Skip to content ↓

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

Book Reviews Collection cover image

It is a question I often receive: What books do you recommend for new Christians? There is a short list of books I would love for every Christian to read shortly after they put their faith in Christ: Jerry Bridge’s The Discipline of Grace and R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God, to name just a couple. Another one I recommend widely is Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. First published in 1991, the book has finally been expanded and updated in a second edition. It is better than ever.

Whitney bases the book around a simple command from 1 Timothy 4:7: “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” Whitney explains, “If your purpose is godliness—and godliness is your purpose if you are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, for He makes godliness your purpose—then how do you pursue that purpose? According to this verse, you “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” It is absolutely crucial that the Christian discipline himself to live a distinctly Christian life.

In the first chapter Whitney dives right into the concept of spiritual disciplines, explaining that they exist for the purpose of godliness. They do not save us and do not make God love us more; rather, they are the means God uses to conform us to Christ’s image. “The Spiritual Disciplines are those personal and interpersonal activities given by God in the Bible as the sufficient means believers in Jesus Christ are to use in the Spirit-filled, gospel-driven pursuit of godliness, that is, closeness to Christ and conformity to Christ.”

Through eleven chapters Whitney explains and unpacks ten important disciplines. He covers the disciplines of Bible intake (which receives two chapters), prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, stewardship, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling, and learning. As he does this, he provides a framework for living a God-glorifying Christian life.

The book has several notable strengths.

First, it is bounded by Scripture. It would be easy to go far beyond the limits of Scripture, and to make every good idea a biblical discipline. Whitney allows Scripture to speak and always submits to its authority. This is especially noteworthy since so many similar books tend to tip into mysticism or to advocate practices that are unbiblical. Whitney teaches nothing but what is modeled in Scripture. He advocates a sola scriptura spirituality.

Second, the book draws deeply from the Puritans and other Christians who have been committed to lives of godliness. Whitney pulls out many powerful quotes and illustrations drawn from days gone by.

Third, the book is broad, covering ten important disciplines ranging from those done in quiet and secrecy (fasting and solitude) to those done in public view (worship and evangelism). Through the eleven chapters, the reader will receive Bible-based guidance that will impact every area of life.

Fourth, the final chapter is a powerful call to persevere in these disciplines. If you are like me, you find it simple enough to maintain a discipline for a week or two, but then find your self-control lapsing and your old habits returning. These disciplines may bear some fruit if practiced for a week, but they will bear much better and much more lasting fruit if practiced over an entire lifetime.

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life was a book I read almost a decade ago—the first book I ever read on the subject of the spiritual disciplines. It proved foundational to my life and faith, and its lessons remain with me to this day. I am thrilled that there is now a second edition that has been both improved and expanded. I cannot commend it too highly.

Note: Dr. Whitney has recently begun to blog at The Center for Biblical Spirituality. It may be a good blog to begin following.


  • The Deconstruction of Christianity

    The Deconstruction of Christianity

    There is nothing new and nothing particularly unusual about apostasy—about people who once professed the Christian faith coming to deny it. From the early church to the present day, we have witnessed a long and sad succession of people walking away from Christianity and often doing so with expressions of anger, animosity, and personal superiority.…

  • A La Carte Friday 2

    A La Carte (February 2)

    A La Carte: When your spouse won’t join a solid church / The gospel gives us courage / The beautiful burden of caregiving / At work in his Word / Do I have a hard heart? / Surrendering rights for the sake of the gospel / and more.

  • A La Carte Thursday 1

    A La Carte (February 1)

    A La Carte: Vetting kids’ entertainment isn’t a one-and-done / Joni Eareckson Tada’s resilient joy in pain / Honor marriage / How can the church remain faithful in this current cultural climate? / What senior pastors should know about the younger generations / and more.

  • When God Gives Us a Platform

    When God Gives Us a Platform

    There are many ways we may respond to the sudden onrush of some new pain or the sudden onset of some fresh sorrow. There are many options set before us when health fails and uncertainty draws near, when wealth collapses and bankruptcy looms, when a loved one is taken and we are left alone. There…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (January 31)

    A La Carte: What are demons and how should we think about them? / It’s time to stop bagging out the “average church member” / Alistair Begg and the loving thing / The internal contradiction in transgender theories / Seeing in color / The sad relief / and more.

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (January 30)

    A La Carte: Evangelicals need a constructive vision / He’s with you, no matter what / Keeping singing the (whole) gospel / Abundant life in room 129 / On pastors and professors / Was Jesus confused by the cross? / and more.