The Need for Spiritual Discipline

Today, I would like to talk about the need for spiritual discipline.  What is that, you might ask?  It could roughly be understood as soul care; the things Christians are to be active in, in order to promote their own spiritual health.  3 John 2 says: “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” So spiritual disciplines are those things that promote soul wellness; just like diet and exercise encourage physical health, the spiritual disciplines develop spiritual health. 

Dr. Don Whitney, professor at Southern Seminary defines them this way:

“The spiritual disciplines are those practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are habits of devotion, habits of experiential Christianity that have been practiced by God’s people since biblical times.”[1]


There are many great examples of discipline in the Bible.  For instance, Jesus made it his custom to rise early and pray long. Mark 1:35: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” 

Or the prophet Daniel, who while in Babylon, prayed three times per day, facing Jerusalem, even though it was illegal to do so.  Daniel 6:10 states:

“When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” Daniel prayed three times per day facing Jerusalem and made it a habit.

It took discipline for the Israelites to march around Jericho, whereas there were probably those who said, “Hey, let’s just start dismantling the bricks!  Wouldn’t that make more sense?”  But they obeyed Joshua, who obeyed the Lord (Joshua 6:15).

As fallen human beings, we are prone to laziness and bad habits.  We welcome a lack of structure.  At the most critical time in Jesus’ life, during the all night prayer session in Gethsemane, the disciples did not cut it. 

“And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”[1]

The flesh is weak, Friends!  While on vacation, I throw out a lot of my structure.  I stay up late (10 p.m.).  I sleep in.  I eat what I want.  So I’m one of those that gains about 8 lbs. every vacation and it takes me a month to lose it or not at all.  The problem is when we take a vacation from our faith, it is detrimental. 

It took discipline to obey God when the Lord asked Moses to speak to the rock. Instead, he struck it and was prohibited from entering the promised land in Numbers 20:7-11.

It also occurs to me that every sin is committed out of a lack of self-restraint; a process of saying to God: “I know better.”  Spiritual discipline starts with coming before God and saying: “I need you!  Feed my starving soul, Lord.” 

It occurs to me in this time of isolation and curtailed freedoms, that the Lord is reminding us that He is our source for strength (Psalm 46:1) and rest (Matthew 11:28). May you seek the Lord in a new and consistent way. Start today.

[1] Matthew 26:40-41 (ESV)


Published by davidmckinley

I am the Senior Pastor of Central Schwenkfelder Church in Worcester, PA. The Schwenkfelder Church is a community of faith birthed from those persecuted in Silesia (Poland) during the 16-18th centuries, whose adherents traveled to Pennsylvania circa 1734. For more on the Schwenkfelders as a historical movement, see Central Schwenkfelder is a Christ-centered, Bible-believing congregation. For more info, see My ordained standing is with the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference. See or

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