The Discipline of Spiritual Practice

Exploring Spiritual Practices
Exploring Spiritual Practices (Photo credit: robinsan)

L.D. Turner

As each of us continues on our walk of faith it is vital to understand that the foundation of our growth is the establishment of a disciplined spiritual practice. Without such a practice, much of what we do will, in the words of that great sage Solomon, be “chasing after the wind.”

For many of us living in the contemporary culture, this reality is sometimes tough to swallow. There are many reasons that we are resistant to this cardinal principle of spirituality. Space doesn’t allow for a full treatment of this theme, but I would like to give at least a brief overview of two primary reasons we tend to skirt the issue of establishing a firm spiritual practice. These are: Lack of time and lack of discipline.

Whether teaching spiritual principles to workshop participants, business professionals, or college students, I have found the most frequent reason offered for the absence of regular spiritual practice in a person’s life is lack of time. I understand this all too well because it is a reason (read excuse) that I have often offered myself.

Granted, life in today’s hectic society is filled with seemingly overwhelming tasks and myriad obligations. I frequently find myself wishing for 28 hours in a day, rather than 24. And, at times, even those extra four hours would be insufficient. I know many of you can relate to what I am saying. However, I have found that in my life, if I am truly committed to growing spiritually, I can find a place to carve out the time. Will I have to sacrifice something I enjoy doing? Perhaps. Will I have to change my schedule around? Most likely. Without belaboring the point, suffice it to say that rarely have I found an individual who couldn’t find the time to establish at least a short daily session of meditation, prayer, Scripture reading, being quiet before God or another spiritual undertaking.

Think of it like this. If you honestly believe that your spiritual evolution is a high priority in your life, then regular spiritual practice is essential. Believe me, you are not going to get to the other side of the river unless you get in the boat. The important principle here is to just get started. Don’t plan beyond that. Begin with only five minutes. After a brief time, double it to 10 minutes and eventually work your way up to whatever you believe is right for you.

Often, our lack of setting aside part of our day for spiritual practice is not so much a lack of time as it is a lack of discipline. “Discipline” is not a politically correct word these days. This is unfortunate because without discipline, you are not going to progress in any area of living, especially your spiritual life. You may be desirous of advancing in your spiritual walk, but that is only a fantasy. Like the “Beauty School Dropout” in the movie “Grease,” you have the dream, but not the drive.”

I wish I could tell you that there was an easy way to develop more discipline in your life, but that’s not the case, especially if you have a long pattern of being undisciplined. The fact is, you’re going to have to work at it. Like any other aspect of the spiritual journey, practices such as meditation, prayer,

I have come to understand that God’s gifts for us already exist, but mostly exist in the spiritual realm. My own responsibility in the process involved bringing those gifts down to the physical world through becoming more open to receiving them. In order to do this, I had to practice the disciplines. The distinction is this: I practiced the disciplines not so much to develop discipline, I engaged in spiritual practice in order to become more receptive to what had already been given. Again, these are subtle distinctions but important ones.

In closing, I hope it is obvious how connected lack of time and lack of discipline are. It seems each one feeds the other in an endless cycle that results in paralysis of action. Because we do not take the time to establish a regular routine of spiritual practice, we are not able to develop discipline; and without discipline, we never find the time to practice. And on it goes.

What is clear is that we need spiritual practice that is disciplined, focused, and productive. Without such a practice, we wind up like a dog chasing its tail, or, in the words of Solomon, chasing after the wind.

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