In the hustle and bustle of modern life, in the “too busy” attitude of many Christ-followers, it can be easy to disregard the practices of spiritual discipline. We may think they’re archaic or better suited to a mountain retreat rather than everyday living. We may think our days are too segmented or that spiritual disciplines are for those in “full-time ministry.” We may even question their benefit for spiritual growth.
But here’s the thing…
Going to the gym is not enough to get you physically fit. You have to actually use the equipment or participate in a class. Exercise isn’t just for health nuts and personal trainers; it’s for everyone. And if you want even more physical improvement, you have to make small healthy decisions throughout the day like taking the stairs or eating a salad.
Small everyday habits
foster lasting change.
In the same way, sitting in a church pew won’t make you a stronger Christian. You have to participate in the corporate disciplines (the things we do together) but also apply the private disciplines (things you do on your own). Just like you could go to a health spa, there may be wonderful opportunities for a spiritual retreat where you get to focus on spiritual growth, but those times won’t change you—the health spa or the spiritual retreat—if you don’t practice them in your regular life. Small everyday habits, however, can foster lasting change, both physical and spiritual.
Paul told Timothy, “Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1Timothy 4:7b-8). Check out 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, which I wrote about last week, for more on Paul’s parallel between physical and spiritual training.
What follows are some suggested practices for spiritual discipline specially designed for our time in the car. For our purposes today and next week, I’ve taken a list of disciplines compiled by Bible.org from the writings of Dallas Willard and Richard Foster, both respected, evangelical theologians. Here’s the link to that list. It has explanations, in case you aren’t familiar with any of these terms.
How can you use this list?
Choose to concentrate on one discipline this week or try something different each day. Like working out weak muscles, the more difficult disciplines are probably the ones you need to practice the most! I’ve included a verse for meditation with each discipline. Feel free to add your own verses and to share more ideas in the comments at the bottom of this page.
This week, we look at the disciplines of abstinence. That means the focus is on letting go of something or avoiding something. Next week, we’ll consider the disciplines of activity.
Spiritual Disciplines of Abstinence for the Car
Solitude – Being alone in the car is a good start, but make a point of that solitude. Silence your phone and put it in the glove box or somewhere out of sight. If you need music, tune the radio to something without a lot of talking. Center your thoughts on God’s presence with you. Let him direct your thoughts…not to worry, but to worship.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. -Mark 1:35
Silence – This one usually begins with solitude, but if your children are sleeping or distracted, you might also find a few minutes of silence. Put away your phone as above but also turn off the radio. Practicing silence also means quieting your mind. We have to teach our minds to stay present and still. This is not a time to unload your concerns to the Lord but to seek contentment in His sufficiency and sovereignty.
The fruit of [God’s] righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. -Isaiah 32:17
Fasting – Delay your drive-thru destination for a couple of exits or completely skip your coffee stop. But don’t distract yourself from the hunger or the caffeine craving. Instead, use the feelings to remind your body that Christ is more important than food. Depend on God to meet your need for food or caffeine in other ways, even if it’s just for ten minutes.
Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. -Psalm 63:3
Frugality – Turn off the heating or a/c for the duration of your drive. Why? Because frugality is about learning to live with less, and temperature-manipulated air is not essential. (Maybe don’t do this on the hottest or coldest days of the year, when it could be dangerous.) Like fasting, use the discomfort to remind your mind and body of God’s place of priority in your life.
Brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. -Romans 8:12-13
Chastity (sexual purity/abstinence) – Determine a period of time in which you will not listen to music with suggestive lyrics. If there’s a provocative billboard on your route, intentionally look elsewhere when it comes into view. If a sexual TV or movie scene often pops into your head, practice taking every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and replacing that thought with praise. Pray for your spouse (or future spouse), especially for sexual purity and faithfulness. By the way, sexual purity isn’t just for the unmarried.
There are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it. -Matthew 19:12b
Secrecy is action
Secrecy – As your drive, ask God to show you a charity to support. Then, when you arrive at your destination, use your cellphone to make an anonymous donation to that charity. Many charities have special text messages that automatically donate a small, specified amount to their cause through your service provider. Another option: pay for the order of the person behind you in the drive-thru line. Someone did this for us once, and it was such a delightful surprise blessing!
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. -Matthew 6:3-4a
Sacrifice – Intentionally let another car cut in front of you as traffic backs up, especially the one that zoomed to the front of the line instead of merging with everyone else. Leave the closest parking space for someone else and take one further from the door for yourself even though it means more walking.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. -Philippians 2:3
Come back next week for ideas on how to apply the active disciplines even while driving down the road! In the meantime…
Have any suggestions for practicing these spiritual disciplines in the car? Please share in the comments below! Did you try one of these suggestions? What happened? Join the conversation!