Many folks consider the start of the new year the perfect time to make a change. Next week, gyms will be full, brand new Pelotons will be broken in, meals will be prepped, and couch-to-5K plans will be started. If you’re on the lookout for something new to start in 2022, let me propose a few ideas.


Throughout church history, Christians have practiced certain habits called spiritual disciplines. Both the word “spiritual” and the word “discipline” could mean many things to different people. Author and biblical spirituality professor Donald S. Whitney simply explains spiritual disciplines as “those practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are habits of devotion and experiential Christianity that have been practiced by the people of God since biblical times.” These are practices, or disciplines, that offer us avenues by which we experience the presence of God. The goal of spiritual disciplines is a deeper spiritual life, a deeper relationship with the Lord. The goal is to experience more of Jesus.


As helpful as it would be to develop habits of health or efficiency to kick off the new year, how life-giving would it be for believers in Christ to embrace spiritual disciplines as habits of devotion? 


Different authors list and categorize the spiritual disciplines in different ways. For a starting point, here are 5 disciplines that consistently show up on each list and, more importantly, are modeled by Jesus during his time on earth.



Think of prayer as exhaling: it is absolutely essential to the Christian life. Prayer is more than just asking God for what we want; it’s our chance to speak to him, to spend time with him, to cry out to him, and to listen to him. Jesus himself spent significant chunks of his time in prayer and took special care to teach his disciples to pray. Like the disciples, many modern Christians struggle with prayer. Just like any discipline, the more you do it, the easier it gets. 


Practice incorporating spontaneous prayer into your day. When you feel frustrated, scared, or uncertain, try praying. When something awesome happens, stop and pray. Planning specific times to pray each day can be helpful too. Try praying when you wake up each morning, in the car, on your lunch break, or before bedtime as a family. Join one of our weekly prayer meetings to pray with other believers. 


If you’re not sure what to pray, the most tried and true method is to pray scripture. Start with Psalm 1 and work your way through one psalm each day, praying the words of scripture back to God. That’s 150 days of prayer, and when you finish, you can start over again.


Bible reading

If prayer is exhaling, bible reading is inhaling. In the Gospels, we see that from his youth, Jesus delighted in spending time with his Father in the Scriptures. When he spoke, it seemed as if Old Testament prophecies, proverbs, and psalms just oozed out of him. As believers, we must have our hearts formed according to the Word of God. We can engage with God in his Word in a few different ways: memorization, study, and meditation.


Some of us haven't memorized scripture since Vacation Bible School, considering it a remediated form of learning and believing ourselves beyond such simplistic practices. An old proverb says, “Repetition is the mother of all learning.” Memorization isn’t where our learning should stop, but it would not be a bad thing for us to have the words of scripture engraved in our minds and on our hearts. The study of scripture requires us to engage with the Lord in his word using our minds to learn from him, not merely about him. It involves reading, rereading, taking notes, and asking questions. The study of scripture often leads to meditation on scripture, lingering over the truth of God and asking the Holy Spirit to bury his word deep in our hearts. Meditation can motivate our studies, and study enhances our meditation.


If you’re not sure where to begin, try starting with the gospel of John, reading 1 chapter each day until you finish the entire book. Before you read, take a moment to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand his word. After you’ve read the chapter, choose a verse to spend a few minutes thinking about and praying through. If you want some support from other believers, join a community group and dive into our study of the book of Ephesians with us!


Silence and solitude

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus often slipped away to a quiet place to be alone. Before and after major moments of public ministry, Jesus would withdraw to spend time with the Father. Our world is loud, chaotic, and stressful. Stepping away to be alone and quiet allows us to listen to God and be present with him. The point is to disconnect from distraction and be with the Lord. It may be unsettling to be alone with your thoughts and without your phone in your hand, but over time, you’ll grow more comfortable just being in the presence of God. Spending uninterrupted time with the Lord in this way can lead to a deeper knowledge of yourself and a deeper love for the Lord. 


Start with a short time alone, maybe 10 minutes on the back porch after the kids go to bed, or a quiet moment at your bedside before starting the day. Try taking a walk alone after work or on your lunch break. Instead of flipping on the television in the evening, skip an episode and instead sit quietly on the couch. It will definitely take some planning and thought to incorporate this discipline into your week, but shutting out the noise of the world and focusing on being with the Father is nourishing to the soul.



According to Dallas Willard, “To worship is to see God as worthy, to ascribe great worth to him.” When we see the character of God in Scripture and experience the presence of God in prayer, worship is our response. This can happen privately, as we spend time alone with God, but also publicly, as we gather each week with other believers. In John 4, Jesus tells the woman at the well that “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” We worship the one true God with passion because of who he is.


Practicing the spiritual discipline of worship may mean that your bible reading time ends with you proclaiming “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts! The whole earth is full of his glory (Isaiah 6:3)!” Maybe listening to music or being in nature helps you worship. Growing in this discipline certainly includes regularly attending and actively participating in a weekly church gathering. While you’re there, pray with sincerity, talk with and encourage other believers, be attentive to the preaching of the Word, sing like you mean it, and worship in spirit and truth.



In scripture, fasting refers to abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. While many people fast in various ways for health or weight loss, it sounds almost barbaric to ask people to fast for biblical reasons. After his baptism and before the start of his public ministry, Jesus himself spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting. If Jesus took time to do this, there’s got to be something to it. Like the other practices we’ve discussed, fasting is not easy, but it is good for us when practiced with sincerity. Richard J. Foster argues that the primary purpose of biblical fasting is to focus our hearts on the Lord, that our fasting should always be partnered with the worship of the Lord. 


Now, we probably shouldn't jump right into a 40 day fast, but as we wait for his return, it’s understood that some of our time will be spent fasting and praying. If you’ve never fasted before, start by fasting through breakfast or lunch. When you would normally eat, spend time alone in prayer instead, confessing your weakness to the Lord and listening to him. Another option is to fast for 24 hours, from dinner one day until dinner the next day. It may even be helpful to fast one day each week. Fasting as a family or community group can be a powerful experience as well. 


There are certainly other disciples worth exploring, like giving, Sabbath, evangelism, serving, hospitality, celebration, simplicity, confession, meditation, and even journaling. The point is not to grow adept at a variety of spiritual practices; the spiritual disciplines are not an end in themselves, but rather a means to an end. All of these practices are means of grace meant to drive us deeper into the heart of God. The goal of each discipline is for us to experience Jesus and grow in holiness. Richard J. Foster says it like this: “The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us.”


So, if you’re looking for a “new you” this new year, why not start by seeking the Lord through spiritual disciplines, allowing him to change you from the inside out?


*Some folks, due to health reasons, should not fast. Talk to your doctor if you’re unsure if fasting would be safe for you.


Need help getting started with spiritual disciplines? Email or


Helpful resources:

Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer