Discipline Thyself

Yesterday I went to the funeral service for a friend and mentor of mine.  Over the course of his life he was a Benedictine Monk, a Roman Catholic priest, an Episcopal deacon, priest and bishop.  He was also, to put it mildly, a very wise and holy man.


During the sermon at the funeral service the preacher reminded us of a spiritual practice that my mentor had undertaken every day of his adult life:  he got up before dawn and prayed.   Sometimes he prayed for hours at a time.  He had mentioned once that he prayed for each of his students by name every day and asking God’s guidance and blessing for each of us.  He said this spiritual discipline was a hold over from his monastic days, and one that he could never give up because he loved praying for us and simply spending time with God.


At first glance there may not seem to be many moments where we can “fit in” anything else into our busy lives, certainly not something as seemingly heavy duty as a spiritual discipline.  However busy we think we are though, finding a couple of minutes in our day to become more closely connected with God will become some of the most important and precious time we spend.  After you get into your discipline you’ll find how much you get back from those few moments you set aside to spend time with God as you nurture and grow your faith every day (which is an essential component of being a Christian–see BCP p. 304-5).


At Get Fed this past Wednesday the six-week class I’ve been teaching on “Living your Faith Monday through Saturday” wrapped up.  We discussed some of the electronic resources that are available to us that make DOING a spiritual discipline easier and even more enjoyable than one might expect.


Before beginning a spiritual discipline there are some basic concepts to consider:


1.  Baby Steps.  Undertaking something like a spiritual discipline takes a series of small steps.  Imagine you want to run a marathon.  Currently you do some walking, maybe run a day or so a week (much like you go to church and pray once a week)…you can’t go from running a half mile a week to a full 26+ mile marathon right off the bat.  You have to work at gaining stamina, strength, endurance.  The same thing goes for spiritual disciplines.  My friend who could pray uninterrupted for hours at a time didn’t just start off that way, he worked at praying over years of time.


2.  Find a time that works for you and stick to it.  For my friend, that time was before dawn.  For others the commute into work is a perfect time to think, pray, connect with God.  Wherever and whenever you decide is the right time for you to undertake your spiritual discipline stick to that time that place–you are creating holy time and space and that is important; important enough to have it’s own location and time.


3.  Start with a set amount of time.  Much like point one above, start with a period of time that you’ll try this discipline of connecting with God.  Advent is coming up and those four weeks before Christmas are a PERFECT time to try a new discipline.  There is a defined start and end time.  After Christmas take a look back and evaluate what you tried, how faithful you were to your discipline, where did things seem to “click” and where did you feel that things didn’t go as well as you’d have liked.


4.  Expect to encounter God.  The whole point of doing a spiritual discipline is that our relationship with God will become stronger, closer, more intimate.  The best news of all is that God wants the very same thing.  God is waiting for you and you have to expect that you will find God.


Here’s the good news:  there are dozens and dozens of applications, websites, email blasts that can help make undertaking a spiritual discipline fairly easy. Here are my favorite sites, apps, and email blasts.  Take a look and see which one speaks to you, or that you think would fit into your life, and go for it!  Also, if you know of others who might enjoy doing this with you–family, friends, co-workers, etc. please pass this along to them.  Often doing a spiritual discipline with someone else makes for a much richer and meaningful experience for both people.


d365:  The message is easy to digest yet invites us to go deeper with our faith; the app, website and email blasts are simple to navigate; and often they have seasonal versions (they’ll have one version especially for Advent).  The format and themes of the devotion are: Pause, Listen, Think, Pray, Go.  Here is the d365 for today.  You can download the app, sign up for the daily email or navigate through today’s devotional from this page.


eMeditations from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Alexandria, VA:  These meditations come from a partnership with Forward Movement and offer a daily reflection on a verse of scripture.  The reflections come from theologians, priests, lay people and span almost a century of thought about how Holy Scripture integrates and informs our lives as Christians.  Here’s the eMeditation from today.


Brother Give Us A Word:  The monks at the Society of St. John the Evangelist write a daily short, thought-provoking meditation.  You can subscribe to receive their email blast.  Often I’ve found that I come back to the question or observation the author makes at several times throughout the day.  Here is the one for today (you can subscribe from the link on this page).


Pray as You Go:  This spiritual discipline is a podcast that’s available as an app but is also online.  The format follows a set pattern that will guide you through mediation, music, scripture and questions to keep in mind throughout the day.  Each day’s recording is about 12 minutes long, perfect for a commute, a lunch hour, or start to the day.  Here is the link for today’s Pray as You Go (you can sign up or download the app as well).


I hope that these resources are helpful as you consider undertaking a spiritual discipline and nurture your relationship with God.  As I said above, they are only a the tip of a HUGE iceberg of such resources.  If you have one you love that I’ve not mentioned here that you think others would enjoy, by all means share it with us by making a comment to this post.


With God’s Peace and Blessing,



About matthewhanisian

Associate Rector at St. Alban's Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C.
This entry was posted in The Rev. Matthew R. Hanisian and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Discipline Thyself

  1. Peter Spalding says:

    It sounds like you attended the funeral of my friend Mark Dyer. We became friends at VTS when we learned that we had both served in India, Mark in Calcutta with Mother Theresa, me in New Delhi with the State Department. Mark became the unofficial chaplain of the Marines assigned to the Consulate in Calcutta. I was the Marine’s supervisor at the Embassy. Mark was special and I truly respected him. By the way, I just signed up after reading the d365 post for today. Thanks for all you do for St. Alban’s.

  2. Kristie Hassett says:

    Matthew, thanks for sharing these great resources! I love the Forward Movement website. This has morning prayer, noon prayer, etc., depending on the time of day. Since I have begun visiting this website daily (well, I miss once in a while, but not often), I believe I am much more in tune with God, and (I hope) a better person.

  3. Carolyn Martin says:

    Flunking Sainthood, by Jana Reiss– a humorous and encouraging read for those of us who begin a new discipline with the best intentions and then fail miserably…

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