Grace is what God does, knowledge is what man (woman) does. The reason we are here (born) is to exhort ourselves into spiritual discipline. The spiritual disciplines are choices we make to grow, “in grace and knowledge of Christ” (The Holy Bible, King James Version, n.d., 2 Peter 3:18). Spiritual formation are choices we made to discipline ourselves to grow. Discipline means pupil and to learn, so spiritual disciplines are choice practices of faith and personal leadership.
Charles Foster’s book, “Celebrating Disciplines,” is influential for Christians seeking to know God, by yielding to the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying power, by the surrender to Divine Will in our lives, can help develop us to grow spiritually in wisdom and character (Foster, 1998, cited by Hale, 2013).
Familiar Spiritual Disciplines
The spiritually disciplined man (woman) can know God’s ways by reading, study, scripture, learning history of God’s church, and understanding practical theology. A deep recognition of the source of all blessing (God) and sustenance is gained through fasting (abstaining) from food, commitments, distractions, or anything, that takes focus away from Jesus, brings us closer within ourselves (Foster, 1998; Hale, 2013). We can slow down, to seek the kingdom first, not the pursuit of wealth and power. In stillness of mind, God’s (Holy Spirit) voice becomes clearer, providing more room for silence, pausing to hear that still small voice of His Spirit, so we can hear and obey wisdom.
Each of the 12 spiritual principles help combat the sinful nature of the phenomenal world, to bring the believer into a better mental, emotional, and spiritual state of higher awareness of God, his nature, and his kingdom (spiritual formation). They bring the believer back into focus to the Holy One and seek his will.
Formatting wisdom in spiritual discipline is necessary for right choices but cannot be taught. Disciplines must be experienced. We can teach for wisdom and ethics by balancing (harmonizing) interpersonal and extra personal interests over the short and long term through the mediation of positive ethical values which provides an aspect for wisdom (Lynn et al., 2014). The combination of these mental characteristics and behavior distinguishes a person’s spiritual formation (disposition), quality, effectiveness, moral strength, and integrity–Character.
Personal Spiritual Disciplines
The 12 steps are disciplines into a process of change and way of growing in Christ and were originated by the teachings on the Sermon of the Mount. A spiritual life utilizing these Christian principles are used to heal grief, trauma, substance abuse (alcohol), and loss, by practices of spiritual self-reflection, discovery, and growing deep in the knowledge and personal experience of God in one’s life. Having been submitted to the continual process of self-discipline, knowledge, and self-care, the twelve-step discipline has worked with daily action in my life.
Spiritual disciplines can be organized into sections of inward, outward, and corporate practices (Foster, 1998; Hale, 2013). Included are personal development like prayer, meditation, fasting, and study. In service to the body of Christ, simplicity, submission, solitude, service, confession, guidance, celebration, and worship are significant corporate, inward, and outward practices to discipline and build (Barnett, 2022).
These disciplines help shift our perspective (attitude) from a naturalistic (‘I’) to a more Holy (‘we’) view of spiritual formation (Hale, 2013). We can step forward from a co-dependent and independent identity, towards an inter-dependent focus, relying on Source and multiple relations. Ignorance, arrogance, self-righteousness, denying sin, and attraction to idols are common malpractice of spiritual principles, which obstruct our view of Jesus and devalue ourselves and fellow man.
Spiritual/Religious discipline includes scripture reading, memorization, and mediation which keeps the Word close to the heart. Stated more accurately, “Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your words became a joy to me and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts” (The Holy Bible, King James Version, n.d., Jeremiah 15:16).
Five spiritual disciplines I have integrated into daily living include prayer, meditation (contemplation), solitude, submission, and worship (memorizing scripture). Contemplation for me is contextualizing ordinary events as an opportunity to stay in communion with the Holy Spirit and not engaging my entire focus on content. Listening to that still voice and celebrating the good (gratitude) in all areas of my life have shaped my mental focus inward into appreciation and self-love. Memorizing scripture incorporates discipline, prayer, meditation, and closeness to the Divine (Holy Spirit).
New Personal Spiritual Disciplines
New personal disciplines include fasting, solitude, service, reaffirming guidance, and celebration. These personal practices are used on various occasions and help me relieve stress, anxiety, and frustration. They guide me in remaining patient and optimistic and help those who I come into connection with. Fasting, is a new discipline recently incorporated, and I have experienced powerful spiritual benefits. First, it connects me closer to Source (God) and not wants. The health effects include weight loss, lower blood pressure, and less anxiety. It also demonstrates an example others can emulate seeing the dramatic rise in obesity, diabetes, and stress.
Spiritual Formation in Emotional Well-Being and Stress Management
In Miedziun and Czabała (2015), rational techniques of dealing with stress are listening to music, focusing on analytical problem solving or planning of activities, and friendship. Their analysis showed that people with higher stress used techniques of “distancing” or “passivity”. The best use of all stress management level techniques includes “problem solving”, “vicarious gratification” or “distancing,” for understanding, and coping with stress (Miedziun & Czabała, 2015).
Ways to manage stress include physical activity, walking, exercise, or other bodily movement work. Replacement gratificationinclude creative activities like listening to music, reading, hobbies, or fellowship. Helpful distancing activities includestepping away from the problem by napping, laughing, or rephrasing the situation. The categories and techniques of solving problems, include support, adjusting tension and emotions (relaxation, mediation, breathing (contemplation). Autogenic (self-talk) training, visualization, and healthy distraction (cooking, reading) can be useful.
Evidence based practices utilizing mindfulness-based strategies (MBSR, MBCT) recommend purposefully focusing attention to the present experience, with a non-judgmental attitude (Khoury et al., 2015). These practices allow the mind to focus on breathing, visualization, meditation and not give the mind full access to the past and future (grief, fear, guilt, shame), all soul diminishing emotions. A useful practice of mindfulness is to attach scripture (notes) to the back of your smartphone. Since everyone is digitally engaged, this tip brings our focus back to God, memorizing scripture, and remaining closer to Him. This change of mind is a change in direction (formation).
Elements improving formation include gratitude, self-compassion, self-care, and self-love. When a person feels good about themselves, their outlook or attitude is positively affecting well-being and personal relationships. These attitudes (frames of reference) allow for a better response to stress by recognizing that managing our inner world reflects in our outer world. Christian helpers practicing these elements can transmit their positive energy to others.
Understanding Spiritual Disciplines (Reflection)
As a Christian, knowing we are loved, is the best preparation for ‘letting go,’ acceptance, and detachment. We get to this understanding by scripture, reflecting on life experience, and gratitude for our many blessings. Practicing acceptance and detachment means less judging of others and commitment to seeking understanding. In Whelan (2011), he describes detachment comes to us as a gift. It is a product of grace, not mastery or manipulation. Fulfilling spiritual formation involves turning easily to love and joyfully towards those who love you. Detachment has us easily and joyfully looking beyond ourselves towards the One (God) who has loved us from the beginning. In this knowing (understanding) we are grateful.
The role of spiritual disciplines in deepening spiritual formation and their effect on emotional well-being in self or others is authentic Christian detachment, which will be joy and gratitude—two natural human reactions to the experience of love and freedom. Christian detachment enables us to see what truly matters or does not really matter, in this, or that circumstance, and graciously let go of it.
Spiritual formation develops by defining and experiencing spirituality as an innate capacity to seek and transcend one’s locus of prominence with love and increased knowledge (Chandler et al., 1992). Practicing spiritual disciplined mindfulness techniques, communal singing, and encouragement of fellowship lead to better health, lower stress, joy, higher spirituality, and creates an environment for growth and openness (Vos, 2012).
Valuing mental health wellness management is placing a greater importance of self. As Christian helpers, the need to care for ourselves first before we can fully help, influence, and encourage others is important for individual health and well-being. Managing the self (internal responses), our physical, mental, and psychological facets, bring awareness to self-care, self-renewal, and self-love. Incorporating these practices and techniques positively impact the individual and help others in ministry.
Through building spiritual disciplines, we form (orient) by God’s grace and our practices continually move us closer to Him. Celebrating of disciples are classically “traditional,” because they are central to experiential Christianity. All-devotional subject matter affirms the necessity of the Disciplines. We now know that God’s grace and mercy is given through Him, and our role is to seek knowledge— of Him and ourselves.
Barnett, J. (2022). Spiritual disciplines for life: Why practice spiritual disciplines. Sermons Church. https://groundworkonline.com/blog/what-are-spiritual-disciplines#:~:text=Spiritual%20disciplines%20are%20practices%20that,exercises%20for%20the%20spiritual%20life.
Chandler, C., Holden, J., & Kolander, C. (1992). Counseling for Spiritual Wellness – Theory and Practice. Journal of Counseling and Development, 71(2), 168–175. https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edswss&AN=A1992JV90200006&site=eds-live&scope=site&custid=s8333196&groupid=main&profile=eds1
Foster, R. J. (1998). Celebration of discipline: The path to spiritual growth. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0060628391/ref=as_li_ss_til?tag=httpdistorcom-20&camp=0&creative=0&linkCode=as4&creativeASIN=0060628391&adid=0H3W2RK9JDZATWYYYZP1&
Hale, N. (2013). The 12 spiritual disciplines: Effective tool for spiritual growth. NRH. https://www.nathanrhale.com/2013/05/22/the-spiritual-disciplines.html
Khoury, B., Sharma, M., Rush, S. E., & Fournier, C. (2015). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for healthy individuals: A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research,78(6), 519–528. https://doi-org.lopes.idm.oclc.org/10.1016/j.jpsychores.2015.03.009
King James American Edition (KJVAE). (2017/n.d.). 2 Peter 3:8. You Version. https://bible.com/bible/2 peter 3:8.KJVAE
King James American Edition (KJAE). (2017/n.d.). Jeremiah 15:16. You Version. https://www.bible.com/bible/547/JER.15.KJVAE
Hale, N. (2013). 12 spiritual disciplines: Tools to discern the kingdom of God. SlideShare. https://www.slideshare.net/nathanrhale/the-12-spiritual-disciplines-19575604
Lynn, S. J., O’Donoghue, W. T., & Lilienfeld, S. O. (Ed.). (2014). Health, happiness, and well-being: Better living through psychological science. Sage Publications. ISBN-13: 9781452203171
Miedziun, P., & Czabała, J. C. (2015). Stress Management Techniques. Archives of Psychiatry & Psychotherapy, 17(4), 23–30. https://doi-org.lopes.idm.oclc.org/10.12740/APP/61082
Vos, B. (2012). The spiritual disciplines and Christian ministry. Evangelical Review of Theology, 36(2), 100–114. https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0001891054&site=eds-live&scope=site&custid=s8333196&groupid=main&profile=eds1
Whelan, M. D. (2011). Being loved into freedom: reflections on a Christian understanding of detachment. The Australasian Catholic Record, 88(3), 306–317.