How Can I Develop Strong Spiritual Disciplines?
Over the past two weeks, we have been giving thought to the “soul” quadrant as we more closely consider our overall health in the areas of heart, soul, mind and strength. So far in our discussion of spiritual health as it pertains to the Christian faith, we’ve answered two of three big questions:
1) Do I have to go to church to be a Christian?
2) How do I know God’s purpose for my life?
If you missed either of those, you will find them here:
Today I hope to answer the third and final question:
3) How can I develop strong spiritual disciplines?
As someone who grew up in church, I had been told most of my life about the importance of a “quiet time”, but in full transparency, I struggled to stay consistent with reading Scripture, praying regularly or being aware of worship outside of a church service. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I discovered something that clicked for me…mostly out of desperation to figure out some answers to questions I had that I knew had spiritual roots. So, I made a commitment (much like one would with a new exercise routine or eating plan) that I would read my Bible, spend some time in prayer and journal each day. And honestly, for the first several weeks, my attitude about it was much like my attitude is about starting a new exercise routine or diet change. I HAD to do it…because it was good for me.
What I didn’t expect was that after only a few weeks, I began to look forward to this time and I was sad when I didn’t have longer each morning to stay in the space I had set aside to meet with Jesus. When scripture speaks of hungering and thirsting for the Word of God, I now have a better understanding. I don’t want to miss a meal and now I don’t want to miss that special time either.
Because I recognize that there were definitely some key things that helped me improve in this area of my life, I want to share them with you in hopes they will assist you in developing some new habits.
In his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney describes eleven disciplines found in the pages of scripture. They are:
1) Bible Intake
8) Silence and Solitude
11) Perseverance in the disciplines
Our spiritual health will improve when we begin to grow in our consistency with ALL of the disciplines; however, just like you wouldn’t expect to go from walking a few feet to running a marathon overnight, the best way to become more consistent over time is to start where you are. As you progress in your faith practices you may wish to get a copy of Whitney’s book to help you with ALL of the disciplines, but for our purposes we are only going to consider the first three: Bible intake, prayer and worship.
ARE YOU BRAND NEW TO COMPLETING A DAILY DEVOTIONAL OR READING SCRIPTURE CONSISTENTLY?
A few resources I recommend to get you on the right path are:
The One Year Bible by Tyndale (you can choose your favorite translation - I enjoy the NLT).
New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp (This is a fantastic daily devotional)
Jesus Calling by Sarah Young (there are SEVERAL other titles in the Jesus Calling Series)
A few things I have found incredibly helpful:
1) Use a plan (something with dates or a certain number of days) that keeps you on track. That’s why I love the One Year Bible. Each day you are given exactly the portions of scripture to read so that in one year, you’ve read all the way through.
2) Have a place where you meet with Jesus each day. I have a chair and a table where I take my coffee each morning and grab my Bible, devotional book and journal. I leave my phone in another room. This is literally the first thing I do each morning once my feet hit the floor…that way I don’t get distracted and miss the window of time.
3) Make daily Bible intake, prayer and worship part of your routine – just like brushing your teeth or putting on your shoes. Like I shared, for me it’s get up, make a cup of coffee and head to my chair…before anything else.
4) Do not feel defeated if you only give a few minutes to this in the beginning (as you fall in love with Scripture, you will likely find yourself spending more time there). I used to beat myself up if I didn’t have a full 30 minutes to spend in scripture. What I know now is that God will honor ANY time you give to this practice. Even if it’s one verse a day!
5) They are called disciplines because they take practice. Show yourself grace. (God does!)
P.S. – Daily devotionals are great – but there is nothing like reading scripture from your own Bible and allowing it to penetrate your heart (sharper than a two- edged sword) and move you in ways you didn’t see coming (alive and active).
ARE YOU LEARNING TO PRAY CONSISTENTLY FOR THE FIRST TIME?
Just like the disciples asked in the Gospels, we can ask, “Lord, teach us to pray.” And just as they did, we may want to start with the Lord’s prayer each day to help us make prayer a habit.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one
For thine is the Kingdom and the Power and
the Glory forever. AMEN”
However, as we grow in our faith, our prayer goal might be the one found in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18:
“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
There are hundreds of wonderful prayer resources to help take your prayer life to the next level, but one I have found particularly helpful in my life is Fervent by Priscilla Schirer.
Prayer journaling also helps me immensely with prayer. I find that I am able to stay more focused when I write my prayers and I enjoy looking back at all of the amazing ways God has answered my prayers over the years. Find a small notebook or beautiful journal and just start pouring your heart out to God.
ARE YOU UNCERTAIN OF WHAT WORSHIP MIGHT LOOK LIKE OUTSIDE OF A CHURCH SERVICE?
Worship is defined as the expression of adoration for God. In recent years, and more specifically in the months of the pandemic, I have found that I feel incredibly connected with God when I am outdoors. A tree, a bird, a sunset (I’m not a morning person, so sunrises are lovely – I just don’t see many), a flower, a rainbow, cloud formations, or bodies of water are among the things that I find myself worshipping through.
I also enjoy praise and worship music when I’m getting ready or cleaning my house. I find that I memorize so much Scripture through praise and worship music.
But the reality is…anytime you find yourself expressing adoration and Thanksgiving to God…you are worshipping. Maybe it’s when your child looks at you a certain way and your heart melts or when you get the closest parking spot at the grocery and feel you’ve received a small blessing. Maybe it’s when you are incredibly thankful for a good health report or a sunny day. Maybe it’s in the midst of some of the hardest times in your life when you can still look to God and know that He works all things together for good.
Worship can happen all day, every day when we recognize and acknowledge that all things pass through the hands of God.
I pray these few small tips help kick start your own growth toward more consistent spiritual disciplines. If I can answer any questions to help you develop spiritual disciplines in your life, please reach out…I would love to help.
Sometimes you will feel like you are on track and at other times you may feel defeated. But never forget, even when we are unfaithful…He is faithful. You don’t get “brownie points” with God when you are more disciplined nor do you receive “Heavenly demerits” when you are less disciplined. Our motive must always be that we hope to move into closer fellowship with the Father. When we seek Him, we will find Him. (Matthew 7:7).
Stephani Cook is a life coach, speaker, writer and creator of On Purpose Coaching. Through On Purpose Coaching she helps others to improve relationships and to discover intentional abundant living. She does that through several services including group and/or individual coaching, live event speaking or Enneagram workshops in private and corporate settings.
To connect with Stephani visit her website http://www.stephanicook.org.