Spiritual disciplines include, among others: regular prayer, fasting, vigil nights of prayer, prostration, being disciplined and taught by the word of God, receiving spiritual counsel, repentance, searching oneself, obeying the commandments of love and forgiveness, etc.
We know from the Scriptures that all the gifts of the New Testament which are granted to the believers are free gifts from God. They are the acts of the saving grace (Titus 2: 11). This grace is manifold as we read in 1Peter 4: 10 & 1Peter 5: 10 and is always available.
However, we need to prepare a suitable place inside our souls for this free and available grace; otherwise, we will only be able to receive a limited portion of this rich saving grace. In other words, we will stop at the first level of grace and not enter into the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3: 8). This in turn causes us to remain limited in the spiritual stature and the level of spiritual growth.
Therefore, we here need to emphasis an important truth and that is: these spiritual disciplines are not offered to God in order to receive grace because grace is free, but they are directed to one’s soul to prepare the soul to progressively receive grace after grace (John 1: 16). They are means through which the Holy Spirit works deeply and with power to purify the soul, sanctify her and transform her into the image of Christ.
Yet, we need continuity and commitment so that these spiritual disciplines may become a life pattern which protects us from slackness, fluctuations and being taken in by the traps of the devil and the deceitful desires of the world (2Timothy 2: 26; Ephesians 4: 22).
As we continue to follow these spiritual disciplines, we notice that our souls are broadened and sanctified; our minds are renewed; and the Holy Spirit overflows inside us filling our vessels with renewed filling and not just a one off experience of being filled by the Spirit. As a result, we become witnesses for Christ for the glory of His name (Ephesians 1: 6) and the salvation of the world (Mark 16: 15).
The purpose of the Christian life is the continuous and renewed filling of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5: 18), without which we cannot live a victorious life in the world or serve and witness to those around us. In the book of Acts, we read about this renewed filling in the context of the ministry of the apostles. We also read about it in the writings of the Church fathers, both the early ones and the contemporary ones, like St Macarious (4th century) and St Seraphim of Sarov (18th – 19th centuries).
Therefore, as disciples of Christ we need to learn the ‘art of spiritual disciplines’, as the fathers of the Church sometimes call it, in order to reach the ultimate goal of our Christian life which is: working out our salvation (Philippians 2: 12) and bearing witness of salvation to others around us.
For more references in this context, see: 1Corinthians 9: 24 – 27; 2Timothy 2: 3 – 5; 1Timothy 1: 18; 1Timothy 6: 12