As you delve deeper and deeper into spiritual disciplines the surprising thing you will learn is,
All disciplines are spiritual.
You are living in eternity right now and experiencing the Kingdom of God in your day is what will happen as you live a more disciplined life.
That is why Proverbs says, “The road to life is a disciplined life;”
And “Oh, why didn’t I do what they told me? Why did I reject a disciplined life? Why didn’t I listen to my mentors, or take my teachers seriously? My life is ruined! I haven’t one blessed thing to show for my life!” in Proverbs 5.
One of my favorite spiritual disciplines quotes is from William Law,
“The disciple will become a disciple when he determines to direct his time, regardless of how un-spiritual that thing he does in the time directed, this discipline will over time permeate all areas of his life.”
I learned this by accident when I was unknowingly practicing “spiritual disciplines.”
You have been practicing many of the disciplines already as well.
What these top discipline books will do for you is speed up the process of true and complete transformation into the image of Christ by giving you a clear roadmap.
They will help you define your path more clearly and come alongside helping you to see what to do next.
You’re already on your way,
These authors will be your mentors and teachers, enhancing the willingness and commitment that is in your heart to “obey everything I have commanded you” because you know, that is where real life, abundant life, is discovered.
Top 7 Spiritual Disciplines Books
|The Spirit of the Disciplines||Dallas Willard|
|Celebration of Discipline||Richard Foster|
|The Imitation of Christ||Thomas A Kempis|
|Adorning the Dark||Andrew Peterson|
|A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life||William Law|
|The Divine Conspiracy – Curriculum for Christlikeness||Dallas Willard|
|Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life||Donald Whitney|
1. The Spirit of the Disciplines – Dallas Willard
The subheading for this book is “Understanding how God changes lives” and on the back cover the title proclaims “How to Live as Jesus did”.
These catch-phrases are no false claims, Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines will show you how to get off the yo-yo of try and fail, like most are continually experiencing, and unlock abundant life.
True character formation will be the result of reading and implementing the methods discussed in this disciplines book. Who among us doesn’t want that?
In The Spirit of the Disciplines we find one of the best spiritual disciplines quotes of all time:
“Full participation in the life of God’s Kingdom and in the vivid companionship of Christ comes to us only through appropriate exercise in the disciplines for life in the spirit. And if this point can be made as convincingly as its truth and its importance deserves, the practical effects will be stunning. There will be a lifegiving revolution in our personal lives and in our world”
Want to experience the fruits of the spirit in your home and in your day? Love, joy, peace, self-control, etc.?
That is the fruit that comes from these “appropriate exercises” Willard lays out in the Spirit of Disciplines.
This is the first spiritual discipline book all disciples should read.
This practical theology book will help you to understand and live out what God has designed you to do and is calling you to live out in the earth, your “vocation”, your reason for being.
I’d call it the ultimate sales pitch to commit to walking in the spiritual disciplines every week.
Purchase the physical book on Amazon or a bookseller that supports local book stores and, if you are in the U.S., your library card and a Hoopla account will allow you to listen to it as well, for free.
2. Celebration of Discipline – Richard Foster
The Celebration of Disciplines is a straight-up reference book, explaining in 12-pages (chapter 1) how spiritual disciplines are the “Door to Liberation” and then moves right into the 12 spiritual disciplines Richard Foster chose to include in his monumental book.
The 12 spiritual disciplines chapters (you’ll have to see the surprising integration of two disciplines in one chapter!) are broken up into 3-categories.
- The Inward Disciplines
- The Outward Disciplines
- The Corporate Disciplines
Beginning with the longest chapter in the book meditation and ending with celebration.
“All the disciplines freely exercised, bring forth the doxology of celebration.” Richard Foster Celebration of Discipline
It is a great book to read from cover to cover, he doesn’t say this but I think Foster chose 12 chapters on purpose.
A better way to study the Celebrations of Disciplines is to glance through the table of contents, pick a discipline and begin practicing that discipline for a month before you add on the next one.
In 12-months you’ll be a pretty insightful and effective disciple of Christ, experiencing in your personality the doxology of celebration which is a moment by moment living in sabbath rest.
I’ll bet you a dollar (not really but it would be fun!) you will be a new person.
3. Adorning the Dark – Andrew Peterson
Peterson invites you to a lifelong discovery of how to adorn this “dark” journey and launch a life of salt and light.
I hope that someday Andrew Peterson finds this post and sees his name next to, William Law, Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Thomas a Kempis, and Donald Whitney.
I am SO excited to read every practical theology book Peterson publishes in his lifetime because of how impactful of a book he has written in Adorning the Dark.
I don’t think he even knows what he has written for you.
In his acknowledgments, Peterson says this, “As I’ve worked on this book my three children kept coming to mind as prime examples of the kind of creative life I want to live in Christ. They’ve taught me so much”
Then goes on to show how each of his three children in their twenties or so have found their callings and are living them and how it encourages him.
He then says this “By the way people have asked Jamie and me how we fostered their talent and to be honest, I don’t know”
The sub-heading of the book is “Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making” but what Peterson has actually written is…
The training wheels to live the creative and fulfilled life by embracing and overcoming fear, and the discipline needed to discover and walk in the pouring out life of love that God has put inside of you to live.
I can’t recommend this book you will likely finish in an afternoon highly enough.
A disclaimer so you’re not frustrated if you purchase this book based on my recommendation,
In Chapter 9 “Serving the Work” he opens with this,
“If you’ve never read Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water, put down this book and don’t come back to it until you have… because once you read her book there’s not much point in reading this one.”
I have read both and disagree with this statement wholeheartedly.
Madeleine L’Engle’s book is a game-changer and I highly recommend it, but the way Peterson crafted his book, it is part his story, part philosophy/theology, and part practical makes it a really powerful read.
Especially under the bucket of a best book on discipline.
De-bunk the myth that you are not “a creative”, learn how to launch a fulfilled life of “Christian” vocation, and see the process via discipline and commitment in Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson.
4. A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life – William Law
The whole aim of A Serious Call is to show you how to steward two of your most important kingdom assets.
In order to bring these two under submission to God and building the kingdom of God instead of your kingdom requires discipline.
The whole book is incredible but the most valuable spiritual discipline chapters are chapter 14 and chapter 15.
- Chapter 14 is on prayer and all of the work (disciplines) that go into living a life of prayer.
- Chapter 15 is about singing Psalms. Worship yes, but how and why this singing and chanting the Psalms discipline will transform your mind and body.
Dallas Willard says Chapter 15 is the best writing on spiritual disciplines ever!
He teaches from this book in this video starting at about minute 25, it is a deep and profound talking out about this classic.
There are many versions of this 250-year-old book, I have enjoyed this one on Amazon.
The only thing I don’t like about it are the notes at the bottom of some pages by J.H. Overton, I just skip over them! And, this version is cheaper!
5. The Imitation of Christ – Thomas A Kempis
What if you could read for 14ish minutes a day and have your mind blown by entering into a higher world through words on a paper?
What if almost every sentence you read, an expounding on that sentence could fill an entire blog post and there would not be any fluff?
That is what you will experience in this “daily devotional”. I kind of shudder to use that word ever, let alone for this book!
I learned of this book in Foster’s Celebration of Disciplines book and I could not be more pleased to pick it up on his recommendation.
The Imitation of Christ is not “technically” a spiritual discipline book, I would call it more of a soul disciplines book.
But because of the format and the depth, in order to pull half of the meat from this book would require more than discipline, devotion.
I leave this book by my coffee station and when waiting for water to boil, coffee to drip, or whatever else I am waiting on in the coffee prep process, I pick it up and read a section every a.m. and do not know if that discipline will ever be replaced with another book for my entire life.
The Imitation of Christ is deserving to be a top seller for another 650 years!
6. The Divine Conspiracy – Dallas Willard
Holy cow, how do I even begin to talk about the Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard.
While not a “spiritual disciplines” book per se, it is more a what is the Kingdom of God and what does that mean for now.
The end of the book is a 68-page section called “A Curriculum for Christlikeness”.
In this powerful curriculum, Dallas Willard reveals what are the four most important spiritual disciplines and how to start living them out.
Here’s what he says about these disciplines,
“But if these four are pursued with intelligence and prayer, whatever else is needed will certainly come along.”
I kind of wanted to put this book first because it discusses only four disciplines and that is a less overwhelming place to start but the truth is…
This book is a beast.
436 pages explaining how the church has been flying upside down, how to turn it right side up, and ending with “the restoration of all things”, “which is Shalom”
“Peace as wholeness, as fullness of function, as the restful but unending creativity involved in a cosmos wide, co-operative pursuit of a created order that continuously approaches but never reaches the limitless goodness and greatness of the triune personality of God, its source.”
Nuff said, lol. Buy it here and read it 10 times, I’m on number 3ish and refer to it almost weekly.
7. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life – Donald Whitney
While I actually do not recommend Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, it is a top spiritual discipline book because of the depth of coverage that it delivers on 12 spiritual disciplines.
While many of the disciplines are covered in Foster’s and Willard’s books, Whitney goes into evangelism, stewardship, journaling, and perseverance as a spiritual discipline.
I just think this book falls short, evangelism (as opposed to making disciples), Bible Intake (as opposed to study), just these names I believe convey a lack of depth.
Given the positive reviews it has received on Amazon and the focus on perseverance in the last chapter, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life enters this list.
To me though, the chapters seemed overly long and dull, like there was a word or page count given by the publisher that Whitney had to fulfill.
You can read my full review of this book by clicking here.
Pick one, pick two, or pass on them all and grab a fiction book on your shelf you have wanted to read but felt you need something more spiritual and when you commit the time over the next two weeks to finish it, you will be engaging in a baffling spiritual discipline of beauty.
The magic wand I would waive for you is that you would just start something and quit researching and trying to figure out the best books.
That is a game Lewis’s Wormwood wants you to keep playing in Screwtape Letters,
“You should always try to make the patient abandon the people, or food, or books he really likes in favor of the ‘best’ people, the ‘right’ food, the ‘important’ books.
I have known a human defended from strong temptation to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions”
Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
Just exercising solitude only (one of the few spiritual disciplines discussed in every one of these books) is enough to cure our culture of its lonely and lost feelings and convince every Christian in his or her mind that they are a saint and have meaning and purpose.
Then add in Willard’s conversation about money and discussing if poverty is spiritual in the spirit of disciplines.
When the discipline of direction and control of those two, solitude and money, is embodied in a small percentage of current disciples, it would shake our world and make Pentecost look like a rookie opening band to a seasoned headliner.