Book Review: Celebration of Discipline

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Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster is an American protestant Christian classic. Maybe even for Catholics too, I don’t know. Published in 1978, it’s the type of book that one might receive as a graduation gift or one might acquire for a small group or something. My husband’s name is on the nameplate of our copy, with a date one year into our marriage. I can guess that his parents gave it to him. Foster is a Quaker theologian whose books have earned respect over a wide range of Christians. His most notable book is Celebration of Discipline, which has been listed as one of the most important of the last century and remains popular, but some other notable titles include Freedom of Simplicity and Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home.

Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth is about the central disciplines of Christianity. These disciplines lead not to a boring life of restriction and missing out, but to a life of balance, freedom, abundance, and celebration of Christ. A better life. Life to the fullest, as it was meant to be lived. Foster breaks it down into a chapter for each discipline, defining the discipline, sometimes re-defining it, connecting it to Scripture, giving application, and talking about the finer points. The disciplines are meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.

Sound a little unappealing? The book might be a little dense (as many studies are), but it’s well-written and engaging enough for taking it one chapter at a time (which gives time for processing and applying, anyway). This is an important book and worth the read. At times it’s a touch outdated, and yet many of Foster’s observations about the America and world and Christian church he was concerned about at his writing are still accurate. In some ways, in fact, the issues have only deepened. But not with everything. Not that that matters. The point is to deal with you and your practice of the spiritual disciplines. The whole thing could be likened to other religions and even non-religions and their disciplines or tenants or practices, etc., but that Christianity requires a grounding in the Bible and in Jesus Himself. What I mean is, this is wisdom. It’s old wisdom, made accessible for the modern Christian, and if modern people are scared of it or turn their noses up at it, it’s to their detriment.

I don’t have a lot more to add. Adequately written with lots of quotes, some stories, and understandable writing, Celebration of Discipline is a classic that deserves a read by any Christian wanting to take their faith seriously, slowly, ponderously, and in the end, with great reward.


“Joy is a keynote of all the Disciplines. The purpose of the Disciplines is liberation from the stifling slaver to self-interest and fear” (p2).

“The Spiritual Disciplines are an inward and spiritual reality, and the inner attitude of the heart is far more crucial than the mechanics for coming into the reality of the spiritual life” (p3).

“The needed change within us is God’s work, not ours” (p6).

“God has ordained the Disciplines of the spiritual life as the means by which we place ourselves where He can bless us” (p7).

“God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving His grace” (p7).

“In contemporary society our Adversary majors in three things” noise, hurry, and crowds” (p16).

“We are sinking down into the light and life of Christ and becoming comfortable in that posture” (p19).

“…meditation is the one things that can sufficiently redirect our lives so that we can deal with human life successfully” (p22).

“It is wonderful when a particular meditation leads to ecstasy, but it is far more common to be given guidance in dealing with ordinary human problems” (p22).

“Anyone who imagines he can simply begin mediation without praying for the desire and the grace to do so, will soon give up” (p25).

“Contemplative prayer is a way of life” (p27).

“…we must pursue ‘holy leisure’ with a determination that is ruthless to our datebooks” (p27).

“…the meditation upon Scripture is the central reference point by which all other forms of meditation are kept in proper perspective” (p29).

“…Till your whole New Testament is all over autobiographic of you” (p30, Alexander Whyte).

“However, meditation is not a single act, nor can it be completed the way one completes the building of a char. It is a way of life. You will be constantly learning and growing as you plumb the inner depths” (p32).

“Of all the Spiritual Disciplines prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father” (p33).

“To ask ‘rightly’ involves transformed passions” (p33).

“We are working with God to determine the future!” (p35).

“We begin prayer for others by first quieting our fleshly activity and listening to the silent thunder of the Lord of hosts …. prayer is listening” (p39).

“Your own children can and should be changed through your prayers” (p44).

“And whenever there is a form devoid of spiritual power, law will take over because law always carries with it a sense of security and manipulative power” (p47).

“Fasting must forever center on God. It mist be God-initiated and God-ordained” (p54).

“Physical benefits, success in prayer, the enduring with power, spiritual insights—these must never replace God as the center of our fasting” (p55).

“We are told not to act miserable when fasting because, in point of fact, we are not miserable” (p56).

“This is not excessive asceticism; it is discipline and discipline brings freedom” (p56).

“You will be engaging in spiritual warfare that will necessitate using all the weapons of Ephesians 6” (p60).

“Fasting can bring breakthroughs in the spiritual realm that will never happen in any other way” (p60).

“Jesus, as you remember, reminds us that it is not just the truth but the knowledge of the truth that sets us free” (p66).

“To read successfully we need the extrinsic aids of experience, other books, and live discussion” (p68).

“The first and most important book we are to study is the Bible” (p68).

“I have discovered that the most difficult problem is not finding time but convincing myself that this is important enough to set aside the time” (p70).

“God desires various ‘tarrying’ placed for us where He can teach us in special ways” (p70).

“Remember the key to the Discipline of study is not reading many books, but experiencing what we do read” (p72).

“Then… stretch out by a distinct act of loving will towards one of the myriad manifestations of life that surround you” (p73, Andre Gide).

“Of this much we can be sure: if we love the creation, we will learn from it” (p74).

“We have no unity or focus around which our lives are oriented” (p80).

“Courageously, we need to articulate new, more human ways to live” (p81).

“He lists greed alongside adultery and thievery” (p84).

“Descriptions of the abundant material provision God gives His people abound in Scripture” (p85).

“The central point for the discipline of simplicity is to seek the kingdom of God and the righteousness of His kingdom first and then everything necessary will come in its proper order” (p86).

“Seeking first God’s kingdom and the righteousness, both personal and social, of that kingdom is the only thing that can be central in the Spiritual Discipline of simplicity” (p87).



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