Spiritual Disciplines List

man in praise

This Spiritual Disciplines List features some main disciplines for the spiritual life in Christ with concise definitions for each.*

To excel in anything in life discipline is required. This is true for athletes, musicians, plumbers, accountants, and disciples of Jesus. A discipline is something we can do that enables us to do what we haven’t yet been able to do by direct effort. Disciplines don’t set aside our need for grace nor do they earn us anything — they simply are means to help us be with Jesus to become like him.

Jesus himself practiced this Spiritual Disciplines List. Studying Jesus’ Rhythm of Life is one of the most important things we can do. Jesus grew in grace (Luke 2:40, 52) and Peter urges us that we must do the same (2 Peter 3:18). To grow in the grace of Christ we need to practice some tried and true disciplines from both major categories, abstinence (self-denial) and engagement (connecting relationally with God and others). Using one side without the other will not lead to much growth. Abstinence makes space for deeper engagement with God and others and engagement gives strength to endure the challenges of abstinence.

The Spiritual Disciplines List

Here are some main disciplines of abstinence and engagement that have been helpful to Christ-followers over the centuries. (There is no complete list of disciplines.) Click on the link for “More…” after each discipline’s description to learn more about it, including related disciplines along with ideas and prayers to get you started.

Disciplines of Abstinence

These are ways of denying ourselves something we want or need in order to make space to focus on and connect with God.

Solitude: Refraining from interacting with other people in order to be alone with God and be found by him. (Solitude is completed by silence.) More…

Silence: Not speaking in a quiet place in order to quiet our minds and whole self and attend to God’s presence. Also, not speaking so that we can listen to others and bless them. More…

Fasting: Going without food (or something else) for a period of intense prayer — the fast may be complete or partial. More…

Sabbath: Doing no work to rest in God’s person and provision; praying and playing with God and others. More…

Secrecy: Not making our good deeds or qualities known to let God or others receive attention and to find our sufficiency in God alone.

Submission: Not asserting ourselves in order to come under the authority, wisdom, and power of Jesus Christ as our Lord, King, and Master. (Can include submitting to a person as unto Christ.) More…

Disciplines of Engagement

These are ways of connecting with God and other people, conversing honestly with them in order to love and be loved.

Bible Reading: Trusting the Holy Spirit-inspired words of Scripture as our guide, wisdom, and strength for life. More…

Worship: Praising God’s greatness, goodness, and beauty in words, music, ritual, or silence.

Prayer: Conversing with God about what we’re experiencing and doing together. More…

Soul Friendship: Engaging fellow disciples of Jesus in prayerful conversation or other spiritual practices.

Personal Reflection: Paying attention to our inner self in order to grow in love for God, others, and self.

Service: Humbly serving God by overflowing with his love and compassion to others, especially those in need.

* My thinking on this subject has been greatly influenced by Dallas Willard. His book, The Spirit of the Disciplines discusses the all-important vision and motivation behind the disciplines for the spiritual life in Christ, as well as teaching on individual practices.