Rule of Life

An Introduction to the Rule of Life

Most of us desire to live a well-ordered life that reflects what we truly believe about ourselves, the world and God. Yet it is not uncommon for us to move through our minutes, days, months and years with one area or more consuming most of our energy, leaving little time for the things that matter, leaving us off-kilter and depleted. In an attempt to reconcile our beliefs with our lifestyle, we figure out ways to squeeze in church or devotional activities. Yet, we still feel out of alignment.

“How we spend our days is, of course,

how we spend our lives.”

Annie Dillard

If we are going to be serious about leading a life as a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, we need to rethink what it means to be a disciple, what it means to live the Christian life, what it means to live a life of love. We need to find a way to order our entire lives around our relationship with the Triune God, not just stack church activities on top of the rest of our lives.

Jesus said this was the most important of all the commandments: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10: 27) This isn’t a little invitation to a nice life. This is a radical call to give God EVERYTHING. When Jesus called those who would be his disciples, he said, “Follow me (Mt. 4:19). Live like I do (Lk. 9:58). Learn from me (Mt.11:29). See how I relate to the Father (Jn1:50). Order your life around this ONE thing and then everything else will be aligned. Mt. 6:33).” So, you see, it matters immensely how we spend our days.

Over the centuries the people of God have chosen to be intentional about the structure of their daily living. Scattered throughout the Hebrew Scriptures we find examples of schedules that called them to prayer many times throughout the day. “Seven times a day I praise you…” (Psalm 119:164). “…Daniel went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God…”(Daniel 6:10). The early Christians followed similar patterns as they lived out their call.

In the Third Century as intentional spiritual communities began to be formed, written rules for each religious order were created to establish harmony in individual lives and in their life together as a community. The most famous rule was developed by St. Benedict of Nursia. It contained guidelines for prayer, study, manual labor, how to treat strangers and visitors, how to care for the sick. There were guidelines for speaking, recreation and silence, even for eating and sleeping. The Benedictine Rule is still widely followed today by those in certain monastic orders as well as by many lay people who simply desire to live a life completely ordered around their love for Christ.

A Rule of Life is based on the idea that St. Benedict had hundreds of years ago. (The term comes from the Latin word ‘regula’ which doesn’t have the negative connotations often associated with ‘rule’. Instead it refers to the act of regulating.) “A Rule of Life is a pattern of Spiritual practices that provides structure and direction for growth in holiness.”[1] In other words, a Rule helps us be intentional about living a life as a disciple of Christ, a life that is moving toward being more and more like Jesus. A good Rule of Life considers the whole person: mind, body, spirit, and acknowledges the indivisible nature of the three–that Christ desires to be formed in every area of our lives. It incorporates spiritual practices that draw the person into deeper understanding of God and greater experience of God’s love.

Spiritual Practices– Inward, Outward, and Corporate: Any habit or practice that draws a person closer to God might be considered a Spiritual Discipline or practice, but there are some that are considered “Classic” Spiritual Disciplines in that they are not only ancient in origin, but also central to the Christian experience.[2] Probably the most widely-read book on the subject is Celebration of Discipline; the Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster. Dividing the Disciplines into three movements of the Spirit, Foster shows how each of these areas contribute to a balanced spiritual life.

The inward Disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting, and study offer avenues of personal examination and change.

The outward Disciplines of simplicity, solitude, submission, and service help prepare us to make the world a better place.

The corporate Disciplines of confession, worship, guidance, and celebration bring us nearer to one another and to God.

Of course, there are many lists that contain other Christian Spiritual Disciplines, but this list represents an excellent sampling of the basics. While a good rule takes into consideration the mind, body, spirit connection, it also will have a good mix of Inward, Outer and Corporate practices if the keeper of the rule is to experience growth, health and balance in their his/her with God.

A Rule of Life is a path that can lead us to a deeper and deeper relationship with God. Though we journey all our days on that path, we will never get to the end, nor will be exhaust the possibilities that await us in the practice of the Spiritual Disciplines. But we must begin and no one can do it for us. Blessings on each of us as we journey!

Yes, dear friends, we are already God’s children, and we can’t even imagine what we will be like when Christ returns. But we do know that when he comes we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.

1 John 3:2

But oh, my dear children! I feel as if I am going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.

Galatians 4:19

It is unlikely that we will deepen our relationship with God in a casual or haphazard manner. There will be a need for some intentional commitment and some reorganization in our own lives. But there is nothing that will enrich our lives more than a deeper and clearer perception of God’s presence in the routine of daily living.

William Paulsell[3]

“God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving his grace. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us.” Richard Foster [4]


[1] Thompson, Marjorie. Soul Feast. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995.

[2] Foster, Richard. Celebration of Discipline. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978.

[3] Paulsell, William. “Ways of Prayer: Designing a Personal Rule,” Weavings 2, no. 5 (November-December 1987).

[4] Foster, Richard. Celebration of Discipline. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978.

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