The Problem with Spiritual Disciplines

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We need to stop the spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible reading.

Ok, so that isn’t exactly the most truthful way of putting what I’m going to talk about, but hopefully that will get some attention.  Let me try that again: we desperately need to stop thinking of prayer and Scripture reading as spiritual disciplines.

When you speak of a ‘discipline,’ it implicitly states that the discipline is an additional part of your life.  So, for instance, let’s say that you decide to take up running.  This is your new discipline of running.  You were surviving before you started this discipline, and you’ll survive once you stop it.  Sure, you may be better off when you’re running–you may have more energy, be in a better mood, become healthier, but your legs aren’t going to fall off if you give up running.

I could give you more examples, but I think you can see where I’m going with this: when you see prayer and Scripture reading as a ‘discipline,’ you’ve already categorized it under the wrong mindset, because now you already think of it as something I ‘should do,’ not something that is essential.

Imagine if that you met someone who said that he practiced the discipline of eating.  You’d think that he was nuts, and, well, he probably would be.  Eating is not a discipline, because it is what keeps you alive.  If you stop eating for for two months, you’re going to die (or come really close to it).  If you stop running for two months?  You’re going to be less in shape than you were, but you won’t be in any danger of dying.

And so it is with prayer and Scripture reading.  Thinking of these two ways of communing with God as ‘disciplines’ shows that we have no idea how important that they are to our lives.  When you aren’t consistently praying and reading God’s Word, you’re not just gaining a few pounds, but rather you’re on your own little hunger strike, starving yourself of God’s presence in your life.

Now some may think that this is a form of legalism.  Isn’t there grace offered to those who fail?  Absolutely.  When I first wrote this post, I had written down ‘breathing’ instead of ‘eating,’ but I changed it because if you stop breathing for more than a day, you’re going to die.  God offers grace to those who are inconsistently communing with him, but we should not use that grace as an excuse to lackadaisically commune with our holy God.

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