Dallas Willard Spiritual Disciplines and Formation Definitions

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You can view a full list of Dallas Willard's definitions at soulshepherding.org

Spiritual Disciplines

  • Daily "Quiet Time" as the method for spiritual growth is like trying to take a shower one drop at a time! It's inefficient. For many people their inconsistencies plague them with guilt. It's much more helpful to have periodic extended times of being immersed in God.

  • Time is made, not found.

  • Disciplines are activities within our power that enable us to accomplish what we cannot do by direct effort because we meet with the actions of God (grace) with us. The effect of discipline is to enable us to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done (e.g., we develop a heart-engaging habit.) There is no complete list of disciplines for the spiritual life but there are some main ones to learn.

  • Don't Try --- Train. Trying harder just gets you more of what you have now. The key to change is an intelligent application of the will in a spiritual formation training program with Jesus.

  • Abstinence and Engagement counterbalance and support one another --- they are the outbreathing and inbreathing of our spiritual lives. Disciplines of abstinence counteract tendencies to sins of commission and disciplines of engagement counteract tendencies to sins of omission. A proper abstinence breaks the hold of improper engagements so that the soul can be properly engaged in and by God.

Disciplines of Abstinence

  • Disciplines of Abstinence are ways we abstain to some degree and for some time from the satisfaction of what we generally regard as normal and legitimate desires.

  • Solitude is choosing to step free from human relationships for a lengthy period of time, in isolation or anonymity, to make room for occupation of our lives by God. It is to do nothing and not try to make anything happen. It is the primary spiritual discipline which enables us to learn other disciplines (e.g., Sabbath, fasting, being unhurried, study, and prayer). Solitude facilitates ministry because it enables clarity and resolution of purpose and strength to avoid distraction.

  • Silence completes solitude. It is not an absence but a presence, a positive reality, in which we experience in quiet or are in a place with only natural sounds (e.g., win in trees, birds, water running, heart beating, breathing).

  • Fasting is abstaining in some significant way from food and possibly from drink. (We may also fast from media or other things.) Fasting is feasting --- on our Lord and doing his will. The function of fasting is to teach you how to be sweet and kind when you don't get what you want.

  • Frugality is abstaining from using money or goods at our disposal, refusing to gratify our desires for status, glamor, or luxury.

  • Chastity is to turn away from dwelling upon or engaging in the sexual dimension of our relationships to others --- even our spouse for an agreed upon time period.

  • Secrecy is to abstain from causing our good deeds and qualities to be known.

  • Sacrifice is to abstain from the possession or enjoyment of what is necessary for our living by forsaking the security of meeting our needs with what is in our hands. It is total abandonment to God.

Disciplines of Engagement

  • Disciplines of Engagement are designed to re-connect us with God and the Kingdom of the Heavens.

  • Study is engaging our minds with an objective order, especially the Word of God, to take that order into ourselves, enabling us to be "in sync" with reality in a way that is good for us and others. Study combines with meditation. The study of God in his Word and works opens the way for the disciplines of worship and celebration.

  • Worship is to engage ourselves with, dwell upon, and express the greatness, beauty, and goodness of God through thought and the use of words, rituals, and symbols.

  • Celebration completes worship because we enjoy ourselves, our life, our world, *in conjunction with *our faith and confidence in God's greatness, beauty, and goodness. Typically this means that we come together with others who know God  to eat, drink, to sing and dance, and to relate stories of God's action in our lives.

  • Service is engaging our goods and strength in the active promotion of the good of others and the causes of God in our world. (Often we may serve another simply as an act of love and righteousness, not as a discipline to enhance our abilities to follow Christ.)

  • Prayer is talking with God about what we're thinking and doing together; it is co-laboring with God to accomplish the good purposes of his kingdom. Prayer almost always involves other disciplines and spiritual activities (e.g., study, meditation, worship, solitude, or fasting). Don't seek to develop a prayer life --- seek a praying life.

  • Fellowship is engaging in common activities of worship, study, prayer, celebration, and service with other disciples of Jesus.

  • Confession is to let trusted others know our deepest weaknesses and failures to nourish our faith in God's loving provision for our needs.

  • Submission is dong what others think best. It is humbly setting aside our own ideas as supreme and our own will as ultimate, totally eliminating self-promotion. It is the highest level of fellowship. It applies the cross in our own lives, freeing us of the burden of having our own way and being all wise in our own eyes.