A spiritual discipline is something we do to draw us closer to God or to honor him. But if we do it out of obligation or in response to guilt, we miss the point. To be of real value a spiritual discipline is something we enter into willingly, with joy and anticipation.
Unlike spiritual gifts, which the Bible lists, scripture doesn’t delineate spiritual disciplines. But it does hint at the practices of certain spiritual disciplines throughout its pages. However, making a list is more a matter of opinion than fact. Therefore there is little agreement about what constitutes a spiritual discipline. A quick online search of a half dozen sources revealed the following composite list of seventeen spiritual disciplines. Some people use different labels, so similar items are combined:
- Bible Reading: We regularly read the Bible. This is tops on many people’s list of spiritual disciplines.
- Bible Study: Reading the Bible is good, but studying its words is even better.
- Chastity (celibacy): Living a life of moral purity.
- Community (fellowship, soul friendship): Hanging out with other Christians (and spiritual seekers) to form spiritual connection.
- Confession: Confessing our acts of disobedience. This can be to God or to others.
- Evangelism: Telling others about Jesus.
- Fasting: Going without something, usually food, in order to give more attention to God.
- Prayer: Talking with God. Prayer is so much more than sharing our wish list with him.
- Sabbath (take a Sabbath): Follow the Old Testament tradition of a Sabbath rest, be it on Saturday, Sunday, or another day.
- Sacrifice: Giving up something to help others or something that keeps us from God.
- Secrecy: Do things in secret to benefit others, such as giving gifts or doing things for others without letting anyone know. (Our reward for this comes from God.)
- Service: Serving others.
- Solitude (meditation, personal reflection, silence, listening, seeking guidance): Being still to connect with God or seek him.
- Simplicity: Committing to a life of simple existence. (Some might use the label of poverty, but that seems extreme.)
- Stewardship (giving, tithing): Using our blessings to bless others.
- Submission: Yielding to others for God’s glory.
- Worship (celebration): Approaching God with joy and awe.
In looking at this list I can smugly check off some of these items, while having others confront me. The key thing to remember about spiritual disciplines is that we must pursue them willingly and not out of obligation or guilt.
What on this list surprises you? What would you add? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.