no more spiritual disciplines

When you accepted Christ, you were told what to do next. “Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow.” If you received the advanced-level instructions, you may have been told to memorize some Bible verses or even to start fasting.

You’ve been working hard to master those “spiritual disciplines” all your live-long Christian life.

I have, too. And I’ve decided it’s time to stop.

The more I read my Bible, the more I’ve come to realize the problem with developing “spiritual disciplines.”

“Whoa,” you say. “You read your Bible, but you’ve decided to abolish the spiritual disciplines? That makes no sense.”

I’ll explain.

Spiritual Disciplines tells me, “Here’s your to-do list.” Read your Bible every morning for half an hour and check it off. Done.

Time out. Can you even tell me what you read? What does it mean? Did you think about it? Did you consider the weight of every word? Did you seek to find out what God was saying? Or was it just “spiritual discipline accomplished”?

Spiritual Disciplines tells me, “You’re supposed to.” Be honest. You read your Bible because you feel guilty if you don’t. Now, what kind of motivation is that? How can you possibly be learning, growing, living, breathing the Word if it’s a requirement? Nobody thrives because they’re told to.

Spiritual Disciplines tells me, “Do it like this.” Your Bible-reading task fits in a box:
(1) Get up early in the morning.
(2) Follow a Bible-reading plan.
(3) Read it in a year.

Your prayer life fits in a box, too. This box provides a few options. You might decide to . . .
(1) Keep a list: requests, answers, dates. Or you could try . . .
(2) ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. {Because God wants your prayers categorized.} Or if you’re really spiritual . . .
(3) Pray for an hour {5-minute-segment suggestions provided}.
(4) The list goes on . . .

You get the idea.

And my point is, these tips, though sometimes helpful, should not fit in a box. At least not boxes of our own making.

Personal testimony.

When I was working hard to develop my “spiritual disciplines,” my understanding of God and his Word could hardly be described as increasing. Not only was I parched, I didn’t know where to go for nourishment. I was reading my Bible, but I found nothing. I was doing the right thing, but it simply wasn’t working.

My “spiritual disciplines” were dragging me down. So I stopped.

When I stopped trying to perform all of these “spiritual disciplines” simply because I was supposed to, I found this peculiar desire to know God.

I learned that if I studied the Bible later in the day, my brain was awake, and I could truly set aside distractions and enjoy quality time with my God.

I learned that the Bible is thrilling, not boring. I didn’t make that discovery until I got away from the reading plans and found colored pencils and friends and storytelling and songs and maps and all kinds of good stuff.

I started reading my Bible when I wanted to, and it became priority.

I started reading my Bible how I wanted to, and it became an adventure and a joy.

I now read the Bible because I love it, and I want to read it and know everything about it. It is life for me.

That’s my story.

So if you ask me, I say, “No more spiritual disciplines. Allow desire to take its place. And you’ll grow, grow, grow.”

[image credit: pixabay.com, journeyoftheword.com]


15 thoughts on “no more spiritual disciplines

  1. Yes! This is so true. We are supposed to have a relationship with God, a real relationship. I think for some people, spiritual disciplines do help, but the more we love Him and the more our will is drawn to His, the more they get in the way. Since I stopped “spiritual disciplines,” I find I want to pray all the time. And I read the Bible, not because Christian tradition requires it, but because I want to find out more about God! He is just awesome!

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    1. Right. I’m not saying we shouldn’t read our Bibles and pray. I hope that’s obvious. It’s just that, for me, thinking of them as “spiritual disciplines” required of me as a Christian, actually proved to hinder my spiritual growth.

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  2. So true- all the Spiritual disciplines & fads for Christian growth can so quickly become legalistic, which is what CHrist died to free us from. Glad you have re-discovered your passion for God & his Word!

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  3. Lydia, this is so true, especially for check-lists persons like me. I remember when I stopped reading the bible according to the year plan, and just read until I was finished. I had this desire just to read His word. It was freeing. Thanks for encouraging us to simply be led by God’s love for us and our love for Him in return.

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  4. Amen! You just uncovered the inner thoughts of my heart, when I didn’t even realize they were there!

    Your words are so very true. I especially was encouraged when you said…

    “I started reading my Bible when I wanted to, and it became priority.

    I started reading my Bible how I wanted to, and it became an adventure and a joy.

    I now read the Bible because I love it, and I want to read it and know everything about it. It is life for me.”

    It was such a blessing to read this today! Thank you!

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  5. I think if our heart and motivation is not right no amount of spiritual disciplines or rituals will deeply connect us with God, Lydia. Thanks for pointing out this misconception and challenging us to dig deep!

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  6. Glad you’re finished with religion and are now living free in the land of grace. But spiritual disciplines themselves are not the problem, they are blessings when we keep them on their rightful place. Our focus needs to be on Jesus, not on spiritual disciplines. Spiritual disciplines don’t save us, Jesus does. We need to learn to spend time with Jesus, get to know him and his grace. Then we do all those spiritual disciplines for the right reasons. Not because we are supposed to but because they get us closer to Jesus, the Lord of Life. Thanks for sharing your story. Grace-filled Blessings to you!

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    1. Well actually, I like to redeem the “religion” phrase by pointing out the fact that it’s a biblical term! I actually wrote a post about that here: https://journeyoftheword.com/2014/10/02/religion-vs-relationship/.
      But, yes, I get what you’re referring to. For me, it was all about dumping the spiritual disciplines and cultivating a lifestyle of desiring time with God. That’s not contradictory! I spend lots of time in the word and prayer, but if I think of them as spiritual disciplines, my motivation is off. Hope that makes sense. Anyway, thanks for stopping by this post today!

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