Spiritual Practice


Steve Matthews

If you’ve ever been to a gym, taken an exercise class, or played a sport, you’ve probably done your share of sit-ups. Sit-ups are one way to strengthen our “core”—muscles in the abdomen, hips, pelvis, and back. Fitness experts agree that having a strong core improves our balance and makes it easier to increase strength and flexibility in other parts of our body.

I would like to have a strong core and a six-pack—without all the sit-ups. Of course, if I want to meet my fitness goals, practice and commitment are essential. Practice and commitment are also important in my spiritual life. Strength, flexibility, balance—these words used to describe the benefits of a strong core might also be used to describe the benefits of consistent spiritual practice. God does not love us less if we fail to achieve perfection in our faith, but I find that I am a more joyful and generous person when I am attending to God’s movement in my life. When I respond to God in life-giving ways, I am more balanced, strong, and flexible—more myself.


Strengthening Our Spiritual Core

What habits or practices might help us develop a sturdier spiritual core? In Christianity (and in other religions), several practices appear rather consistently. These include sabbath-keeping, worshipping (both privately and communally), and building a community of trusted guides and companions.

Sabbath-keeping is more than going to church. Sabbath time is holy rest—not only rest from secular activities, but also resting in a deep awareness of God’s presence in our lives. During times of sabbath, we set a different rhythm that restores us in body and soul.

Worship is another practice that develops a spiritual core. Communal worship reminds us that we are more than individuals. When we come together in prayer and praise around the table, we find God in one another and in our communion. Jesus also reminds us that private worship is important. He often withdrew alone to deserted places to pray (Luke 5:16).

Finally, we all need trusted companions to hold us accountable for practicing our faith, to encourage us, and to nudge us toward God’s love.



What practices help you develop your spiritual core, making you more balanced, strong, and flexible? Which of these practices come easy? Which ones feel more strenuous?

Jesus says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10, NRSV). Sometimes God’s abundance is obvious to us. But our core power helps us to see hidden graces even amid hardship. By strengthening our spiritual core, we increase our awareness of God’s love, making us more responsive to God’s invitations and better able to receive and be transformed by God’s abundant love.


During the next week, commit to two “core power” practices—one that comes easily, and one that is more challenging. Notice how focusing on your core power affects other areas of your life. Consider sharing your experience with a friend or mentor.

Steve Matthews was a youth minister for over 15 years. He is now a spiritual director, a coach working with redeveloping churches, and Executive Director of the South Coast Mission Hub, a collaborative of churches sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.

—from devozine (July/August 2018). Copyright © 2018 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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