The classic spiritual disciplines are not getting enough press nowadays. I wonder if this is the case because no one really likes the word “discipline.” Maybe if we can rename them the Spiritual Graces or perhaps the Spiritual Activities (but not the Spiritual Works–that would be a thousand times worse!), then we might pay more careful attention to the wonderful blessing they are to the Christian. But hey, “spiritual disciplines” is the historically agreed-upon term, so we’re stuck with it. With that quibble out of the way, we need to remember that God has chosen to bless particular spiritual disciplines to grow his people in godliness, grace, maturity, humility, usefulness, and love. Therefore it is our loss if we neglect the means of grace God has appointed to bring us closer to him. Spiritual disciplines are good and living gifts of God to his people. Never forget that.
So what are the spiritual disciplines? It depends on who is counting and naming them. Most people think of prayer, Bible study, fasting, and things of that nature. Those are just a few of them. There are lots of lists that count and name the disciplines in various ways, categorizing them from different perspectives. But suffice it to say that most lists of the spiritual disciplines aim for the balance of generality and specificity. A particular discipline must be defined specifically enough to not confuse those who want to practice it. Specificity seeks to answer the question, “What am I supposed to actually do?” But a particular discipline must also be defined generally enough to encompass other activities that do not fit categorically under other disciplines. Generality seeks to answer the question, “Is my practicing this particular biblical activity a spiritual discipline?”
Spiritual disciplines are not activities we practice in a vacuum. People only thrive on the disciplines when they are informed by the gospel of Jesus Christ and empowered by his Holy Spirit. They must be practiced while living in spiritual community with God’s people. They are for the Church as a whole and for Christians in part. And they are for personal and communal revival. If the spiritual disciplines are not practiced according to God’s design as outlined in the Bible, then they become dangerous to the human soul. Because they are powerful, they must be practiced wisely and safely.
Our church recently took a few weeks to look at the spiritual disciplines in general and a few “inward” disciplines in particular. Take a look at the slideshow below for an introduction to the spiritual disciplines, and a closer look at the disciplines of Prayer, Meditation & Contemplation, Study, Journaling, and Fasting. There are also a few suggested resources for deeper study and practice.