Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cultivate a Deeper Spirituality

God invites us, individually and as the church, to cultivate a deeper spirituality.
After all, our church can be no stronger than the spiritual strength of our members.  No surprise - right?  Spiritual practices matter!  Spiritual disciplines are ways of becoming fully awake personally and staying awake to our creator.  The disastrous decline in The Episcopal Church gives occasion for renewal; consider, if you will, these seven spiritual disciplines practice by all three Abrahamic traditions - Judaism, Christianity (33% of the world population), and Islam (25% of the world population.)  Over the millennia, billions of persons have practiced these ancient spiritual disciplines in a successful quest to draw near to deity and to build community.

First on the list is Fixed Hour of Prayer which is a regular pattern and order for formal worship and prayer that is offered to God at specific times throughout the course of the day.  This is the primary way spiritual people hold themselves in communion with the One who created them.  There are many names - the liturgy of the hours, fixed-hour prayer, the divine office, the canonical hours, daily prayers - they all refer to the practice of interrupting secular time every few hours for time made sacred by prayer.

The second discipline is Keeping a Sacred Day. This special day is not fundamentally a break, a day off, or a twenty-four-hour vacation.  It is  feast day that anticipates our play in the new heavens and is celebrated here on earth with family, friends, and strangers for the sake of the glory of God (like practicing eternity.)

Discipline three:  Entering the Sacred Seasons. Each year the sacred seasons transmit the full scope of our faith as it gears our rhythms to those who share our faith, everywhere in all time, present and past, and all places, here and there.  The sacred seasons tell us over and over again the story that forms us and that we are fulfilling.

Fourth is Fasting - which is the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life.  Fasting is found in all the great world religions and philosophies; fasting means to deny oneself of food and possibly water for a time in response to a sacred moment.  Fasting is not a bribe to God or a diet or a health regimen and must be done intelligently; nevertheless, fasting can liberate us as the deepest level.

Next we come to the fifth spiritual discipline which is Stewardship/Almsgiving. The preeminent spiritual reason for giving is gratitude to God for the blessings a person receives; the harmony between the Divine and the created is enhanced by giving.  In other words, stewardship is more than what you give - it is about how you use what you keep.  As a footnote:  pledging to a parish or diocesan budget is about as non-biblical as a church can get.

No surprise that sixth is The Sacred Meal which symbolizes the communal unity and communion with God and moves the believer from being a citizen of the world to be a citizen of heaven.  Sacrament, symbol, memorial, Jewish, Christian or Muslim - the sacred meal is a spiritual discipline that dare not be ignored.

The final and seventh spiritual discipline as the Sacred Journey. Pilgrimage is in the human DNA and each year millions of Christians, Jews and Muslims visit sacred sites all over the world.  Again, pilgrimage is not a vacation or a holiday with a religious shore excursion; it is an encounter.  Tourists bring home memories and souvenirs.  Pilgrims bring home changed hearts.

Each of us has it within our power to embrace these seven spiritual disciplines.  Editing the list down or a half-hearted involvement is a grievous error - both for ourselves and our church.

(Blogger's note:  much of this article was taken from material I developed for Kansas City's 8th Annual Health and Spirituality Workshop.)


  1. Gary, thanks, simple, concise and comprehensive. Using your criteria, each of us can grid out and evaluate our incremental progress within and toward an more effective spiritual life. Using the Celtic model, we can incorporate a soul friend as someone helping us in our journey.

  2. Visit Rivendell Community in Dunnegan, Mo. You will find their communal life incorporating all seven practices. They inspired me to get my spiritual life back on track. Rivendell