What exactly are spiritual disciplines? Many people hear that phrase and think of them as drudgery, not delight. Just the word discipline alone sounds difficult and uncomfortable. But they can and should be a delight for us. Let’s look closer at these disciplines by addressing three questions often asked.
What is the meaning of spiritual disciplines? Simply said, they are the habits of devotion that promote spiritual growth. They call us to move beyond surface living into the depths of the Christian life. They are the God-given means we are to use in the process of becoming more like Him. If we want to become more Christ-like, then we need to faithfully practice the spiritual disciplines.
How many are there? It depends on which book you are reading. If you look at the life of Christ, there are at least 15. Some suggest 17. Jesus set an example for us to follow. He faithfully practiced the spiritual disciplines and so should we.
What are they? In Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline, he divides them as the inward disciplines, the outward disciplines, and the corporate disciplines.
- Inward disciplines include meditation, prayer, fasting, and study.
- The outward disciplines include simplicity, solitude, submission, and service.
- The corporate disciplines include confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.
Other authors have added the disciplines of silence, frugality, chastity, secrecy, sacrifice, fellowship, suffering, slowing, evangelism, stewardship, and journaling and learning. You can see there is not one exhaustive list of the spiritual disciplines. It’s not as important to know what the disciplines are as it is to know their purpose. We’ll talk about that next time.
It’s interesting to note that the Bible called people to disciplines such as fasting, prayer, worship, and celebration, and yet gave almost no instruction on how to do them. They were so frequently practiced and such a part of the culture that the how to was common knowledge.
What questions do you have about spiritual disciplines? Is there one in particular you’d like to learn more about?