I haven’t blogged in a while, so I wanted to write up a quick post on spiritual disciplines. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, nor is it meant to say that if you don’t do some of these things that you are a bad follower of Jesus.
Of course, discipline is not about earning God’s favor (Ephesians 2:8-9) but it is important as a response to God because we want to be used for His Glory (Ephesians 2:10). Discipline is praised in scripture (Colossians 3:5), and it helps us to keep our faith on track and our focus on God, where it should be.
Devotional Scripture Reading
“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” -Joshua 1:8
Scripture is God’s Word. It is the primary way that He speaks to us. Our faith will be very shallow if we don’t read and think about the Bible on a very regular basis. Paul tells us that “all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the man (or woman) of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). I won’t go any deeper than that, but suffice it to say that if you don’t open your Bible at least once a day, you are missing out on a lot!
“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” -Psalm 119:11
On the same theme, we not only need to be reading God’s Word, but also memorizing verses of Scripture. There are many reasons to do this, many of which are outlined in Psalm 119 (the longest chapter in the Bible), which is basically a love letter to God expounding on all the great things about His Word.
When we commit Scripture to memory, the Holy Spirit will bring it to mind as we pray, think, and speak to others. God uses Scripture for encouragement, to convict of sin, to teach, and in many other ways. You may not always have a Bible with you, but if you have memorized verses, they are always with you!
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” –Mark 1:35
The Bible tells us that even Jesus spent time talking with the Father. This is a VITAL part of our spiritual life. There are numerous ways and reasons to pray, but the most important thing is that we pray! If we are not praying, it means we are relying on ourselves and not on God. Prayer is simply communicating and communing with our Father. It should include adoration, thanksgiving, and confession as well as supplication (asking for things).
God doesn’t just want us to tell Him a shopping list of our needs; He already knows what we need. His true desire for us in prayer is intimacy, to have a relationship with us. If you call someone your best friend but never talk to them, you aren’t being a very good friend!
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” -James 5:16
It is important for us to admit our sins to ourselves, to God, and to others. When we don’t do this and hold things inside, we “give the devil a foothold” (Eph. 4:27). This applies for what might seem like small, insignificant sins and for “huge”, shameful sins. Find another believer, or a small group of people that you can be completely open and authentic with.
If you don’t do this and walk around with unconfessed sin stuffed down inside of you, it will damage your relationship with God and your ministry to others. As James 5:16 says, confession brings healing. Though it may be hard, in the end it is much better to let your sin out in the open.
“When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret will reward you” -Matthew 5:17-18
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus doesn’t say “if you fast” but “when you fast”? Although I am not particularly strong in this discipline, scripture talks about it as an important spiritual practice. Fasting is basically choosing to abstain from something you would normally indulge in (food, caffeine, TV, Facebook, etc) in order to focus on God.
Fasting can used be for a specific purpose, such as praying for a friend’s salvation, or simply to increase one’s own awareness of God. Read Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline for some great practical tips on fasting.