In the post Seeking God I talked about trying to understand what a relationship with God looked like. The search of trying to live in a vibrant, real and intimate relationship with God lead me to discover the Spiritual Disciplines. They have become for me a way that makes my heart available to experience God. So often my desire was to get something from God not experience a relationship with Him. My love for Him was marked by getting not giving.
We need experiences that allow us to embrace a spiritual life in Christ. Intimacy is shared experience, the spiritual disciplines give you intimate experiences with God. Here are some insights and applications From The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard. The source of most of this post comes from Soulshepherding.
To excel in anything in life discipline is required. This is true for athletes, musicians, electricians, engineers, and disciples of Jesus. Of course, training has difficult aspects, but the hard work pays off to facilitate ease and joy of living. Hence the title of Richard Foster’s classic book for disciples of Jesus, The Celebration of Discipline.
This Spiritual Disciplines List features some of the main disciplines for life in Christ with concise definitions for each. We call these “spiritual disciplines,” but the activities are physical, not spiritual. They are bodily activities that can engage and effect our whole person – Romans 12:1-2. So a more accurate term for the exercises in this list is “disciplines for a spiritual life in Christ.”
A discipline is something we can do that enables us to do what we haven’t yet been able to do by our own direct effort. “Don’t try — train!” is a way to paraphrase 1 Timothy 4:7. Our training is connecting us with a power much greater than our own — the Spirit of God that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.
So if you can’t break the power of an addiction to alcohol or pornography one step to get free (in addition to obvious measures like 12 Step Recovery and counseling) might be to fast from food. With practice you can experience the reality that fasting is feasting: even though you’re not eating you’re sustained in the joy and peace of God by meditating on Scripture and praying. If you can get past headaches and grumpiness when fasting and learn to be sweet and strong without getting the food you need then you can apply this to resisting your compulsive behavior.
Discipline works because we’re developing new and healthy habits. We develop spiritual and physical habits. We need bodily habits that engage our mind and heart with God. The spiritual life works the same way. We want to get into a position in our daily lives where we find ourselves meditating on Scripture, praying, or blessing the one who curses us without even having intended to do so. Using an intelligently designed course of disciplines over time will do that.
Grow in Grace with Jesus
Jesus himself practiced this Spiritual Disciplines List. Studying his rhythm of life in the Gospels is one of the most important things we can do. Jesus grew in grace Luke 2:40-52 and Peter urges us that we must do the same 2 Peter 3:18. Disciplines don’t set aside our need for grace nor do they earn us anything. The disciplines simply are means to help us be with Jesus to become like him. As Jesus abided in the Father’s love so we abide in him and then he and the Father abide in us – John 15:9-10. More than anything else I have done they have increased my awareness that God is with me and I am not alone.
Their are two major categories of disciplines: abstinence (self-denial) and engagement (connecting relationally with God and others). Using categories from both will help to create awareness and growth. Abstinence makes space for deeper engagement with God and others and engagement gives strength to endure the challenges of abstinence.
The Spiritual Disciplines List
Here are some main disciplines of abstinence and engagement that have been helpful to Christ-followers over the centuries.
Disciplines of Abstinence
These are ways of denying ourselves something we want or need in order to make space to focus on and connect with God.
Solitude: Refraining from interacting with other people in order to be alone with God and be found by him. (Solitude is completed by silence.)
Silence: Not speaking in a quiet place in order to quiet our minds and whole self and attend to God’s presence. Also, not speaking so that we can listen to others and bless them.
Fasting: Going without food (or something else) for a period of intense prayer — the fast may be complete or partial.
Sabbath: Doing no work to rest in God’s person and provision; praying and playing with God and others. (God designed this for one day a week. We can practice it for shorter periods too.)
Secrecy: Not making our good deeds or qualities known to let God or others receive attention and to find our sufficiency in God alone.
Submission: Not asserting ourselves in order to come under the authority, wisdom, and power of Jesus Christ as our Lord, King, and Master. (If you think of this as submitting to a person as unto Christ then it’s a discipline of engagement.)
Disciplines of Engagement
These are ways of connecting with God and other people, conversing honestly with them in order to love and be loved.
Bible Reading: Trusting the Holy Spirit-inspired words of Scripture as our guide, wisdom, and strength for life.
Worship: Praising God’s greatness, goodness, and beauty in words, music, ritual, or silence.
Prayer: Conversing with God about what we’re experiencing and doing together. (As we see in the Lord’s Prayer the main thing we do in prayer is to make requests of our Father for one another.)
Soul Friendship: Engaging fellow disciples of Jesus in prayerful conversation or other spiritual practices.
Personal Reflection: Paying attention to our inner self in order to grow in love for God, others, and self.
Service: Humbly serving God by overflowing with his love and compassion to others, especially those in need.