I’ve been a Christian for almost all of my life—35 years—and yet when I see the word “Spiritual disciplines,” I cringe inwardly. Part of this discomfort is my own sinful tendency. I am, as the songwriter says, “Prone to wander.” The other part of my discomfort, however, stems from a misunderstanding of what it means to walk with God.
I’ve come to learn that spiritual disciplines are simple practices, ways of denying ourselves so that we can be filled more with love and adoration and worship of Christ. It doesn’t mean, however, that the way I intake spiritual content and communicate with the Lord has to be the same way as others.
For instance, some of my best friends get up early in the morning and spend several hours in prayer and reading. I’ve never been a morning person, though over the last decade I’ve developed the habit of getting up earlier and earlier in the morning. But I do a lot of reading, praying, and studying late at night.
What should spiritual disciplines look like? Every person is wired differently, spiritually and emotionally and psychologically. Every person has different schedules, demands, and responsibilities. Every person has a different communication and learning style.
What we all have in common is a command to follow Jesus, a deep need to worship, and a responsibility to study the Scriptures to know the author of Scripture better. So rather than focus on “How I do spiritual disciplines,” I’d like to focus on a broad outline of what every Christian should include in their spiritual disciplines:
- Every Christian should be regularly in-taking Scripture. “Doing quiet time” differs in style for every person. I like to read early in the morning with Scripture and coffee. I like to do other study at night. Some like to use devotional guides. Others don’t. What is important is that we are taking the time to read Scripture and letting it wash over our souls regularly. The important thing about Scripture is not even so much that we receive a “spiritual nugget” to inspire our day, but that we are reading it, letting it sit afresh on our souls, and hiding it in our hearts. Lately, I’ve been going at a slow pace through the Gospels and reading them afresh.
- Every Christian should regularly worship, both individually and with the people of God. Worship is not an option. It’s a duty and a delight. There is no version of Christianity that doesn’t include regular, faithful involvement in a local body of regenerate, Spirit-filled believers. Every Sunday is worship, from the first opening song to the last handshake on the way out the door. All the elements of church are worship, from singing to giving, listening to preaching, to praying, to partaking of the Lord’s Supper, to the fellowship in the hallways. We worship corporately by singing to ourselves songs, hymns and spiritual songs. Singing in public with our brothers and sisters is something we must do. We should also worship individually in some way or the other. For me, I often play worship music in the home or in the car. I think it is important to find times to sing to ourselves in a way we cannot do at church.
- We should intentionally study the Scriptures and study theology. I’m amazed at how often the New Testament assumes an intentional striving for holiness and an intentional study of the Scriptures. What I’m talking about is supplemental learning beyond what we get during the Sunday preaching event. For some, that means formal seminary training. For most that means simply being intentional about listening to good preaching, reading good Christian books, attending Bible classes offered at church or other opportunities, reading articles, blogs, etc. that are from trusted, gospel-centered organizations. In the 21st century, there really is no excuse for biblical illiteracy, what with the embarrassing riches afforded the Christian in developed countries.
- We should engage at the soul level with other believers in smaller settings. Every Christian should be part of a group of believers talking, praying, growing, learning together in a way that is challenging. Sometimes this is in small group settings. Sometimes this is with friendships and other relationships. I’ve often experienced the most growth in friendships with other men, where we are reading Scripture and praying together.
- We should pray. I don’t have much to add to this, other than to say; we should be praying people. I will admit that I don’t pray enough. I don’t pray the way I should. I don’t pray as often as someone who has access to the throne room of God. We should be intentional about our prayer lives, and we should be spontaneous about our prayer lives. We should pray with and for our brothers and sisters in the Lord. We should pray silently. We should pray on a schedule, and we should pray when needs, concerns, and praises come to our minds.