8 Habits to Cultivate a Healthy Spiritual Life

Minimize distractions and refocus on drawing near to God.

Excerpted From
The Common Rule
By Justin Whitmel Earley

The 8 Habits of the Common Rule

The Common Rule is made up of eight habits, four daily and four weekly.

The daily habits are

• kneeling prayer at morning, midday and bedtime
• one meal with others
• one hour with phone off
• Scripture before phone

The weekly habits are

• one hour of conversation with a friend
• curate media to four hours
• fast from something for twenty-four hours
• Sabbath

Each habit also corresponds to two different spectrums. The first spectrum is the love of God and the love of neighbor, with four habits focused on each. The second spectrum contrasts embrace and resistance, with four habits designed for each.

Love of God. Another way to look at the habits is as they pertain to love of God. You were made to love and be loved by God. Only in the light of his love will you finally see who you really are, feel how you are supposed to feel and discover what you should do with your days. Thus four of the habits of the Common Rule are pointed toward opening our eyes to who God is, accepting the love he freely offers and returning the gaze that has always been fixed on us:

• Sabbath
• fasting
• prayer
• Scripture before phone

Love of neighbor. When we think of better habits, we often think about our own self-improvement. Nothing could be further from the purpose of the Common Rule. These habits are meant to be practiced with others and for their sake:

• meals
• conversation
• phone off
• curate media

The word neighbor here is used in the New Testament sense of the word. A neighbor is anyone and everyone who needs our love: family, friends, strangers and enemies. These four habits mean spending meaningful time with other people. They encourage us to interrupt our busy schedules for the sake of rhythms of community. They encourage us to put down our devices and become more present with others. A friend asked me whether the Common Rule helped us care for ourselves, and my answer was, “yes, because we’re made to be happy when we’re focusing on others.” These habits are designed to help us spend our days for the sake of others, rather than just ourselves.

Embrace. Embrace is a reminder that there is much good in the world God made. God’s presence—not his absence—is the primary fact of the world. That we need each other—not that we harm each other—is the primary truth of being human. In the habits of embrace, we try to train our bodies and our hearts to love God as he actually is and to turn to our neighbor as we were made to do. The habits of embrace are

• Sabbath
• prayer
• meals
• conversation

Resistance. When we practice resistance, we acknowledge that evil and suffering are very real, though they aren’t how the world was made to be. Our world is full of a thousand invisible habits of fear, anger, anxiety and envy that we unconsciously and consciously adopt. Should we do nothing, we will be taught to love the very things that tear us apart. So we must take up the fight, open our eyes to the way media form us in fear and hate, the way screens form us in absence, and see the way excess and laziness train us to love ourselves above all else.

But remember that resistance has a purpose: love. The habits of resistance aren’t supposed to shield you from the world but to turn you toward it. They aren’t so you can feel good about what you’ve done for you. They exist so you can feel peace about what God has done for you. The habits of resistance are

• fasting
• Scripture before phone
• phone off
• curate media

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Excerpted from The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction by Justin Whitmel Earley. Copyright 2019. Used by permission. IVPress.com