Words: Spiritual Disciplines (Part 1)
Spiritual Disciplines are exercises designed to orient a believer to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. They, by themselves, do not cause a person to become more spiritual. They, by themselves, do not cause God to be obligated to the believer with favor. They, by themselves, do not propel the believer to spiritual maturity. The disciplines can be functions that an unbeliever can perform and therefore, by themselves, do not produce any merit before God. They would not be categorized by the word “spiritual” in that case. However, practicing spiritual disciplines can help the believer focus on the Word of God, so that in the power of the Holy Spirit, the believer is set apart by faith in mind, speech and action to become more godly. Spiritual disciplines can increase a believer’s pursuit of or commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.
There are many lists of spiritual disciplines and several authors have written books regarding spiritual disciplines. Some authors become almost mystical, but most are very practical. Here is a list of spiritual disciplines that every believer should consider pursuing and putting into practice for their daily walk. Again, in and of themselves, spiritual disciplines do not produce merit before God, but when done in faith by the power of the Holy Spirit seeking to know our God of Scripture, they are very helpful.
Bible Reading: This is probably the most widely known and easiest to do, because you have Scripture to read and focus your attention in order to connect with God. Scripture is a treasure like none other. Scripture makes a man wise for salvation and life (2 Tim. 3:15-17). Proverbs tells us wisdom bears far greater fruit than silver or gold (Pro. 3:14; 8: 19). Jesus confronted temptations quoting Scripture (Luke 4:1-11). It is living and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). The humanity of Jesus grew learning Scripture (Luke 2:52) and used it to press forward to accomplish God’s will (Luke 22:42).
Bible reading should be done daily, because it is more valuable than food (Matt. 4:4). When you open Scriptures, tell God, “Your servant is listening” (1 Sam. 3:9-10). Read Scripture to learn, to grow and to become stable.
Bible Study: This is a much more focused time of analysis, comparison of Scripture with Scripture and acquiring the context of what is written. Bible study is learning the thread through all of Scripture and learning the flow from the books of Genesis to Revelation. It’s learning how the books of the Old and New Testament are organized. It’s taking the time to learn, so that you will be ready to teach others also (Matt. 28:20). Bible study ensures that the text is not taken out of context, so that it becomes a pretext for what you want. Bible study ensures you study what God has to say rather than man (Is. 55:8-9).
Scripture Meditation: This is thinking deeply about a particular passage of Scripture that you may be studying. It is interacting with the text and allowing God the Holy Spirit to examine your life, your feelings and your prayers for the purpose of teaching, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). It is through meditation that a person slows down enough to hear how the Holy Spirit is leading with conviction and life change. It is a drawing near with the heart in order to know the Lord Jesus Christ, not know about Him, but know Him. Meditation should be on Scripture as the focus of our attention all day long (Ps. 119:97). It is the means by which a believer can bypass his teachers in wisdom (Ps. 119:99). Meditation is sweet to the Lord, because it declares how we are spending our time—our most valuable resource (Ps. 104:34).
Scripture Memorization: This is a commitment of Scripture to memory, especially whole sections, chapters or books of Scripture. The Psalmist writes, “Your Word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!” (Ps. 119:11) There are many ways to memorize Scripture. Going over and over the text is similar to the way Ezra studied Scripture (Ezra 7:10). Meditating on passages can set Scripture to memory through associations of concepts. The time of memorizing is a great tool for the Holy Spirit to set our lives apart to Jesus Christ. Memorizing passages can give great hope in crises. For example, memorize James 3:1-12 to learn control of the tongue, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 to learn the spectrum of love and what constitutes sin when not practiced, Ephesians 1 to gain an understanding of God’s eternal plan and His sovereign control of history, Phil. 4:6-9 to fight against worry and gain a foothold so the peace of God reigns in your life, or Psalm 23 as a passage of comfort and hope in trouble, or Philippians 3:7-14 for a passage on motivation to pursue Jesus Christ, or Psalm 1 for a great passage teaching children what to delight in and what to avoid, or 1 John 1 for a passage on walking in the light with God.
Prayer: This is talking with God about what we are experiencing and doing together in life. Prayer is the vertical relationship in life. It is the trust and dependence on the God of the Universe. It is not as easy as some people say, because it is often developed as other spiritual disciplines are learned. Jesus often went out to pray alone (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12; 9:18; 11:1). He has a praying life rather than a prayer life. There are great prayers in Scripture like morning prayers of Psalm 3 & 4 and the evening prayer of Psalm 5. The Lord’s Prayer is found in John 17. Paul’s greatest prayer is Ephesians 3:14-21.
Prayer often can follow the ACTS or the CAST pattern, where the respective letters stand for Adoration; Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. The CAST acrostic is given for those who insist that confession should be done first. Prayers using Scripture are very wise, because that keeps you focused on God’s desires. Prayer partners often support and hold accountable prayer requests and can rejoice at answered prayers. Prayer walks are helpful to gain focus and allow the beauty of creation or a circumference boundary to receive the indirect artillery of prayer.
These are merely the first five spiritual disciplines. Succeeding descriptions will follow regarding the spiritual disciplines of:
Solitude; Submission; Silence; Fasting; Service; Worship; Fellowship; Reflection; Sabbath Rest; and Frugality.