Spiritual Disciplines for Your Soul

The disciplines for the spiritual life that help us to be with Jesus in order to become like him. We may call these “spiritual disciplines” but really they are activities we do with our bodies and all the parts of our person for spiritual purposes. There are many disciplines for our life in Christ. In fact, there is no complete list of them.

More important than the list of disciplines is the spirit in which you do them. Don’t think that you’re being “spiritual” or pleasing God by doing a discipline. Instead, focus on your need for God’s grace and then do what God leads you to do as a student of Jesus’, training with him to grow in godliness (1 Timothy 4:7). Another way to think of disciplines is that they are like medicines to help us with the sin and distress that ails us. They aren’t righteous acts in themselves. (Right living is about loving God and our neighbor.)

Normally when I teach on the spiritual disciplines I use our “Spiritual Disciplines List” which breaks these exercises down into disciplines of self-denial and engagement. This is largely based on Dallas Willard’s teachings. But there are many ways to break down the categories of these disciplines for life in Christ.

For instance, here are six fundamental categories of some classic spiritual disciplines. (This is not a complete list – there is no such thing!) It’s important to periodically make use of a discipline from each category. We have Soul Shepherding articles on many of these Spiritual Disciplines. (Some of these spiritual discipline definitions are adapted from The With God Life Bible by Renovare.)

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

Celebration: rejoicing in God, his creation, ourselves, and our life together (e.g., special occasions)

Community Praise: gathering with other believers to joyfully praise God in song

Thanksgiving: appreciating God’s specific blessings to you and those you love

Practicing God’s Presence: appreciating God’s wonderful presence moment-by-moment

2. WORD: trusting the Holy Spirit-inspired words of Scripture as your rule, wisdom, and strength for life

Study: engaging your mind to learn about and internalize God’s Word and his kingdom rule

Meditation: thinking deeply about and praying through God’s Word and applying it to your life

Memorization: committing passages of the Bible, especially whole chapters, to memory

Praying the Psalms: repeated meditation and prayer with particular psalms (or all of them)

Abiding Prayer: short prayers (usually a phrase of Scripture) repeated, may be “Breath Prayers”

Spiritual Reading: learning from the devotional classics, hymns, and other Christian literature

3.  SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIP: engaging fellow disciples in prayerful conversation and spiritual practices

Confession: sharing weaknesses and failures with God and confidantes to receive grace

Counseling: seeking God’s guidance and help through someone you trust and respect

Spiritual Direction: interacting with a mentor to discern what God is saying to you

4. SELF-DENIAL: abstaining from something you want to make space to focus on and connect with God

Silence and Solitude: making space to hear God by getting alone in a quiet place with him (e.g., in nature)

Sabbath: resting in God’s person and provision; praying and playing with God and others

Tithes and Offerings: giving at least 10% of our income to God’s work to offer our whole life to God

Fasting: going without food (or something else) for a period of intense prayer

Secrecy: not making our good deeds or qualities known to let God or others receive attention

Submission: coming under the authority, wisdom, or power of God or others as onto Christ

Simplicity: declining status, glamour, or luxury (being modest and frugal) in favor of devotion to God

Waiting: refraining from moving forward on a decision, project, or dream until God directs

Sacrifice: offering a dream or desire to God (instead of pursuing it) and trusting God’s provision

Chastity: abstaining from sexual gratification, even in marriage for a time, to be governed by God

5.  REFLECTION: attending to your emotions in order to grow in love for God, others, and self

Journaling: writing down your prayers to God or your understanding of God’s words to you

Examination of conscience: becoming aware of specific sins to receive God’s mercy

Examen of consciousness: reviewing how you’ve experienced God’s presence recently

6. MINISTRY: humbly serving God by overflowing with his love to others in need

Calling: identifying and using your divine gifts, training, and passion to advance God’s kingdom for others

Service: doing menial tasks and offering compassion, especially for the poor and needy

Evangelism: sharing your love for Jesus with others, inviting them to become his students

Prayer: talking with God about what we’re doing together.

Intercessory Prayer: praying for the needs of others privately or in community


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