Disciplined Pursuit of God — The Spiritual Disciplines

Many of us desire a closer relationship with God. If we’ve come to know God as Creator, Sustainer, and Renewer, then we’ve got to stay connected with God. I have this fundamental conviction that we were all created for life with God, and outside of that life with God, we are not living life as fully as we made to enjoy.

The spiritual disciplines help us enter that life with God. They are not magic formulas that will transform us  into spiritual giants in a night, and they won’t solve all our problems. Spiritual disciplines are essentially about practice. They are habits that build our spiritual muscles. I’ve called them “spiritual disciplines”  here before.

Ultimately though, spiritual disciplines aren’t just about creating warm fuzzies inside of us. They do not exist for our purposes alone. They are not simply about working our way to peace or happiness. They are about equipping us for participation in the life of God for the world.

Henri Nouwen has said the spiritual disciplines are like “the effort to create some space in which God can act.” They are about effort, intentionality, and creating space in our lives so that God can work in us.

Because God is for the world (read Missio Dei), and the spiritual disciplines are about aligning in ourselves with God & being transformed into God’s likeness, the spiritual disciplines have an inherently missional horizon.

Takes some of these practices, and do them on purpose. Work on them, grow in them. Explore new things.

  1. Prayer — prayer is simply conversation with God. It can be a long, passionate conversation in which we share our hearts deepest hurt & desire, but it can also be a one word, one sentence interaction.
  2. Study — getting God’s word into our heads, paying attention to details, background, culture, expanding our understanding of the text.
  3. Meditation — the process of chewing & savoring God’s word. It’s what helps us get God’s word from our heads into our hearts. It’s not about information, but about transformation. Key word: slow.
  4. Fasting — voluntarily going without something for a period of time, in order to fill up on something more spiritually nutritious. It can be anything from food or a hobby or anything in between.
  5. Silence & Solitude — disconnecting for a brief period of time in order to connect with God.
  6. Simplicity — removing physical, emotional, and spiritual baggage & clutter that keep us from connecting with God & those around us.
  7. Service — finding times to intentional put others’ needs above ours.
  8. Submission — yielding our will to God’s & those whom God has placed in authority. We do this, even when it seems silly or frustrating.
  9. Guidance — accepting help and counsel from wise people & friends.
  10. Confession — acknowledging our sinfulness & deep need for help from God and from others.
  11. Celebration — God has blessed us with incredible things, God has done incredible things in our lives, & has won victory, so we celebrate.
  12. Worship — similar to celebration, worship declares God’s goodness, but it is different than celebration, because we still worship while in the midst of circumstances that don’t seem worth celebrating.
These are but a sampling of practices we can use in our lives. These in particular come from Richard Foster’s book “The Celebration of Discipline” and also from Winterfest 12. Foster’s book is a great place to start exploring the disciplines. Tony Jones has a book called “The Sacred Way” that is also good. Foster’s book is pretty hefty. Jones’ is much smaller. Either would be time well spent.

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