Spiritual Disciplines


Below is a brief description of the topics we will consider in this study.

Introduction. The very idea of engaging in spiritual disciplines no doubt has something of a ring of weirdness to many modern Americans. At the same time, many of these same people may feel that their spiritual lives are lacking and their performance as Christians leaves something to be desired. The purpose of this introductory section is to show how these two observations reveal two sides of the same coin. From that observation, we will see how practicing the classical disciplines is necessary to both a vibrant spiritual life and a meaningful transformation of our daily living.

Part 1: The Nature of Discipline. "Discipline" and "discipleship" share more than the same root word. Discipline is the necessary precondition to discipleship, and discipleship is the necessary precondition to salvation. The purpose of this lesson is to consider the radical implications of real discipleship.

Part 2: Prayer. Prayer is essential for all Christians. This lesson examines both the nature of prayer and how we might overcome difficulties in our prayer lives.

Part 3: Meditation. Meditation, although related in some ways to the discipline of study, is actually a separate practice. For example, meditation is often aided by the disciplines of solitude and fasting, whereas study requires neither and may be less effective when so combined. For reasons such as this, meditation is a less comon discipline and we will take some time to examine the benefits that can accrue from its practice.

Part 4: Fasting. Probably nothing runs so contrary to prevailing Western norms as self-denial, and no form of self-denial is as seemingly bizarre as fasting (at least for reasons related to spirituality rather than vanity). Yet, as will be shown, everyone in the history of the universe who has had any degree of spiritual maturity has practiced regular fasting. Why? This lesson will address that question.

Part 5: Submission. Actually, the above assertion is wrong: there is something more un-American than self-denial: submission to authority. For that reason, the discipline of submission is an essential study. Moreover, it is important to realize that submission is something, perhaps the only thing, that can strengthen us to overcome the sin of pride, which is the worst of all sins and the source of all others.

Part 6: Service. In this study we will see how real service is related to the discipline of submission, and how false service (almost a kind of sinful service) is related to the sin of pride. The purpose of this study will be to learn the difference between the two and to encourage us to seek out real service, in a spirit of humility and with no other purpose than a desire to please God.

Part 7: Worship. Worship is the only corporate discipline we will study. Its importance should not be underestimated though. Worship is the practice which is both addressed to our individual nature, as the personal experience of the living God, and to our corporate existence, as the assembled presence of the body of Christ. We will examine half a dozen ways to aid in the experience of worship.

Part 8: Summary and Conclusion

Class Materials. In its manifestation as a weekend retreat, this class required each participant to have: a Bible, Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline, and a prayer book. A listing of other materials that provide useful background is included in Suggestions for Further Reading.

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