December 7, 2010

Discipline Is Not A Four Letter Word

On Thursday I posted about the Lectio Divina . In that post I also mentioned that I would post up a list of other spiritual disciplines. This is that post.

I had originally planned on simply linking an existing database of spiritual disciplines. When I tried looking for one on Thursday I was not successful. I am sure somewhere out in the Google universe one exists, but after thirty minutes I grew tired of looking.

While this was the point of my last post, I want to say again why these disciplines are so valuable. First off they are restful. They are designed to a) take time and b)make you slow down. Unlike a rushed bedtime prayer or the plethora of 1-10 minutes devotions offering spiritual growth in half the time you cannot speed your way though these. Second they tend to be more about you waiting and listening for God. This again is an all but forgotten part of our daily spiritual activities.

While most of us pray, we tend to pray to (or maybe it is more correct to say at) God but we don't stop and listen. Imagen if we did this in our human relationships; a friend would call, you'd pick up the phone but before you even said hello they'd cover everything that happened that day, events that have been on going, blurt out thing they felt bad for doing, mused about the future, thank you for listening than hang up. Far to often this is the praying that we do. if it is considered rude between people, why is it considered normal for between us and God?

Another reason that I find these practices so helpful is they help me refocus from self to God. One of the constant inner battles I fight is sorting out my desires, visions, and ideas from God's desires, vision and ideas for me. Sometimes I can be driven and often I plan things out both far in advance and using prediction models. None of that is bad in of itself but sometimes I can get so busy doing work I think is for God, only to discover I am doing it for me; and God would rather me elsewhere. Practices like this help me see through the things I think I should be all about and help me to see what God wants me to be all about.

Below is a list of disciplines that I have found particularly helpful. They are adapted from Mark Yaconelli's 'Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus'.


The Awareness Examen (Ignatius of Loyola): This is a form of prayer that was used by Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. This prayer was part of his conversion experience, and is widely used in many Christian denominations. The Examen invites us to be aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit throughout the day, not only in the good and holy moments but in the normal and bad ones as well. This prayer is often used at night time while reflecting about the day.


Ask: For what moment am I most grateful? & For what moment am I least grateful?

When these questions are asking in a prayerful manner they are meant to help us identify moments of consolation, a time when we were open to/ aware of God, ourselves and others in a deep manner, and moments of desolation, a time when we were most closed/unaware of God, ourselves and others.

The Interior Glance (Brother Lawrence): This form of prayer was developed by Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite lay-brother. He was not a teacher, or a scholar, but spent most of his time working in the kitchen, and even there he was often clumsy. He is best remembered for his amazing ability to show love to others, and his was of finding God in the mundane activities of life.


Pray to God that he would remind you to rest in his presence all day.

First: Throughout the day, try to remember to think about God. Be open to how much he loves you, that he sent his son for you, that we wants to be in communion with you. You can do this while you are washing the dishes, sweeping the floor, playing soccer. Second: In the normal natural pauses in your day whisper a short prayer of thanks to God that you are abiding in his love.

This form of prayer can feel artificial at first, and almost forced. This is normal as it is not natural in our culture to take a moment and pause. If you practise this enough you will find it comes very natural and becomes easier as you go; and you will be more aware of where God is active in your life.

Walking Prayer: This prayer focuses on movement. The prayer invites the person to “take a walk with Jesus”.


Pray to Jesus that you will be aware of him, and his presence. Pray that he will be with you and to open your eyes to see as he sees. Then go for a walk. Go alone, and try not interact with anyone instead look around. If anything stands out and catches your eye spend more time observing it. When you return share or journal what you experienced.

This form of prayer can be done after bible studies to help you absorb what you have heard and learned. After a lesion on service you can walk around and ask God how he wants you to serve. Or after a lesion on repentance you can walk and let God show you things that you need to be forgiven for, or things that you can express gratitude to God for forgiving you for.

Silent Prayer (Quaker Tradition): After a bible lesion, sermon, etc this prayer invites you to sit quietly and reflect on what was said and what was learned. The prayer is simple, pray “God, how have you been present in this discussion, what do you seek to teach us?

Centring Prayer (St. John of the Cross): This form of prayer helps us to make the 6 inch drop from thinking about God to being with God. It moves us from head to heart. It seeks to move us away from reading scripture for information, lesion plans, and solutions to resting on God.


Find a comfortable place to sit and pray. You may want to have a candle or something else to help remind you of God’s nearness. You want to have a set length of this prayer, 10 minutes is normal for starters.

Pick a word that symbolizes your connection to God. It can be father, Abba, Jesus, faith etc. The word itself is not important, but once you have picked one stick with it. This is not about picking the most spiritual word, but something that seems to fit with you.

Before you pray rest and relax. Allow your sacred word to remind you of God. Repeat it to yourself gently “like placing a feather on cotton”. When you notice your mind wandering off God, use your word to gently nudge yourself back.

At the end of your prayer remain in silence, for a moment. Close with the Lord’s Prayer or other formal prayer.


  1. great job Christopher.
    I am ever the student and love these definitions and instructions on the different modes of prayer, thanks :)

  2. Good post Chris.
    Hope you post some more on some other types of spiritual disciplines other than prayer.
    I love reading Celebration of Discipline by Foster. I try and pull that out every so often to help reful my personal spiritual life.


  3. Tricia- Thanks for the comment it's great that one can stay a student forever. There is never a time when we know all we can about God!

    John- Good idea, the prayer disciplines were the ones that came quickest to mind but some of the others are great too!