Such a sweet communion
As every day I seek Your face
Knowing that Your best for me is wherever You are
Won’t let a day go by
Without keeping my mind
Keeping it stayed on Jesus
With every new sunrise
I gotta keep my mind
Meditate on Him
And keep His Spirit deep within
Fred Hammond, Keeping My Mind
Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever.
1 Timothy 4:8 (MSG)
The top New Year’s resolution almost every year is to “get in shape.” That explains why the local fitness center is always the fullest in January. Why? We know that if we want to be fit, having the discipline to consistently workout is the only way to make it happen. But as the fitness centers get less crowded in February, we notice that desire is not enough to get fit. Neither being educated about fitness, nor simply talking about one’s fitness goals is enough to reach health goals. Consistent discipline in the areas of fitness and nutrition determine our results. Every competing athlete knows this truth, which is why the Apostle Paul made this observation about Olympic marathon runners in the first century (about 45 A.D.).
Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable crown. So I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Physical fitness and a balanced diet are vital and virtuous goals, yet spiritual discipline is even more essential to thriving, “making you fit both today and forever.” tweet
But what are spiritual disciplines and how do we develop them in our lives?
Spiritual disciplines are practices which build up our souls in the same way that lifting weights, cardio, and pilates build up our bodies. Prioritizing and practicing spiritual disciplines allow us to draw near to God and train ourselves to be shaped by His heart and values, and to experience His presence. They are not empty rituals meant to give us favor with God or prove how spiritual we are (to ourselves or others)—they are disciplines intended to build our capacity and pattern of practicing the presence of God.
Richard Foster, author of the bestselling book, Celebration of Disciplines, identified four inward spiritual disciplines: prayer, fasting, meditation, and study of the Bible.
Each of these spiritual disciplines is valuable and contribute to our sense of intimacy with God. Initially, we will focus our attention on the inward disciplines of prayer, meditation, and study. We will then build on this foundation, which Foster describes as the outward and corporate disciplines. We will specifically address several of these disciplines during the remainder of the 7 Habits Devotional Series.
The best way to stay on track in building a new habit is to start small. In the same way that someone doesn’t start training for a marathon by running 26.1 miles on their first practice run, it’s important to start slow and build up to a consistent, steady pace. If this is a new practice, start with 5 minutes of silence or worship to prepare your heart. It’s valuable to quiet the random thoughts that race through our minds before engaging in prayer and Scripture. Creating a worship playlist is helpful, but sometimes silence may be an even better approach for you to choose. Follow this with 5 minutes of prayer. A simple structure to pray through is ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication [supplications are requests for oneself or others]). Lastly, 5 minutes of Scripture reading. One efficient way of reading Scripture is by selecting a particular Book of the Bible (such as The Gospel of John, or Romans), and studying a portion (such as a chapter) each day.
Similar to marathon training, it’s essential to increase the quality and quantity of your discipline over time so what began as 5/5/5 minutes for each section becomes 15/15/15 minutes for each, and that increases again and again. It can also be helpful to focus on one aspect (such as prayer) more at a particular time depending on what’s going on in your life.
It’s important to remember that the Holy Spirit is still the One who needs to be present in this discipline, and that it is He who gives it life. As Foster states in Spiritual Disciplines:
By themselves the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done.
How are spiritual disciplines similar and different to physical disciplines?
Which of Foster’s 12 disciplines do you want to begin practicing, or learn more about?
Why might worship or silence be an important starting point for the inward disciplines?