Friday, January 29, 2016
Book Review: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
Since reading Donald Whitney's book on prayer last fall, I've been wanting to read his earlier book on spiritual disciplines. What I most loved about his book on prayer was that it was passionately practical, extremely straightforward, and ENCOURAGING. It approached the subject of prayer honestly, the fact that most Christians struggle--have struggled, will struggle--with prayer, with the act of daily prayer. It was a book that built-you-up and supported you. It was just a life-changing book. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, however, takes a different approach. For the record, it was written at least two decades before his newest book on prayer. I wouldn't say I felt encouraged or supported after reading the book. Instead, I'd say I felt discouraged, overwhelmed, and not knowing HOW anyone would ever truly apply the "practical" aspects found in each and every chapter. I wouldn't go so far as to say that Whitney makes the disciplines an aspect of earning one's salvation, or earning God's attention or approval. Far from it. I get the idea that Whitney understands--grasps--the concept of grace. But surely there is a more reader-friendly approach to spiritual disciplines to help believers learn and grow.
You might get the impression, I didn't like or enjoy the book. That isn't true. I did. In parts. A chapter or two at a time. I loved his two chapters on Bible reading. One focused more on hearing and reading the Bible. The other focused more on studying and meditating on the Bible. (He includes, I believe, SIXTEEN methods of meditating on Scripture.) Both were great chapters. I also enjoyed his chapter on prayer, though, it wasn't nearly as good as the book he's recently written on the subject. I liked that he recommended reading theology as a way to grow spiritually.
So what does the book cover besides bible-reading and prayer? It has chapters on worship, evangelism, serving in the church and community, stewardship both of your time and your money, fasting (yes, fasting which he urges can't be skipped over), silence and solitude, journaling, learning (reading theology), and perseverance.
One thing I definitely appreciated was Whitney quoting other believers--Puritans, Spurgeon, etc.
Overall, I think the book makes some valid points, and offers a few practical tips on how to become more disciplined spiritually. But read cover-to-cover, even taking a week to do so, will more likely overwhelm you than encourage you.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible