In this series we will be looking at scriptures that move us toward the practice of spiritual disciplines. Many good books have been written on the spiritual disciplines, and we encourage you to read them. The purpose of this study, however, is to look at the words of scripture to better understand the spiritual disciplines and the purpose they serve in our lives.
Practicing spiritual disciplines serves to help us open up to the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds. It is, as it were, to ready the soil for the planting. Spiritual transformation is, beyond doubt, the work of God, and while we cannot work our way into a transformed life, we can practice certain behaviors that produce an openness and readiness for transformation to take place. This is the purpose of spiritual disciplines.
According to Richard J. Foster (Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth), the primary requirement for beginning to practice spiritual disciplines is a longing after God. This is where we will begin, using the method of lectio divina.
Read: Read Psalm 42. As you read the first time, consider the ways in which you long for God. Make a list of the things that draw you to God—the reasons for your longing.
For the second reading, divide your paper into two columns. Like the Psalmist, list the things that discourage you, that drain you of energy, that sap life from you in one column. In the other column, list the attributes and gifts from God that give you hope, the things that you long for.
Meditate: Review your lists. Focus on your deepest longings. Repeat and meditate on the attributes and gifts that you listed.
Pray: Bring your list of discouragements and needs to God in prayer. As you review your list, acknowledge your longing for God. Praise God for his unfailing love and care for you. Recognize him as the giver of life.
Contemplate: Consider how you can change your focus from discouragement to praise. Is there a relationship in your life that drains you of energy? What can you do to change that? Are there activities in your day that sap life from you? Are there steps you can take to remove or change those activities and/or relationships to limit their influence in your life? Seek guidance from God and a wise friend or spiritual leader in considering these questions.