Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

We aren’t meant to wait for holiness—we’re meant to pursue it. God commands Christians to actively “be holy,” but what does that look like in daily life? Rather than overwhelming legalism or loose boundaries, Don Whitney encourages us to find a practical middle ground through biblical habits.

Donald Whitney’s convicting insight on spiritual disciplines will challenge you to grow in new ways as a Christian. Now updated and revised, this edition offers practical suggestions for cultivating spiritual growth, diving into practices such as Bible intake, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling, learning, and perseverance in these disciplines.

Regardless of where you are in your Christian walk, this book provides refreshing and profound encouragement for your spirit.

This time I will begin with a quote referenced in this book:

“Recently I read again of a woman who simply decided one day to make such a commitment to pray, and my conscience was pricked. But I know myself well enough to know that something other than resolve was being called for. I began to pray about praying. I expressed to God my frustrated longings, my jaded sense of caution about trying again, my sense of failure over working at being more disciplined and regular. I discovered something surprising happening from such simple praying: I was drawn into the presence of One who had, far more than I did, the power to keep me close. I found my focus subtly shifting away from my effort to God’s, from rigour to grace, from rigidity to relationship. I soon realised that this was happening regularly. I was praying much more. I became less worried about the mechanics and methods, and in turn I was more motivated. And God so cares for us, I realised anew, that He Himself helps us pray. When we “do not know what we ought to pray for… the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Rom. 8:26).

Timothy K. Jones, “What Can I Say?” Christianity Today, November 5, 1990, page 28.

That’s also me. That is what God did for me and what he is doing for me every day. He showed, by his grace, that it is possible to delight in His Word and pray unceasingly and practice the spiritual disciplines without seeing it as a daily resolve that is so hard to accomplish. Of course, it is sometimes hard, and there are some sacrifices involved (including waking up early in the morning and resisting the temptation to snooze the alarm and sleep in), but it is not impossible!

“God doesn’t dangle growth in grace before you like a spiritual lure that’s always enticing but never enjoyed. He has said that actual progress in Godliness is possible and the Spiritual Disciplines are the means. And the practical step behind each of the Spiritual Disciplines is the Discipline of time.”

Chapter Eight: Stewardship, page 156

And so if I were to describe this book in two adjectives, I will probably use convicting and powerful. Whitney begins with WHY we need spiritual disciplines and the whole premise of the book is based on 1 Timothy 4:7 which says to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” He then goes on, chapter by chapter, to examine each of the spiritual disciplines in the following format: what does the spiritual discipline mean and cover, where in the Bible does it say this discipline is expected, what are the Biblical motivations for the discipline, Biblical suggestions on how to practice the discipline, and at the end of each chapter, questions to ask yourself so that you will be more equipped to apply the spiritual discipline, not at an indefinite time in the future, but now.

The spiritual disciplines covered in this book are: Bible intake (which consists of reading, hearing, memorising and meditating Scripture), prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, stewardship (for both time and money), fasting, silence and solitude, journaling, and learning. Each chapter is drawn from and examined in the light of Scripture, which I think is why I can consider this book powerful and convicting. For example, I do not practice fasting, because it was never really emphasised or discussed in our church, but I see now the importance of it and why you might need to strengthen prayer and seek guidance from God (among others). I have never really thought of extended silence and solitude as a spiritual discipline, mostly because I thought a place for that doesn’t exist.

The book concludes with an encouraging note on persevering in the disciplines. It also has a plethora of quotations from Puritans and other Christians throughout the book. It actually motivated me to read some of biographies if I am able to get my hands on them. I have always thought of these people as people who had a lot of time in their hands to study God’s Word and therefore live a more godly life but this book showed me that they have the same problems or even greater, they are probably even busier, and they only persevered and disciplined themselves because that is what their love for God compels them to do and that it is not themselves but the Holy Spirit that causes them to persevere. I have always been afraid before because I know my track record when it comes to consistency, but I pray that on days when I am tempted to give up and quit, or when I feel lazy and unenthusiastic, that I hang in there, and may the Holy Spirit also cause me to persevere by granting me the grace I need.

I will no longer list down my favourite quotes here because there are too many of them, I would recommend instead for you to read it if you haven’t, or read it again!

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