There are some ‘Private Worship’ books available for free download at:
God has always taught us that who we are day by day determines His attitude toward our corporate worship when we gather as His ‘called out’ people.
So I want to my spend time looking at Private Worship through the lens of the teaching about spiritual disciplines.
Spiritual Disciplines – What are they?
A spiritual discipline is a good habit that allows you to remain OPEN to God and develop yourself spiritually.
Spiritual disciplines are practices modeled by the life of our Lord and in the rhythms of the church dating back to the first century. These practices are embedded in the rich history of God’s story in each century as He is writing our stories.
They are simple practices that help create space for God and for you to attend to His Presence.
These are practices you may have already been doing like- prayer, solitude alone with God, fasting and study of the Scriptures; practices the Lord engaged in when he was on earth.
Life is crazy busy. Each of us needs an anchor to hold us down in the midst of the incredible speed at which our lives move. Some days could feel like they are spiraling out of orbit.
R. D. Laing: “We live in a secular world…There is a prophecy in Amos that a time will come when there will be a famine in the land, ‘not a famine for bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.’ That time has now come to pass. It is the present age.
Psalm 63:6 (NIV) On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.
Psalm 119:148 (NIV) My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.
Psalm 1:2 (NIV) But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Discipline is defined as “training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior.” Spiritual disciplines can be described as those behaviors that augment our spiritual growth and enable us to grow to spiritual maturity. This process of spiritual growth and development begins to take place the moment a person encounters the risen Christ and comes to Him for salvation.
By definition, disciplines are (but are not limited to):
- Repetitive actions driven by spiritual decisions rather than natural environmental reactions.
- Deliberately self-induced behaviors that nurture spiritual health and fosters spiritual growth leading to maturity with God.
- Deliberately self-induced actions to alter existing life and thought patterns, thereby breaking the normal cycle of life and breaking the focus on intimacy with God.
The spiritual disciplines are means by which individuals and communities can very literally “practice” their faith. They are tools by which Christians seek to know God, yield to the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying power, and surrender to the Divine Will in their lives.
God intends the Disciplines of the spiritual life to be for ordinary human beings: people who have jobs, who care for children, who must wash dishes and mow lawns.
In fact, the Disciplines are best exercised in the midst of our normal daily activities. If they are to have any transforming effect, the effect must he found in the ordinary junctures of human life: in our relationships with our husband and wife, our brothers and sisters, our friends and neighbors.
The primary requirement is a longing after God. Psalm 42:1-2 (NIV) As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
Richard Foster identifies 12 crucial spiritual disciplines. These are further organized into sections: inward, outward, and corporate practices.
Disciplines of Personal Development (Inward)
- Prayer – communicating with God ( 6:9)
- Meditation – focusing on God and his will ( 4:8)
- Fasting – a reminder of the source of all nourishment (Luke 5:35)
- Study – careful attention the reality that God reveals to us, especially through Holy Scripture (Luke 2:46)
Disciplines of Service to the Body of Christ (Outward)
- Simplicity – seeking God’s Kingdom first ( 6:33)
- Submission – placing God’s will above one’s own (Luke 22:42)
- Solitude – withdrawing from the world to spend time with God ( 14:23)
- Service – supportive action toward others (Mark 10:45)
Disciplines of Service with the Body of Christ (Corporate)
- Confession – acknowledging one’s sin with and to others in the community of faith (James 5:16)
- Guidance – giving and receiving direction from others along the journey with Jesus (Acts 15:8)
- Celebration – taking joy is what God has done (1 Cor. 5:8)
- Worship – giving God glory through attitudes and actions (1 Cor. 14:26)
Spiritual disciplines exercise our spirit, mind, and emotions so that we become closer to God. They help us see His will for our lives more clearly so that we can live the life He desires for us. The more we practice these disciplines, the better we get at them, and the stronger we make our faith.
Spiritual Disciplines Make It Simple
Spiritual disciplines also help us simplify our faith. How often do we just feel discouraged because we don’t quite know what to do or if our decisions are right or not? Spiritual disciplines have a way of clearing out the superfluous things so we can just get back to basics. Sometimes we just overcomplicate things, and spiritual disciplines can keep us from making our spiritual lives more difficult.
By practicing spiritual disciplines we also keep our eyes on God more often. When we focus on God, we stop letting other things get in our way or cloud our vision. Our lives find a clarity when we become more disciplined in our faith.
Examples of How Real Change Happens
The Disciplined Christian can know God’s ways though study…
He or she spends time soaking in Scripture, becoming intimately familiar with its message, learning the history of God’s church, and gaining understanding of the practical implications of theology.
The Disciplined Christian is reminded of the source of all blessing and sustenance through fasting…
Abstaining from food, time commitments and distractions, from anything that takes focus from Jesus brings clarity, focus, and humility.
The Disciplined Christian can SLOW down through simplicity…he can hear God’s voice more clearly through solitude…
Alone time with God helps provide room for silence, waiting on God, and hearing the sometimes still, small voice of his Spirit.
In the end, the spiritual disciplines are hardly disciplines but gifts, opportunities to know grace, to experience joy, to brush the hem of Christ’s robe.
At the very best of moments, when we enter into the disciplines, our heads crane upwards, our mouths fall open, our hearts pound beholding wonder and mystery!
Disciplines of Letting Go
Solitude—Spending time alone to be with God. Find a quiet place to be alone with God for a period of time. Use the Bible as a source of companionship with God. Listen to Him. Remain alone and still.
Silence—Removing noisy distractions to hear from God. Find a quiet place away from noise to hear from God. Write your thoughts and impressions as God directs your heart. Silence can occur even in the midst of noise and distraction. But you must focus your attention on your soul. This could mean talking less or talking only when necessary. And it could mean turning off the radio and the TV.
Frugality—Learning to live with less money and still meet your basic needs. Before buying something new, choose to go without or pick a less expensive alternative that will serve your basic needs. Live a simple, focused life.
Secrecy—Avoiding self-promotion, practice serving God without others knowing.Give in secret. Serve “behind the scenes” in a ministry that you are assured few will know about.
Sacrifice—Giving of our resources beyond what seems reasonable to remind us of our dependence on Christ. Choose to give your time or finances to the Lord beyond what you normally would.
Disciplines of Activity
Dallas Willard writes, “The disciplines of abstinence must be counter-balanced and supplemented by disciplines of engagement (activity).” It’s choosing to participate in activities that nurture our souls and strengthen us for the race ahead.
Study—Spending time reading the Scriptures and meditating on its meaning and importance to our lives. We are nourished by the Word because it is our source of spiritual strength. Choose a time and a place to feed from the Word of God regularly.
Worship—Offering praise and adoration to God. His praise should continually be on our lips and in our thoughts. Read psalms, hymns, or spiritual songs, or sing to the Lord daily using a praise tape. Keep praise ever before you as you think of God’s mighty deeds in your life.
Prayer—Talking to and listening to God about your relationship with Him and about the concerns of others. Find time to pray to God without the distraction of people or things. Combine your prayer time with meditation on the Scriptures in order to focus on Christ.
Fellowship—Mutual caring and ministry in the body of Christ. Meet regularly with other Christians to find ways to minister to others. Encourage one another.
Confession—Regularly confess your sins to the Lord and other trusted individuals.As often as you are aware of sin in your life, confess it to the Lord and to those you may have offended.
Submission—Humbling yourself before God and others while seeking accountability in relationships. Find faithful brothers or sisters in Christ who can lovingly hold you accountable for your actions and growth in Christ.
PERSONAL and corporate confession provide a way to confront, admit, be convicted of, and deal with sin in the context of a supportive community and ministers of grace.
The Disciplined Christian puts God in the highest place through worship…which sets us up for the lesson on Corporate Worship…