Spiritual discipline is an invitation. We are invited to engage in practices that pattern our lives around the rhythms of God’s grace offered in Jesus Christ. According to Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:29-30, he welcomes us to join him by taking upon ourselves a “light and easy yoke.” The yoke is light and easy because Jesus himself already carries it. What we call spiritual disciplines are simply those practices that help conform our lives to Jesus, carrying the yoke with him.
This light and easy yoke is what it means to follow Jesus, to be his disciple. But our discipleship is not a posture of our intellect alone. Acquiring more information does not insure we are experiencing the kind of life that Jesus intended. Spiritual discipline is what we exercise to bring body, mind, and heart together for the purposes of following our Lord on this spiritual journey.
The practices of spiritual discipline help us to direct our hearts and minds to God, or, as Robert Mulholland has written, we rely on such practices to “release ourselves to let God do what God wants to do” (M. Robert Mulholland Jr., Shaped by the Word, 117). They realign our purposes and priorities with the reality of Christ’s life and values and not according to our own agenda or calculation.
This is the essence of our discipleship, but it is also the essence of our spiritual formation. We are being formed on our spiritual journeys in Christ, and spiritual discipline gives us opportunities to yield ourselves to God for our transformative journey to continue.