Since the Bible does not use the term “spiritual disciplines” we can’t point to an activity or practice and say “God says this is a spiritual discipline.” Rather, we can only look at that which He says will help us get to know and love Him better, to grow in our relationship with Him.
Examples of Spiritual Disciplines Could be That to Which Scripture Exhorts Us to Be Devoted:
The Greek word for devoted – proskartereo – comes from the words “pros” meaning towards and “karteros” meaning strong, suggesting an intensity and persistence in what we are doing. These are practices which God wants us to give our full attention to because they are important in our walk with Him.
A good starting place could be Acts 2:42-47 where we read of the early church not only engaging in certain practices but being devoted to them. Acts 2:42 begins, “They devoted themselves to” and then lists the following activities: the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, prayer, worship, service (benevolence)
1) God’s Word: read (1 Tim. 4:13), study (2 Tim. 2:15), meditate on (Josh. 1:8; Ps. 1:1-2), memorize (Ps. 119:11)
The New Testament was not completed at the time of the church in Acts 2. Consequently, we can broaden the reference to their devotion to “the apostles’ teaching” as devotion to God’s Word. Elsewhere Paul exhorted Timothy, “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13).
The importance of interaction with God’s Word as a spiritual discipline cannot be minimized when we read verses like the following:
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matt. 4:4)
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
The early church regularly spent time together. Think of all the one another commands in the New Testament. Life together, the sharing of our common bond in Christ Jesus, is a means God uses to bring us closer to Himself. We can get drawn away by the busyness of life so we need to see it as a discipline which is communicated in these verses:
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Rom. 12:10)
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Heb. 10:24-25)
Prayer is a critical part of our relationship with the Lord as through it we commune with Him. Prayer is an expression of trust, submission, confession, thanksgiving, and praise. It can include fasting in which we give up something, like food, in order to spend more time in prayer. Yet without discipline, we can get distracted and fail to persist. Colossians 4:2 therefore says,
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Col. 4:2)
If we are going to worship the Lord “in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:23- 24), we have to stay focused. Worship is about more than singing a few songs or shouting “Praise the Lord!” Worship involves the whole of our being lived to His glory and honor. And so we read,
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. (Rom. 12:1)
5) Service – Benevolence
If ministering to the needs of others was going to be easy, we wouldn’t be told to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24). We all have a contribution to make in the Body of Christ that needs to be on-going yet we can be pulled away by everything else we have to do. We would do well to heed Paul’s instruction to Titus:
And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. (Titus 3:8
Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives. (Titus 3:14)
Are there other spiritual disciplines?
I have listed above only possibilities based on those activities of which we find clear indications in Scripture that we should be devoted to doing them. Consequently, I would personally suggest making those of primary importance. Some of the other possibilities of spiritual disciplines others have suggested can fall under the above, lead to, be a part of, or a result of them. For example:
- Celebration (part of worship)
- Confession (can be part of worship, prayer, and fellowship)
- Evangelism (could be part of service but could also be the result of doing all of the above as seen in Acts 2:47)
- Fasting (usually in combination with prayer)
- Giving, Stewardship (a part of worship and serving but could also be the result of all of the above)
- Guidance – Spiritual Direction (a result of spending time in God’s Word and prayer)
- Journaling (a part of time in God’s Word or prayer)
- Meditation (on God’s Word)
- Observing the Lord’s Day (means of corporate expression of all of the above)
- Silence & Solitude (ought to frequently be a part of prayer and time in God’s Word)
- Simplicity (leads to more time to do all of the above)
- Studying or Learning (of God’s Word)
- Submission (needed in all of the above)
Some of the books listed on this resource page suggest the above possibilities in addition to other 5 listed: Spiritual Growth Resources
Since God’s Word does not actually use the term “Spiritual Disciplines” what one lists as a discipline is up to one’s own discretion. The key is that we find biblical basis for it. Anything that heads in a New Age direction or mysticism should be held suspect. If your objective in practicing Spiritual Disciplines is to foster and deepen your love relationship with the Lord, you must approach it through means He endorses in accordance with His Word. Those are that which will lead you to Him in the truth of who He is.