She was all the rage, rated the most desirable woman in her day – Marilyn Monroe. Secretly, she frequented nightclubs on the prowl and incognito, not as Hollywood’s made-up, blond, bombshell, but as Norma Jean. Every man loved Marilyn, the conjured image, they worshipped at her feet. They loved the image, but would anyone love the black-wig wearing Norma Jean?
The loneliness of our culture is sadly illustrated in the church itself. George Barna reports that 7 out of 10 Christians claim that they have never felt God’s presence while attending church.
“Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people,” declared Richard Foster in his classic book, Celebration of Discipline. Calling spiritual disciplines the doorway to liberation, he classified them as – the inward disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting and study; – the outward disciplines of simplicity, solitude, submission and service; – and the corporate disciplines of confession, worship, guidance and celebration.
Dallas Willard calls spiritual disciplines an “ancient tradition of activities which are means of grace, ways of approaching and relating richly to God … activities in our power, things we can do, to meet God in such a way that we become able to do what we cannot do by direct effort.” Willard identifies two types of spiritual disciplines – those of abstinence (solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, and sacrifice) and those of engagement (study, worship celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, and submission).
Douglas Gregg, in his book, Disciplines of the Holy Spirit, refers to spiritual disciplines as “power connectors” to the presence of the Holy Spirit whose role is to transform us. The disciplines are seen as our gift of self as pliable clay to be remade by the hands of the Father, according to Scripture and by the Spirit. Yet, the disciplines themselves are not our goal – our aspiration is Christlikeness (Phil. 3:10). The disciplines do not change us – they position us for change! Without them, our growth will be stunted, dwarfed or non-existent. Their purpose is first, our “drawing near to God” by “disciplines of solitude” (solitude and silence, listening and guidance, prayer and intercession, study and meditation); then our “yielding to God” by “disciplines of surrender” (repentance and confession, yielding and submission, fasting and worship); and finally our “reaching out to others” by “disciplines of service” (fellowship, simplicity, service and witness).
This is the whole Christian life compacted – seeking God, surrendering to Him, and out of humility and deep dependence on Him, serving! Prayer, fasting, giving become more than prayer, fasting and giving. They represent a mentality, a lifestyle, a pathway to a disciplined, surrendered life of service.
 Dick Eastman, Intercessory Worship (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, a Division of Gospel Light, 2011), 32.
 Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (San Francisco: Harper, 1988), 1.
 Dallas Williard, “Spirituality: Going Beyond the Limits,” Christian Counseling Today, 4, 1 (1996), 18.
 Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988), 158.
 Siang-Yang Tan and Douglas Gregg, Disciplines of the Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997).
This is an excerpt from The Praying Church Handbook, Volume II – Personal and Family Prayer. This volume and the entire four volume set can be ordered at alivepublications.org.