I was reading about Renovaré and came across the "twelve spiritual disciplines": meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration

My first thought is that the list almost sounds contrived (being exactly 12). However, when I look at each one, I can see how each of these things might be able to help us grow spiritually.

Is this list found in the Bible somewhere or was a contrived list? Is this the only twelve items that can help you grow (or even the "top twelve")?

Are there any one of the twelve items that may be contentious or can they all truly be ways to grow in faith?

More info at their website

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    Just because each item might help you grow spiritually doesn't mean the list isn't contrived. I can think of many more things to put on such a list: Fellowship, thankfulness, evangelism, reconciliation... Google produces dozens of such contrived lists, with any number of items on them :) – Flimzy Sep 27 '11 at 15:36
  • @Flimzy That's what I was thinking about, too. I meant to put that in the original question. I've edited it to include the question about the fact that there's only twelve. – Richard Sep 27 '11 at 16:03
  • @Flimzy: You ought to make that comment an answer and get rep for it. – Mason Wheeler Sep 27 '11 at 17:43
  • @MasonWheeler: I don't feel like it really answers the question though... But maybe I'll flesh it out a bit when I have time :) – Flimzy Sep 28 '11 at 0:38

The twelve items you mention are not found as a list anywhere in the Bible. However that does not mean they are contrived. They are, I believe, very ancient and proven over a long period. I don't believe that they were ever intended to be an exhaustive list.

Each of the disciplines can be justified with biblical references, and they are definitely "biblically sound". I can provide references if necessary, but the Renovare site you link to, or Richard Foster's book, will give a foundation much better than I could.


When asking if a discipline or practice is biblically sound the key question is not about the name of the discipline, but rather how that discipline is carried out or implemented.

The Bible speaks to many of these directly so the best test would be to identify the applicable passages and test the practice under consideration against the principles identified. A basic example I can relate is prayer.

In Luke 11:1-13 the 12 disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. Here is the passage:

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread, 4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”

5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Lk 11:1–13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

After reading this passage we now have one biblical standard by which to examine a person's praying practice. In Jesus' model prayer we see:

  1. Praise and worship
  2. Asking for God's will to be done
  3. Asking the Lord for what we need to live
  4. Ask for forgiveness
  5. Ask for the ability to forgive others
  6. Ask for protection from temptation

Jesus then goes to speak about the reasoning behind the prayer, why we are to ask for God to grant us certain things.

This is a prime passage to use to determine if you are praying properly and in a way that pleases the Lord. Now, as a word of warning as in most things covered in the Bible this is not the only place a topic is addressed. We must consider the Bible's commentary on a topic wholly and consistently. In trying to answer questions like these we cannot simply pick a choose what passages we use.

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