Spiritual Discipline Practices 2014-27
What exactly is Spiritual Discipline in relation to Christianity? Let’s start first with the dictionary explanation of the word discipline itself:
Discipline: An activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill or behavior in accordance with a rule or regulation. Do you think we are basically disciplined in our lives?
The classical Disciplines of the spiritual life call us to move beyond surface living with rules, and into the depths of inward thinking. We will try to define these in a moment. The Spiritual Disciplines invite us to explore the inner caverns of the spiritual realm of our mind. I thought that was so cool when I read it. So that brings us to the word Spiritual.
Define Spiritual! What do YOU think the word Spiritual actually means?
The dictionary states that the word spiritual is pertaining to sacred things or matters such as those being religious or to the spirit as the seat of the moral or religious nature; or belonging to the church, or just plain pertaining to the soul or spirit or God.
From here we glean what a Spiritual Discipline may be or its purpose of liberating us from the stifling slavery of self-interest and fear in living our daily lives to instead being one with God forever. These are words from the author, Richard Foster in his book “Celebration of Disciplines”. He has emphasized that Christian meditation focuses not of the emptying of the mind or self, but rather on the filling up of the mind or self with God. I will mention his book a number of times in this “Disciplines” section of my blog, because it, his book, is so filled with details about the subject.
His book is available at many book stores or on Amazon and I highly recommend getting it. Before I used excerpts from his book, in 2013, I emailed his publisher to get permission to do so for a Sunday School lesson. They do NOT want anyone to be making money on anything that is taken out of any books, so I am good on that requirement.
I believe we can look at the Spiritual Disciplines as the melding of the mind, the soul and the body toward a common goal of finding God.
Let me list some of the Disciplines that we will be discussing, as put forth by Foster and others regarding Spirituality. There are three types we will explore: Inward, Outward and Corporate Disciplines. Let’s start with the:
The Inward Disciplines –
Meditation – Prayer – Fasting – Study
Why would these disciplines be called the Inward Disciplines?
They offer avenues of personal examination and change to develop stronger relationships with God. They enable us to hear His voice and obey His Word
The Outward Disciplines –
Simplicity – Solitude/Silence – Submission – Service
Why are these classified as Outward Disciplines?
They are easily seen or perhaps noticed by others that help to prepare us to make the world a better place by discovering the social implications of life, and are not meant as pious exercises for the devout.
The Corporate Disciplines – (Corporate = Pertaining to a united group, such as persons united in one body)
Confession – Worship – Guidance – Celebration
What is corporate & how does this apply to the Disciplines?
They are shared disciplines with others to bring us nearer to one another and to God.
For Protestants, spiritual disciplines are generally regarded to include any combination of what we just listed, but could also mean the following as disciplines: chastity, fellowship, frugality, giving such as tithing, hospitality, humility, intimacy, reflection, self-control, servant hood, singing, surrender, and teaching. Perhaps even more can be added, if we read of others from Scripture.
Wikipedia states: “A spiritual discipline is the regular or full-time performance of actions and activities undertaken for the purpose of cultivating spiritual development. A common metaphor used in the spiritual traditions of the world’s great religions is that of walking a path. Therefore, a spiritual discipline moves a person along a path towards a goal. The goal is variously referred to as salvation, liberation or union (with God). A person who walks such a path is sometimes referred to as a wayfarer or a pilgrim or what I might call being a disciple of Christ on a journey to find and be with Him.”
Do you believe that Disciplines are challenging or demanding to do in daily life?
Disciplines should not be hard to do, but may be difficult if we allow them to be. We do not have to be advanced in matters of theology to practice them. Anyone, from long time Christians to recent converts can practice the Spiritual Disciplines.
The biggest requirement is to involve yourself in Disciplines and to have a basic longing for God. In Psalms 42: 1-2, “As a heart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the Living God.” The key here is again, longing for God.
One word of caution, however, must be given at the outset: to know the actual mechanics of doing the Disciplines does not mean that we are actually practicing the Disciplines Using Meditation as an example, we could finally learn about how to do Biblical Meditation, but in reality, when trying to do so, we may fail to practice the Meditation in the correct way or toward the real goal of doing the meditation, namely, taking time to be with God. I was guilty of this myself. I had allowed myself to think that I MUST meditate every day, and try to do so at a certain hour. That is not the intent of meditating, as keeping within a strict, rule oriented way of doing so. My Pastor helped me understand this and guided me toward a better thought process of doing meditation.
The Spiritual Disciplines are an inward and spiritual reality, and the inner attitude of the heart is far more crucial than the actual mechanics, for coming into the reality of the spiritual life. The life that is pleasing to God is not a series of religious duties. There is really one goal for the Disciplines, namely, to experience a life of relationship and intimacy with God. God who is “the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1: 17).
When we feel we have a need for God, come to understand we are sinners and that we are ready to receive Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are beginning to have a relationship with God. What do we have to do? Well, God should be included in our lives, or daily lives. It would help if we prayed to God and not just in church, if we go. We could meditate and pray, because God loves to hear from us. Hey, read the Bible and perhaps learn some things. There are great stories in it that have a message for us to learn. Many things can be done to have a relationship, but we have to try them. God is waiting!