television, and all electronic devices. In the Orthodox Church we fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. And during certain times of year. There are reasons for each instance I won’t get into here, but I may do a blog post later.
If you fast, it should be a time where you give up one thing to spend more time with God. Nothing more.
While this is the second most common discipline practiced, it is not always done the same. We can go from a straightforward reading of the bible every day, to and extensive reading of several books in a short time. We can study the bible with or without commentaries and other helps.
One popular study method is the S.O.A.P. bible study method,
- Scripture – Read the passage, think about it and write down key words or phrases
- Observe – What stands out? Who was it written to? What was the context?
- Application – How can you apply this passage to your life”
- Pray – Ask God to open you up to this passage. Ask him to change you, to forgive you, or ask what you need to do in response.
Another is a questioning style.
- What does this passage mean to me?
- Is there a promise in this passage?
- Is there a lesson in this passage?
- What is the key idea?
- How can I apply this passage?
- Who do I know that may benefit from this passage?
- No matter what way you chose to study the bible, study it with and open heart for God.
Richard Foster makes the case for simplicity in Celebration of Discipline by showing how our American excess is harming poorer people in other countries. We also have to realize that as Christians, Jesus says our needs will be met, not our wants. How much is enough, and who can you help by having less?
Philippians 4:8-9 says,
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
When we meditate on scripture or on what Christ has done for us, we are not emptying ourselves like eastern philosophies tell us to do. We are filling ourselves with the knowledge and work of Jesus Christ. We are letting the Holy Spirit transform us into new men and women of God.
Being raised in a liturgical worship style in the Methodist church. Going to the contemporary style, I was part of for 14 years. Then, coming to the Orthodox Church where the whole way of life is liturgical, I see the value of different styles of worship. I love being able to go into worship on Sundays and pour out my heart in music that is meaningful to me, then listen to a talented pastor preach. I also like to go to my sister’s traditional Methodist church where the liturgy is a little lighter than our Orthodox Liturgy, but I God still shows up. People who love him greatly worship him in every setting.
My point is this, it does not matter what type of church you go to; you are there to praise God and give him glory. We worship him, and not style.
We need to worship God with all we have. Many of us are fine showing up on Sunday to worship at church, but few are willing to take that worship into their lives. God is always with us and we should shoe that in our actions. I am not saying to be overly obnoxious in your work environment, but I am saying people need to know there has been some sort of change in your life. Find a way to worship God in your personal life.
Spiritual Disciplines vary widely and include but are not exclusive to:
- spiritual direction
- tithing or giving
- Lectio Divina or spiritual reading
- serving others or hospitality
- And many more