The Spiritual Disciplnes

Teresa of Ávila, Ulm, Germany
Teresa of Ávila, Ulm, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While I’m waiting for God to lead me to my spiritual director, I can continue practicing the spiritual disciplines I learned from Richard Foster’s book, “Celebration of Discipline.”  Although the author is from the Quaker tradition, many of the insights to these disciplines come from saints canonized by the Catholic Church (i.e. St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, etc.)

Foster divides up twelve spiritual disciplines into three categories:

  1. The Inward Disciplines – Meditation, Prayer, Fasting and Study
  2. The Outward Disciplines – Simplicity, Solitude, Submission and Service
  3. The Corporate Disciplines – Confession, Worship, Guidance and Celebration

It would be nice at some point to reflect on how I’ve put these disciplines into practice.  For now, I’d like to highlight some passages that stood out for me in the introductory chapter:

God intends the Disciplines of the spiritual life to be for ordinary human beings: people who have jobs, who care for children, who wash dishes and mow lawns.

Joy is the keynote of all the Disciplines.  The purpose of the Disciplines is liberation from the stifling slavery to self-interest and fear.

We need not be well advanced in matters of theology to practice the Disciplines.

The struggle [relying on our willpower and determination to overcome ingrained sin] is all in vain, and we find ourselves once again morally bankrupt or, worse yet, so proud of our external righteousness that “whitened sepulchers” is a mild description of our condition.

The moment we feel we can succeed and attain victory over sin by the strength of our will alone is the moment we are worshiping the will.

As long as we think we can save ourselves by our own will power, we will only make the evil in us stronger than ever.

Inner righteousness is a gift from God to be graciously received.  The needed change within us is God’s work, not ours.  The demand is for an inside job, and only God can work from the inside.  We cannot attain or earn the righteousness of the kingdom of God; it is a grace that is given.

God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving his grace.  The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us.

We must always remember that the path does not produce the change; it only places us where the change can occur.  This is the path of disciplined grace.

When we genuinely believe that inner transformation is God’s work and not ours, we can put to rest our passion to set others straight.

Leo Tolstoy observes, “Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself.”

Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So true.  I am open to God changing my inner heart, my whole life.  Going through the book once with the men’s prayer group was a fruitful introduction.  It was like we all went to the gym and learned how to use the spiritual weight machines.  We flexed our souls and had lots of fun supporting and encouraging each other.  Now that we’ve finished the last chapter, it would be very easy for me (and quite advantageous to the enemy of my soul) to just forget about these Disciplines.  If I’m serious about finding a spiritual fitness coach, then I can practice these exercises until I can find him.

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