Courtney Jacob

What are Spiritual Disciplines?

Spiritual disciplines are practices that by design can lead to life transformation. Their purpose is to aid our spiritual growth as disciples of Christ and deepen our relationship with God. They are like training exercises for the spiritual life. But like all exercise, we have to choose to do them regularly to feel or see their impact on our lives. So what exactly are these practices? Consider these lists from two of the 20th century’s most influential books on the topic:

Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster

  • Inward Disciplines: Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, Study
  • Outward Disciplines: Simplicity, Solitude, Submission, Service
  • Corporate Disciplines: Confession, Worship, Guidance, Celebration

The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives by Dallas Willard

  • Disciplines of Abstinence: solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, sacrifice
  • Disciplines of Engagement: study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, submission

As you can see, there are variations on how these lists of spiritual disciplines are organized and even what disciplines are included. So how were these practices chosen? Most are considered spiritual disciplines because they’ve stood the test of time. Ultimately, Christians throughout the ages have chosen to engage these disciplines in their spiritual lives because they are practices Jesus himself practiced or taught about, as recorded in the Bible.

Finding the Spiritual Disciplines in Scripture

You won’t find a passage in scripture that details a list of spiritual disciplines like the fruits of the Spirit. Nor is there one that says “this practice, this is a spiritual discipline.” So why do we explore this topical series on Groundwork where we promise to dig into scripture to lay the foundation for our lives?

Each discipline can be found modeled in and encouraged by scripture. Those scripture passages will guide our Groundwork conversations about individual disciplines. Using the spiritual discipline of prayer as our example, we’ll dig into passages like Matthew 6:5-6 where Jesus provides instructions about how to pray during his Sermon on the Mount and Matthew 7:7-8 where he encourages believers to ask, seek, and knock.

Spiritual Disciplines on Groundwork

In preparing for this series, we quickly realized that this could easily become a very long series if we did individual programs on each discipline found in scripture. We also decided that covering the disciplines in categories pre-determined by one of the books mentioned above would mean not being able to discuss scripture and particular disciplines in great depth. So we decided to group some related disciplines and address others individually. We also decided not to focus on corporate disciplines like worship in this series because we’ve dedicated programs to that topic in the past (if you're interested, check out our 2-part Worship series). So, join us over the coming weeks as we explore the Spiritual Disciplines through the following episodes:

Why Practice Spiritual Disciplines, Titus 2;11-15 & 1 Timothy 4:7-8

Prayer & Fasting, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Simplicity & Submission, Philippians 4:10-13, Matthew 6:19-33

Silence & Solitude, Luke 5:15-16 & 1 Kings 19:11-13

Service & Giving, Matthew 6:19-21 & Matthew 25:14-30

Scripture: Study, Memorization, Contemplation & Meditation, Psalm 119

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