In 2009 I had a radical encounter with God. Prior to that I had given up on church and spent several years living aimlessly. But God was faithful to me even when I was faithless. And in 2009, as I was reading the Gospel of John, God gripped my heart and invited me to come back home. It was an incredible experience that I will never forget.
And in that moment I remember God saying to me, “I’m not done with you. I have a plan for you. Follow Me.” That invitation began a spiritual journey in my life that literally changed everything. And I remember thinking to myself, “If God’s going to use me, then I’ve got to get better at following Him.” And I wondered to myself, “What do people who follow Jesus do?” Not long after that I discovered the spiritual disciplines.
My first exposure to the spiritual disciplines came from Donald Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. The basic premise of the book comes from from 1 Timothy 4:7, which says, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” I learned from that book that becoming a godly person takes intentionality. That book taught me to pray, fast, meditate on Scripture and so much more.
Practicing spiritual disciplines revolutionized my walk with Christ. And since then I have read several other great books on the disciplines, Disciplines of a Godly Man by R. Kent Hughes, Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, and Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard being among my favorites.
Spiritual Disciplines: A Lost Art?
It seems to me that the practice of spiritual disciplines has been lost on our generation. There are probably several reasons for this. First of all, most people aren’t taught how to practice the disciplines. So because we don’t know what they are or how to engage in them, we don’t practice them. Secondly, people are crazy busy. We simply don’t have time (or don’t prioritize our time) to practice spiritual disciplines. Finally, practicing the disciplines requires…discipline. And if we’re being honest, most of us lack the self-discipline needed to grow spiritually through practicing spiritual disciplines.
But the disciplines have been a part of the church from the beginning. And they’ve proved to be so helpful to me personally. So in this blog and in several to come I want to highlight the classic disciplines of the Christian faith. And I want to share a few pointers on how you can get started practicing the spiritual disciplines yourself.
The Classic Spiritual Disciplines
Dallas Willard provides a helpful list of the spiritual disciplines in his book The Spirit of the Disciplines. He breaks them down into two categories. He calls them disciplines of abstinence and disciplines of engagement.
Here they are:
Disciplines of Abstinence:
Disciplines of Engagement:
I know this list doesn’t provide a lot of information about the individual disciplines. In fact, it doesn’t provide any information at all. But I want to do that in several upcoming posts for your benefit and mine.
Recently I took another look at Willard’s list, and I became a convicted because I realized that I was practicing most of the disciplines of engagement on a regular basis. But when it came to the disciplines of abstinence, they were basically non-existent.
So I want to spend some time on the disciplines. I’m going to choose one discipline each week to focus on. Then I’m going to write about my experience. If you’re interested, I’d love for you to join me and share you experience in the comment section.
Question: Which disciplines are you most familiar with? What has been your experience? Join the conversation clicking here.