SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES

Spiritual disciplines are critical for disciples of Jesus who are entering the Discovering Christ phase. They are a means of grace. They are, as Dallas Willard says, wisdom not righteousness. In the disciplines, we do not earn righteousness but become wise toward the ways of God. 


G.K. Chesterton writes in Orthodoxy that we falsely assume that something consistent does not have life in it, such as a clock. We are wrong. Consistency is actually a sign of life. He gives the example of children wanting to be pushed on a swing who say, “Do it again,” to parents who get tired quickly. Which one is full of life: the child or the parent? The spiritual disciplines are, if anything, the consistent way to let God breathe life into us.


They are spiritual disciplines because the Holy Spirit works in us as we practice them. They are not our way to earn God's favor, but our way to partner with God so He can change us. They are called spiritual disciplines because they do not come naturally; we must train ourselves to do them.

Devotional Reading

Devotional reading is a way of reading the Bible slowly and repeatedly, paying attention to two things: What word or phrase stands out to you? and What is God saying to you in that word or phrase? 

 

A simple process for reading this way is to pick a passage and read it out loud three times, pauisng for moments of silence between each reading. Read slowly, emphasizing different words each time you read. 

 

When a word or phrase stands out, you can make a note of it, either by writing it down or saying it out loud to God. Then ask the second question and wait in silence. 

 

End your time of reading by using the passage as a prayer back to God, inserting your own words and letting God know how you feel. 

 

Recommended Resources for Devotional Reading 

Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson, esp. chapter 7

Article on Lectio Divina by Ruth Haley Barton 

Lectio 365 App by 24-7 Prayer

 

Bible Study

The purpose of Bible study is to become acquainted with what the Bible says in its original context. We often find that parts of the Bible sound so foreign to us, so difficult to understand. In Bible study, we begin to uncover the meaning the authors intended and the meaning God inspired to be one and the same. God has given us minds and expects us to use them as we read His word. And yet, you do not have to be a reader or a scholar to understand the Bible. 


We must learn to study the Bible on our own and together with other Christians. One simple method is to pick a passage - you may pick one book of the Bible, start at the beginning, and work your way through to the end - and write down your observations (what you notice in the text), questions (things you wonder about from what you've noticed), and possibilities (possible answers to those questions). Then check those questions with a resource like a simple commentary, a friend, or a pastor. 


Recommended Resources for Bible Study

How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart

OneBook Studies by Seedbed 

Observations Sheet


Silence & Solitude

While our new normal has made solitude and silence nearly impossible for some and dreaded for others, its purpose is that in the stillness, we learn to trust in God. He will take care of the details. He will speak up for us and defend us in our conflicts. We do not have to have the last word. Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said, "Let him who cannot be alone beware of community, and, let him who is not in community beware of being alone."


Richard Foster wrote, “Without silence, there is no solitude…. Simply to refrain from talking, without a heart listening to God, is not silence.” He also says, “If we are silent, who will take control? God will take control, but we will never let him take control until we trust him.”


Regardless of how our new normal will look, there will always be a need to put down the screens and listen to God, fully expecting Him to be present even when we don't feel it. 


Recommended Resource for Silence and Solitude 

Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster


Prayer

Prayer may be the simplest yet most intimidating of these disciplines. 

Richard Foster wrote in Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home, “We today yearn for prayer and hide from prayer. We are attracted to it and repelled by it. We believe prayer is something we should do, even something we want to do, but it seems like a chasm stands between us and actually praying.”

 

This statement reflects perfectly our everyday experience with prayer. We want to pray, and yet we find ourselves not praying more often than we’d like to admit. We tell others we will pray for them and then fail to do it. One of the reasons we miss out on prayer is because we tend to think that we have to get our lives straight, or figure out how to pray, or have the right motives in our prayers, or pray like we’ve heard a pastor pray, before we pray. Prayer has to do with so much more than getting the right words out or sounding right or not stuttering because you’re not sure what to say next. 

 

One simple way to start is by praying the Lord's Prayer and, if you want, add in your own words that fit with each line. 

 

Recommended Resource for Prayer

Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home by Richard Foster 

www.24-7prayer.com 

Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey