Solitude and Silence
Solitude is the most fundamental of the disciplines in that it moves us away, for a time, from the lures and aspirations of the world into the presence of the Father. In solitude, we remove ourselves from the influence of our peers and society and find the solace of anonymity. In this cloister we discover a place of strength, dependence, reflection, and renewal and we confront inner patterns and forces that are alien to the life of Christ within us.
Silence is a catalyst of solitude; it prepares the way for inner seclusion and enables us to listen to the quiet voice of the Spirit. Few of us have experienced real silence, and most people would find it to be quite uncomfortable at first. Silence is totally at odds with the din of our culture and the popular addiction to noise and hubbub. This discipline relates not only to finding places of silence in our surroundings, but also times of restricted speech in the presence of others.
Prayer is personal communion and dialogue with the living God. Seen from a biblical perspective, prayer is an opportunity and a privilege rather than a burden or a duty. It is the meeting place where we draw near to God to receive His grace, to release our burdens and fears, and to get honest with the Lord. Prayer should not be limited to structured times, but should also become an on-going dialogue with God as we practice His presence in the context of our daily activities.
Many have found that keeping a spiritual diary heightens their understanding of the unique process of spiritual formation through which God has been taking them. By recording our insights, feelings, and the stream of our experiences, we clarify the progress of our spiritual journey. This discipline relates closely to those of prayer, meditation, and study; journaling enhances personal reflection, encourages us to record perspectives we have received from Scripture, and serves as another form of prayer.
Study and Meditation
The discipline of study is central to the whole process of renewing the mind in such a way that we can respond in appropriate ways to the truths of God’s Word. Study of Scripture involves not only reading, but active involvement in observation, interpretation, and application of its contents. This discipline also includes devotional reflection on the beauties and intricacies of nature as well as exposure to gifted writers and teachers in the past and in the present. Meditation is a close relative of the disciplines of prayer and study, and it also depends on the disciplines of solitude and silence. Meditation has become such a lost art in the West that we typically associate it with Eastern religions. Far from emptying the mind, however, biblical meditation focuses the mind on the nuances of revealed truth. To meditate on the Word is to take the time to ruminate and ponder a verse or a passage from Scripture so that its truth can become more real and sink more deeply into our being.
Fasting and Chastity
The spiritual discipline of fasting is abstention from physical nourishment for the purpose of spiritual sustenance. This difficult discipline requires practice before it can be effective, since it is not natural for us to pursue self-denial. There are different methods and degrees of fasting, but all of them promote self-control and reveal the degree to which we are ruled by our bodily appetites. Fasting can also consist of abstention from other things that can control us, such as television and other forms of entertainment.
The discipline of chastity is relevant to all believers, whether single or married. This discipline recognizes that the sexual appetite is a legitimate part of our natures, but it encourages us to resist the painful consequences of improper feelings, fantasies, obsessions, and relations that are so frequently reinforced in our culture. Chastity elevates loving concern for the good of others above personal gratification.
This discipline sets us free from the burden of hidden sin, but it requires transparency and vulnerability in the presence of one or more people whom we implicitly trust. When we uncover and name our secrets, failures, and weaknesses, they lose their dominion by virtue of being exposed. Sadly, we are generally more concerned about the disapproval of people whom we can see than we are about the disapproval of God whom we cannot see, and this is what makes repentance and confession before others so difficult.
Taken from Ken Boa’s Handbook to Spiritual Growth.
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