Is There a Comprehensive List of the Spiritual Disciplines?

Knowing that the Spiritual Disciplines are a powerful and effective tool in our spiritual formation, doesn’t it make you want to run right out and grab a comprehensive list of the disciplines?

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Deborah Haddix

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The Spiritual Disciplines are a powerful tool in our spiritual transformation. When we engage in them, we carve out time and space. Here, we can pay attention to and respond to the ongoing work of God in our lives.  By their very nature, the Spiritual Disciplines set us up for encounters with God. And this helps us grow in His likeness.

Spiritual Disciplines can quiet our soul.  They also help us to be open to the tremendous power and unfathomable love that is only available in God.  Spiritual Disciplines help us pull away from the busyness of our day and simply be with God. They bring an intentional quiet that helps us lean in to listen and receive from God. 

It is here where God moves to shape and heal, woo and nurture, correct and direct.

Simply put, practicing core spiritual disciplines helps us create plenty of space for God. It, therefore, plays an extremely important part in the ongoing transformation of our inner being.

A Comprehensive List of the Spiritual Disciplines?

Knowing what we do about the critical role the Spiritual Disciplines play in our Spiritual Transformation, the question that begs to be asked is, “Where can I get my hands on a comprehensive list of the Spiritual Disciplines?”

Here’s the thing. A complete and standardized list of the Spiritual Disciplines does not exist. Nor can a consensus be found regarding such a list.

While we saw in the Condensed Cyclopedia of the Spiritual Disciplines that any Spiritual Discipline will be found in the pages of the Bible, it is a fact that no set list is found there. This being the case, you can search the internet and scout out Christian books galore for a list of the Spiritual Disciplines, and what you will find is that different authors and experts will each provide you with a different list.

For example:

  • A list developed by Richard J. Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline, comprises twelve “classic disciplines” which he divides into three movements of the Spirit: inward disciplines (meditation, prayer, fasting, and study), outward disciplines (simplicity, solitude, submission, and service), and corporate disciplines (confession, worship, guidance, and celebration).
  • A different list by author and American philosopher, Dallas Willard, divides the disciplines into two classes: disciplines of abstinence (solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, and sacrifice) and disciplines of engagement (study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, and submission).  Willard surmised that the disciplines of abstinence (self-denial), make space for deeper engagement with God and others. At the same time, the disciplines of engagement (connecting relationally with God and others), provide strength to endure the challenges of abstinence.
  • A third list developed by professor and author, Donald Whitney, includes Bible intake, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, stewardship, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling, and learning. His list of disciplines is categorized as personal or interpersonal. Whitney chooses this categorization, because both personal and interpersonal Spiritual Disciplines are prescribed in the Bible.

Three varying opinions, and this is just a small sample of what can be found when searching for a list of the Spiritual Disciplines!

Our Approach

As we move forward with our focus on spiritual transformation, our main concern will not be on developing a complete list of the Spiritual Disciplines. Rather, we will keep our eyes on whether the discipline in question is found in the pages of the Bible.

Is it taught?

Is it modeled by Jesus?

We will test the discipline against Scripture. Then with great intentionality and purpose, we will learn to use it in our pursuit of spiritual transformation.

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About the Author

Deborah Haddix

I am a child of God, wife, mom, grandma, daughter, sister, niece, and friend who loves nothing better than spending time with those I love.

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