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Spiritual discipline derives from a series of activities which are found in the Bible and which were adopted by the early Christians, particularly monastic orders, as a means of promoting spiritual growth. So let’s take a look at those spiritual disciplines that have been practiced since the early days of the Christian church.
‘I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.’ Psalm 119:11
Early Christians did not have the easy access to a copy of the Bible that we do, the King James Version of the Bible was not printed until 1611 and even then very few people would have access to a copy. Does that mean that early Christians were bad Christians because they did not read their Bible every day? No, it doesn’t, but it does mean that memorizing Scripture was of great significance to them and we can learn much from their example. Carrying the Lord’s word in your head and your heart is a deeply enriching spiritual discipline.
Regular collective worship
How important is your church to you? To early Christians, the church was the center of their spiritual nourishment.
‘Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.’
Collective worship and collective prayer are an element of Christian fellowship and are key spiritual disciplines.
Saint Augustine had this to say about fasting.
‘Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one’s flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust and kindles the true light of chastity.’
Fasting one day a week was an integral part of early Christian spiritual discipline and remember these people had a far more meager diet than we do. Recently, fasting has become popular for all sorts of health reasons, but its greatest benefit is as a spiritual discipline, as Jesus showed us.
Jesus taught his disciples that prayer, both collective and private, is a crucial spiritual discipline. Early Christians prayed three times a day, morning, noon and evening, in imitation of Christ, and so should we.
It is a spiritual discipline to read the Bible everyday but it is also a spiritual discipline to meditate in silence upon the Scripture. Very much a key activity of monastic life it is also a discipline from which we can all benefit.
‘a time to be silent and a time to speak.’ Ecclesiastes 3:7
Living a simple life
‘Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” ‘ Matthew 19: 21
How many of us are prepared to follow Jesus’ instruction? It is one piece of teaching that most of us conveniently overlook. Materialism is a barrier to spiritual growth. We, who have so much, would do well to remember this.Spiritual disciples are activities, which we undertake regularly; they are not just pious wishes. They have their origin in the Bible; they are not to be confused with things that we like doing and which make us feel nice, such as gardening. The spiritual disciplines, which our forebears followed, are the disciplines that we should follow. One technique, which was not available to early Christians but is one that many contemporary Christians find helpful, is journaling. Journaling enables you to plan, track and reflect upon spiritual discipline, we offer a range of products to help get you on your way.